Meet The Team Behind Sprint’s Digital Transformation: The Hive

Sprint has a team of about 120 people on the hook for teaching the rest of the organization what digital transformation really is and how to properly execute it.

Meet The Team Behind Sprint’s Digital Transformation: The Hive

by Giselle Abramovich

Posted on 01-06-2020

Nestled away on the second floor of Sprint’s Reston, Va., headquarters is a team of about 120 bright minds on the hook for teaching the rest of the organization—roughly 30,000 people—what digital transformation really is and how to properly execute it. 

Dubbed “The Hive,” Sprint’s team of change agents vary in skillset, but what they all have in common is the way in which agile methodologies fit into their day-to-day work lives.

In this exclusive interview, Sprint chief digital officer Rob Roy sat down with CMO by Adobe to talk about The Hive, which he oversees, and how his team is helping Sprint master the art of operational efficiency and innovation.

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Tell us more about why the team is called The Hive.

We’ve got a lot of cheeky rationale for it, but I think it actually started when we reignited our digital transformation. Our focus was people and processes right off the bat, and not as much about the technology at first, since technology helps the right minds enable the transformation.

I knew that we needed a team to drive this massive change and teach the rest of the company how to transform itself. Our job is really to eventually get ourselves out of a job in the sense that we’ve taught everybody how to become digital. We’ve formulated this concept around the beehive, and we bring everybody into The Hive. We pollinate their minds with the idea of digitization, and then we let them go back out and create their own hive.

You mentioned your digital transformation was reignited. Can you talk a little bit about that?

I was brought in under the guise of delivering a digital transformation. My predecessors had all tried in what I believe to be the wrong way—meaning, their ultimate goal was to cut costs. And that was, to them, digital transformation. This mentality of, “If it costs you $5 to do it in person, we could do it for a penny online. Let’s drive everybody over to the penny,” isn’t a winning strategy.

Digital transformation is ultimately not about your dollars and cents. It may be an output of the transformation, but it’s really about transforming the way that you do business. We had a bunch of people and processes that were draconian, waterfall-ish, with multiple systems, and we needed to fix all of that.

So what did you do?

We started to just rebuild everything from the ground up. We replatformed, and we had a six-month goal of rethinking all of our internal processes. We had some wins right off the bat, which helped convince some of the skeptics in the organization.

An example is when we built an AI chatbot for our care team, which was maybe the first true example of The Hive at work. Hive 1.0 was all about standing it up, maturing our internal processes, and starting to market outwardly to our internal clients. Our phase 2.0 has really started in earnest around building that universal service layer, that data-first predictive modeling, and really moving toward a reverse cultural takeover and getting other teams to more deeply think about digital transformation.

The Hive is dedicated to teaching the rest of the organization how to transform. How does the team do this?

It’s not easy. We find the best way to get people to move along is to ruffle their feathers and the way that they do things. We’ve been spending a lot of time inundating ourselves in processes and then sharing how we think those processes could be better.

Because we spent that first six months getting our house in order as a team and building in agile methodologies into our own processes, that created a lot of street cred for us. And a lot of people within the organization actually wanted to come work with us now.

How do you convince them that your approach is better?

When we reimagined ourselves, we took a data-first approach to everything that we do. It was data that actually guided some of the internal decisions we made about bringing marketing in-house, a majority of our analytics in-house, and also for making a case for why an agile approach to internal processes is the better option.

How is Sprint also using data to improve the customer experience?

For us it is about being predictive and creating one-to-moment, personalized experiences. We want to be able to predictively recognize what that customer’s need-state is during a specific moment in time and surface the right experience for them.

Even just knowing that your customer is a customer when you are engaging with them is a huge benefit. As you dig down and find more insights about that individual, whether it’s the tenure, the type of device they have, how many times they visit us online, or how often they call the call center, those are all the enrichment pieces that allow us to give them a much better journey.

Who is part of The Hive team? What skill sets do you have?

We’ve got data scientists, product managers, technology specialists, UX professionals, creatives, analytics people, and more. There’s a wide range of skill sets on the team.

Tell me more about the agile operating model you are trying to spread throughout the company.

Step one for us was really about teaching people what agile means and then showing them how they can apply it to everything they do. A great example is one of our teams was interested in rolling out a tablet experience in stores. We started with this very small pilot of stores, and that is actually an agile approach. We created a minimal viable product to learn from and then also build upon. While it may seem small, this isn’t something we would have done in years past.

What accomplishments of The Hive are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the work that the team has done to give pockets of the company new ways to work and helping them take a data-first approach to what they do. We have also integrated the way we work into the fabric of the company, allowing us to make decisions quicker based on data and insights we see from digital engagement. As we progress into the new year, we will continue to lean into our data-first approach and roll out more tests quicker than ever to stay ahead of what our customers are asking for.

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