TOPdesk Development revamped

TOPdesk’s success as an organization and as a product is based on two key ingredients: our flat structure and our smart people. And with over 500 colleagues in TOPdesk Netherlands alone, that’s a whole lot of smart people! How do you maintain effective decision-making with such a large group of people? That’s the challenge facing Team 42, the team that ensures that TOPdesk Development remains a well-oiled machine worldwide.

At TOPdesk, we believe that smart people make the smartest choices. When we put a bunch of developers, designers and testers together, we expect them to deliver the best possible product. If you’re thinking I’m now going to deny this, think again! This belief is ingrained in TOPdesk’s DNA. However, agile coach and Team 42 member Phil Kus explains: “TOPdesk has been – and is – constantly growing as an organization, especially in the past few years. I’ve been here for five and a half years now, and in recent years, although I’ve seen the product improve, the number of decisions made about it have decreased. And sometimes you have to cut a wrong decision short: Fail fast. So, stagnation is lurking, and that’s what Team 42 wants to avoid!”

Learning to fail fast again

Fail fast, and quickly make adjustments and the right decisions. So, at TOPdesk, how do we ensure that Development takes these principles to heart again? Phil: “At TOPdesk, we believe it’s important that every voice counts. And that remains a core value. Sometimes, however, a choice must be made – even when there is no clear best choice. Team 42’s goal is to set up TOPdesk Development so that the ‘necessary choice’ can always be made. Quickly and decisively.”
Team 42 was formed after the International Product Development Meeting in early 2021. And now that TOPdesk has an Executive Team responsible for all our branches worldwide, that team has become a key discussion partner for Phil and the others. “With Team 42 – in collaboration with the new Executive Team, of course – we therefore came up with a Development structure that is aimed at making us redundant as quickly as possible.”

A streamlined decision tree, but upside down

Phil: “The core of the latest version of the Team 42 plan is actually an inverted decision tree. For example, important roles and lines have been added, such as a Head of UX and a Head of Development Operations, a clear link to the Executive Team, and everyone knows who to turn to when the need arises. The trick is that this doesn’t mean that a decision by the Executive Team is passed on to a Development scrum team. Heaven forbid! As far as possible, scrum teams still decide things for themselves. But if that turns out to be difficult, they can always turn to someone. That’s what we’ve been missing up to now.”

The best of TOPdesk at high speed

Too long, didn’t read it: TOPdesk Development was made big by smart techies, but was in danger of bursting at the seams. Team 42 has let out those seams. But when will Phil and his team actually be satisfied? Phil, with a laugh: “To be honest, never. We want to be changing constantly! In a large organization, you’re never going to keep everyone happy, but we do want to keep more people happy more often. Version 1 of our plan was clearly a blueprint of how development is organized in the outside world. In the past few months, however, it’s become truly ‘TOPdeskian’. An improvement from the inside out, so to speak.”

“And using internal knowledge in this way, while still making choices, is exactly what we want to achieve with our plan!”

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