Communities of Practice at William Hill
We caught up with Matt, our Global Head of QA & Continuous Improvement in Global Technology who took us through his view on Communities of Practice, or CoPs and how we’re making them work for us, as part of our Agile transformation.
Over the last couple of years at William Hill, we’ve been focused on establishing and maintaining CoPs within our Technology teams with increasing success. One aspect of my role has been to facilitate getting CoPs up and running which has been rewarding and enjoyable.
If you’re not familiar with the term, CoPs are groups of people who share a common interest in a technical or business domain. They’ll meet regularly on an informal basis to solve problems, share knowledge, improve their skills and generally go one better in their area of choice. They support people to build capabilities, reduce duplication of work and establish best practice. Creating CoPs brings those who perform the same role back together making sure everyone can benefit from shared knowledge and experience. It also gives people the opportunity to step outside of their day to day role and focus on continuous improvement across their given discipline.
It’s important for us to provide our Agile teams with the autonomy to do what is right for their product from a technology point but we recognise we’ve got great knowledge and skills across William Hill and we’ve got a chance to learn a lot from each other. In Tech, we’re based all over so we need to work on the same side and make sure we’re always working together. Our CoPs give us the chance to do just that.
Currently, we’ve got a number of CoPs - Quality Assurance, Business Analysis, Heads of Technology, Scrum Masters and Development to name but a few. Each discipline has its own champion and representation across all locations; that’s not to say you’re in one and that’s it – we like to see a cross-pollination of our CoPs as well as a cross-section of ideas.
We want to keep the CoPs enjoyable and informal so we promote that element as much as possible – which always goes down well. Because our CoPs are made up of specialists, we ask that they make their knowledge bases available to all colleagues and keep their Kanban boards up to date with topics or problems they’re discussing. It really helps when it comes to updating the wider teams on progress.
In terms of the communication, it could be anything really e.g. brown bag sessions, lightening talks, show and tells, demos. The CoPs decide that – they are after all the experts in their areas, even when it comes to the communications.
We know there’s still work to do – the CoPs are at different levels of maturity. But the benefits we’ve seen so far have been great - just getting people collaborating has helped significantly. There’s also financial benefits through moving to certain open sources tools from commercial licensed tools on the recommendation of CoPs for example.
There’s other great stories too around career paths and people development so improvements can be around anything the CoP decide they need to focus on. If there are any organisations out there who have yet to adopt this or a similar approach, I would highly recommend it to go hand-in-hand with your agile delivery teams.