Furniture Retailer “Goes Modern” with Agile Development

During its long history, furniture retailer Havertys has seen it all. The company was founded in 1885 in Atlanta, when deliveries were made via horse and buggy. Havertys went public in 1929 during the Great Depression, but it has survived each of the big economic shocks.

Fast forward to 2015. Post-recession, the furniture market is heating up and homeowners and renters require modern, internet-enabled techniques in comparing, bundling, purchasing, even assembling their furniture choices. How about walking into a showroom and designing your own living room on a kiosk? Or watching a streaming video on an iPad to assemble a baby crib? That’s a far cry from horse and buggy delivery.

Seeking a Modern Approach to Development

This fact was not lost on Havertys’ IT organization, as they sought to bring a more modern approach to their software development process. Back-end applications for warehouse management, order management, and fulfillment were all running on old code bases. So were the front-end website and online storefront, which needed to deliver a better, more interactive customer experience.

Code remediation to Java using Agile development was key to evolving into modern technology. Because Agile would involve a cultural shift, executives were “optimistically skeptical” that the change would be embraced by the organization. Not everyone was on board, however. There was a lingering perception among some that Agile is just suited for new companies and that change would be difficult to implement.

That perception could not have been more off base.

“The tenured team didn’t have experience with Agile,” said Bob Woods, MATRIX Agile Coach. “But a lot of talent they were looking to hire did have Agile listed on their resumes. Since the leaders wanted to become more team-centric and have better alignment with the business groups, it seemed like the perfect time to adopt a more Agile-centric way of life.”

First up was a readiness discovery. “We helped them to see if they were really ready for such an adoption or change,” said Woods, who also noted that the readiness discovery is an excellent indicator of whether a company would or would not be successful down the road.

Strong Support from the Top Execs

Havertys was definitely ready.

“They had strong support from the top execs who really wanted this to be successful,” said Woods. “Chances are much better for success when you have C-level support. In the case of Havertys, the CFO and CIO were curious, engaged and even showed up regularly at the standups, which went a long way toward building the confidence level of the teams.”

Indicative of their commitment was the broad participation in daily standups and scrums among IT developers, sales and marketing, online storefront, CIO, CFO and VP development. Said Woods, “We took a slice vertically through the organization and trained those individuals who might be impacted by what was going on -- from executives right down to developers.”

"Moving to Agile has allowed empowerment, creativity and accountability at all levels inside the Information Technology group. A measurable increase in production and quality was noticed after just a couple of months.”
Greg Davis, VP IT Development, Havertys

Part of the training was to help individuals find their place within the new structure and to help them understand that “Agile is a marathon, not a sprint”-- translation: it may take some time to adapt.

Scrum masters and team leads were chosen, and to the surprise of many, the choices were not the same individuals who would have been predicted to fill those roles.

One of the big changes implemented was the addition of a QA manager, which had been a missing link in the process. With quality now a focus, product deliverables have now been improved and release time has quickened, with issues being discovered earlier in the process than previously.

Swarming the Bottlenecks

Havertys' Agile transformation has also led to positive culture changes including more efficient floor layouts, modern dress codes, even job titles that better reflect new roles. Best of all, young developer talent has now been attracted to join the teams.

Other benefits evidenced on the floor include more energy, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. Teams now happily jump in to ‘swarm’ bottlenecks regardless of where the bottleneck is. That level of team-centric problem resolution defines true Agile transformation for a modern organization.