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Siemens Increases Productivity with Kanban Process

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Case Study

Siemens Shifts 40 Teams to Kanban and Increases Productivity


Increased throughput by 33%
Reduced administrative maintenance time by 70%
40+ teams on 3 continents switched to Kanban
First release after move: on time & 10% under budget

challenges-icon Challenges

Business Decision to Shift to Kanban

Siemens Health Services decided to comprehensively redesign their agile methodology, shifting from a time-boxed agile approach to a continuous flow approach. The company faced the challenge of fully deploying Kanban across 40-50 teams around the world and through all management practices without interrupting workflow and productivity. Bennet Vallet, Siemens Health Services’ agile strategist who helped lead Siemens Health Services adoption of agile in 2005, also led the shift to enterprise agile.

The company adopted agile development in 2005, using Scrum/XP to address their key business challenge: use new technologies to provide new capabilities superior to existing products on the market. Scrum/XP brought benefits, but Siemens needed greater improvement on overall predictability and process performance. Estimating and delivering on committed release dates continued to challenge individual teams.

After studying the company’s process, results, and needs, an internal flow team determined that using a continuous flow approach at the enterprise level would help the company achieve these business goals. The initial Kanban implementation across 15 teams with VersionOne showed excellent results, leading the flow team to implement a big-bang rollout one year later. This approach gave them a consistent process to which all teams adhered and which provided a high degree of work unit, workflow, doneness and metric consistency for compliance.

A key goal was to provide teams with a new-generation Kanban board that was more scalable than the whiteboards used in a traditional Kanban environment. The board had to be:

• Real-time
• Always accessible
• Used by 40+ teams on three continents
• Able to support multiple dependencies among and across teams
• Shared by multiple teams working on a single solution
• Easy to create and use

Metrics with Meaning

Siemens Health Services also needed transparent and actionable metrics in the new Kanban process. In the company’s approach to continuous flow, Vallet explains, “The metrics themselves direct you on what actions to take.”

Along with the core tenets of Kanban (continuous flow process, visualization, and limiting work in progress or WIP), Vallet believed that focusing on associated metrics would result in fundamental and sustained improvement without compromising their agile process. Knowing the centrality of the data to the success of Kanban, Vallet’s challenge was capturing the right data to drive the process.

solution-icon Solution

Flexibility Supports Siemens Agile Processes

Siemens Health Services has used VersionOne since 2005 to support their Scrum/XP process. The application successfully supported their needs and teams liked using it. Six years later, when the company made the business decision to move to Kanban, VersionOne was once again the preferred choice. VersionOne was flexible enough to make the switch.

The platform gives the company exceptional versatility including a comprehensive DataMart that provides accurate, easy-to-consume metrics. Stakeholders can extract the data they need from the tool they were already using to create the reports that best supported their process, saving time and money.

“VersionOne is the only enterprise platform that can manage work effectively for very large-scale development involving multiple teams across the world.”

Bennet Vallet
Agile Strategist
Siemens Health Services


benefits-icon Benefits

VersionOne Supports Real-time Kanban Boards

Siemens Health Services looked at a variety of options for an electronic Kanban board and VersionOne met all of the requirements. VersionOne’s flexible platform allowed their teams to easily set up the boards and focus on implementing a continuous flow approach without having to learn new tools.

VersionOne Aligns Everyone in a Single Platform

Extracting data through VersionOne’s API enabled project managers to produce cumulative flow diagrams and scatterplots, bringing ultimate visibility. “Being able to produce these analytics in real time allowed our teams to manage WIPs, see real and potential variability across all levels, and quickly make adjustments,” says Vallet. These metrics also helped enterprise-level managers look at team capacity and other systemic variables that could impact releases.

“No existing agile scrum tools provided the metrics we needed,” Vallet said. In addition, the data was already in VersionOne. The company could leverage VersionOne’s flexible API and comprehensive DataMart to create the reports they needed without having to change platforms. “VersionOne provides high levels of visibility at both the team and enterprise levels, making it easier to align both management and teams to the new practices, metrics and terminology as we scaled.”

VersionOne enables the company to capture the backlog and work across 40 or 50 teams in a single place, which provides workflow consistency and

accelerated adoption. This is essential when you have dozens of teams worldwide working on different pieces of a strategic portfolio. Since it can be customized for each team’s needs, “VersionOne provides the right amount of flexibility and consistency from the team level all the way up to the highest strategic level,” says Vallet.

One System to Learn

VersionOne helps their teams focus on evolving and mastering processes as their needs shift without spending additional money and time to identify, purchase and implement a new system for each new business initiative. So business needs drive the process without being constrained by the chosen tool. “Because of our commitment to agile development principles and the versatility of VersionOne, our Kanban implementation caused very little disruption to the teams and organization in terms of roles or how they performed backlog management, analysis, coding and testing,” says Vallet.

Siemens Health Services has experienced improved team engagement, predictable cycle times, and a 33% increase in throughput. In addition, using the platform’s storyboard for Kanban reduced time spent on administrative maintenance by approximately 70%. Their first release using Kanban finished on schedule and 10% below budget. The company has sustained these gains in predictability and productivity and much more.