Chorus is New Zealand’s largest telecommunications infrastructure company. It maintains and builds a network of local telephone exchanges, cabinets, and copper and fibre cables. It continues its long heritage of building and looking after the country’s fixed-line telecommunications network. 

In 2011, Chorus started the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) fibre roll-out. As the programme progressed and fibre uptake increased, Chorus recognised it needed to invest in IT solutions that would allow customer uptake to scale, the introduction of new products and improvements to the fibre installation process. 

A push to deliver broadband faster across New Zealand

At the end of 2020, Chorus became aware that its traditional delivery model for IT change could not keep up with the pace of change customers and the Chorus business users required. Chorus began to evolve its technology delivery model to one based on an Agile approach. As a part of this broader operating model change, the company also started working with Datacom to integrate two separate delivery teams. 

The two organisations worked together to develop a custom Agile delivery model. The integration with the Datacom teams was critical. The revised delivery model removed the need for hand-offs between Datacom and Chorus delivery teams and eradicated the contractual overhead for each piece of work. Both organisations removed roles that managed administration that was required when working in more traditional customer and vendor models. Two new ‘squads’ were created that blended Datacom and Chorus people. The approach allowed the Datacom team to be closer to the Chorus strategy and understand Chorus’ business needs first-hand.  

“It was a real step change when we moved our delivery method from a traditional waterfall to an Agile model,” says Martin Tyson. “We were delivering quicker, we were faster in providing improvements for customers, and our operational business reduced its costs as well. Some of those small jobs that were uneconomical before were back into play and in scope.” 

A four-fold increase in new products and services

Before introducing the Agile delivery model, Chorus could only deliver changes twice a year.  

“With the move to Agile and integrated teams, we now have a structured release calendar and deliver change nine times a year. The changes are more iterative, with feedback on them coming in gradually, in smaller chunks. The cycles are refined, with reduced reworking required by both Chorus and Datacom.”  

An immediate benefit was reducing the delivery timeframe for a project initially forecast at 18-plus months, to under 12 months, with improvements staggered over those 12 months. 

“Agile breaks things into smaller chunks, so we’ve been able to compress the timeframe to deliver the same amount of change,” Martin Tyson says. “This means we can drive our products and innovations to market far quicker, be more up-to-date, and more responsive.”  

According to Datacom’s measurements, the Agile delivery model has led to: 

  • A 60% improvement in time and cost brings design and build closer together. 
  • A 60% increase in the number of automated tests resulting in 70% efficiency in testing. 
  • A 20% increase in release volume without any degradation in quality. 

“We’ve also seen operational improvements,” adds Martin Tyson. “With more opportunities to improve the process of managing incidents and bug fixes, we can be nimble, efficient, and drive change quicker.” 

The success of switching to Agile blazed a trail for other parts of Chorus, and it has now been adopted widely across the organisation. Datacom and Chorus have also used the same approach by integrating two other Datacom teams.  

Bringing Datacom and Chorus closer together

Before launching the Agile delivery model, the Datacom team worked outside of Chorus’ delivery model. Communication could have been smoother, leading to occasional double-ups and repetitions of responsibilities.  

Chorus realised the two groups had to work together more closely to make Agile work at its best. As a result, the Datacom team works ‘inhouse’ alongside the Chorus team, creating a tightknit unit and leading to gains in productivity and efficiency.  

“Our team has enjoyed the closer working relationship with the Chorus team,” says Datacom Associate Director Darren Keall. “They’ve seen first-hand the impact of the increased velocity and the difference they can make for Chorus’s business.”  

Datacom's Darren Keall
For the Datacom team, working with Chorus has been an opportunity to see first-hand the impact of the increased velocity and the difference they can make for Chorus’s business, says Darren Keall.

Together, Datacom and Chorus continue evolving the model through iterative improvements.   

“Datacom is closer to us now, with a better understanding of what Chorus is trying to achieve,” says Tyson. “They’ve done well at balancing our needs and supporting us. Datacom delivers.”

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