ZXM's agile coaching delivers 200% productivity improvement to the ATO

Introducing SAFe® to mainframe teams can be a hard transformation. ATO, a government agency, engages ZXM's agile coaches to lead the change

The Situation

Zen Ex Machina was engaged to assist ATO executive to implement the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) in its first large scale agile initiative.
Key to a successful outcome was a sustainable, scaled approach to agile coaching, while ensuring minimal disruption to key business activities such mainframe support for Australia’s tax submissions in 2015 and 2016.
ATO logo

The Solution

Develop a Coaching Roadmap

ZXM developed a living coaching roadmap to assist the teams on the Release Train. This consisted of outlining the behavioural aspects of the transformation from Waterfall methods to Scrum and Lean in sustainable steps. Importantly, this was based on promoting transformation as behavioural change over just a change in delivery process and methodology.

This promoted transparency of what was expected of teams, their Product Owners and Scrum Masters, and a means to continuously assess:

  • What agile behaviours teams were exhibiting day-to-day without coaching support.
  • What teams’ next learnings were
  • What an agile mindset and behaviour really meant in terms of transformation – i.e. more than just “doing Scrum”.

Train the teams

ZXM first trained the team on the essentials of Scrum. This was a one day session combining core agile and Scrum processes with game-based play and simulation to enable rapid assimilation of concepts. Overall, ZXM agile coaches trained over 150 people over 12 months, including internal business owners, SAFe® Feature Owners and managers.

Coach Product Owners in Scrum Teams

One of ZXM’s agile coaches focussed primarily on supporting Product Owners. This included training and coaching them through the use of tools such as:
  • Personas – identifying the archtetypal users of the system, their needs and wants.
  • Story Mapping – taking ideas and working through the context of use with the aid of Personas with their teams and stakeholders.
  • Product Owner Council (PO Sync) – Facilitating a daily stand-up between the Agile Release Train’s Product Manager and his Product Owners to discuss the delivery of Features within the Program Increment (PI), changes in scope coming from stakeholders and users, as well as upcoming Features for future PIs.
  • Product Owner Retrospective – providing the opportunity for Product Owners to discuss their team’s Sprints, ideas, new Patterns, and failures, for the benefit of other Product Owners.

The Results

Within 12 months, the Priority Digital Services (PDS) Release Train improved its productivity across teams by 200%.

Rapidly scale

Onboarded and trained 80 people in 8 weeks without loss of velocity

Increase productivity

200% increase in Features delivered in 12 months


Decrease in defects

90% decrease in defects in 9 months

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