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Introducing A²: Aptos’ Agile Services Methodology

Retail is more volatile than ever. Today, retailers must be flexible, adaptable and agile.

To help our customers adapt at the pace of the retail market, Aptos recently launched A², our Agile-inspired services delivery framework helping retailers respond to constant change. And as part of the initiative, we are training more than 150 of our experienced Professional Services colleagues worldwide on the methodology.

We recently met with Carl Nemec, VP, Professional Services at Aptos, to learn more about A², including how the methodology works, why it empowers our colleagues to support differentiated consumer experiences and how it helps retailers realize ROI faster.

Here's what he had to share.

What is A²?

Carl Nemec, VP, Professional Services, Aptos: A² is the adaptation of agile methodologies into a services delivery organization. Agile methodologies are traditionally focused on a product development lifecycle and deliverable, with a continuous cycle of iterating and developing features, functions and capabilities. A very important decision was to include an existing Aptos customer on the team to help develop A² to ensure we had the retailer's perspective.

When retailers choose Aptos, they need flexibility and predictability. But they're also faced with the reality of a real budget, schedule and deadline to get the benefits and ROI out of the solutions.

A² takes the flexibility of an agile methodology and adds more predictability. It respects the need to work under the real-world constraints of having a budget, a timeline and very specific outcomes obtained within that timeline. It's tailored to ensure that you're achieving ROI as efficiently and quickly as possible.

What benefits has Aptos seen since adopting A²?

Nemec: As cloud technology reaches broader adoption in the industry, speed to value is increasingly critical.

The number one benefit of A² is speed to value, achieving ROI in a very predictable way within the timeframe and with the feature-functions our customers desire.

Previously, an average store project took 6-10 months to implement, sometimes longer. Under the A² framework, we are now able to implement Aptos ONE in the 14–20-week time frame. In our most recent deployment, we went from contract signing to installation of multiple Aptos solutions in a live pilot store in only 17 weeks.

One of the main things that we have improved is a prescriptive and defined agile backlog that is pre-estimated, preassigned and scheduled in an optimal sequence. Having that baseline from the onset of the project improves communication and gives teams tangible parameters, dramatically improving the speed of market for our clients.

It also changes the mindset of the vendor-customer relationship, positioning our team at Aptos as an extension of the retailer's team and communicating what each party's roles will be in supporting the delivery of ROI. With the A² framework, we get much better communication both internally and externally with customers and stakeholders.

How does A² help retailers adapt?

Nemec: Managing the inevitable change in retail is a challenge.

Retailers have a very distributed business. They may also have other limitations, like infrastructure requirements or data dependencies that mandate change during a specific period and the rate their business can absorb change.

A² allows us to be flexible in our ability to enable feature-functions quickly so that retailers can benefit from them. That helps us build out their profile and consumer experience in a way that best suits their business.

At the project initiation, we don't have to have everything 100% defined to have a predictable outcome. Based on our solution, we understand approximately 80% of the Aptos work needed for the retailer before starting the project.

For instance, we broke down Aptos ONE into 600+ discrete tasks that are pre-estimated, predefined and optimally sequenced into agile sprints. Prearranging it with estimated time blocking in a granular itemized way gives us a high probability that our resources, estimates and projections are accurate from the onset.

But we also understand that every individual retailer is unique. Specific consumer omnichannel journeys vary from retailer to retailer. There's going to be about 20% flexibility in the consumer experience, and we have built that flexibility into the A² program.

What we built is a predictable path with flexibility for the retailers' unique circumstances and journey. We know where those flex points tend to be, so we incorporated flexibility into the program. So, when we discover how they want to form their consumer experience, we've already allocated time and a way of absorbing that individuality into the program.

A² gives our customers agility and speed to value. But we're also giving them the flexibility to operate uniquely and deliver a tailored consumer experience.

How is Aptos implementing A²?

Nemec: We've created a formal certification program within Aptos that consists of seven foundational training units explaining the relevant aspects of Agile, including cloud methodologies. Then, we supplement that with four additional training units on the practical application of the A² methodology in real life scenarios using the Aptos solutions.

To re-enforce the collaborative agile team, we're training cross-functional teams together. For example, we're not training all project managers at once then all quality assurance analysts at once. We're training project managers alongside the QA analysts, business analysts, technical analysts and so on, so that they can work on these exercises as a team.

Collectively this drives the desired behavioral change from traditional waterfall "hand-off" between phases mindset to a collaborative solution-focused mindset. Through this process, we aim to instill both foundational training along with hands-on, real life scenario problem solving.

Aptos colleagues celebrating their A2 Certification. Back L-R: John Miller-Thomson, Nitin Patel, Richard Healy, Kim Bittar, Melanie Atcovitch, Bilal Kozak. Front L-R: Robert Desrosiers, Kelly Matthews
Aptos colleagues celebrating their A2 Certification. Back L-R: John Miller-Thomson, Nitin Patel, Richard Healy, Kim Bittar, Melanie Atcovitch, Bilal Kozak. Front L-R: Robert Desrosiers, Kelly Matthews

How has A² helped colleagues better support Aptos customers?

Nemec: As opposed to simply fulfilling the project requirements and deliverables, our colleagues are looking at the result: what experience are we creating for the consumer?

Our colleagues are engaged. We're finding a very high participation rate with our approach. But more importantly, we're finding they're able to apply what they learn immediately and on a day-to-day basis.

One of the biggest changes we see is improved communication around the project internally and with the clients. I find that every project gets better with communication, irrespective of any challenges one might encounter.

So, retailers can have the agility and flexibility to adapt.

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