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IBM - Sales Transaction Support Team

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2018, Click to Enter The 2019 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer Service

Company: IBM, Armonk, NY
Company Description: IBM is a values-based enterprise of individuals who create & apply technology to make the world work better. Today, more than 377,000 IBM employees around the world invent and integrate hardware, software and services to help forward-thinking enterprises, institutions and people succeed on a smarter planet.
Nomination Category: Sales Awards Team Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Sales Support Team of the Year - Technology Industries

Nomination Title: IBM Sales Transaction Support Team Accelerates Agile Adoption

Tell the story about what this nominated team achieved since the beginning of July 2016 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:

How do you reinvent the way an organization works and delivers results? The answer is the proven Agile methodology and a great team. Agile employs practices based, on a set of values and principles, to improve organizational behavior and outcomes. Our team proved that Agile design, while already successful the development space, can be used in any part of the business and for any type of work, including operations, to bring about radical change and results.

Who are we?

The Sales Transaction Support (STS) mission is to help facilitate IBM growth by supporting our population of 40,000 sellers and by realizing IBM’s ~$80B in yearly revenue (through activities such as proposal creation, contract registration, and cash collection). The Accelerate Team was comprised of 180 members representing various disciplines from our 8,000-person organization. With a wide range of experience and expertise, we hailed from 23 different countries.

What challenge did we face?

Prior to Accelerate, IBM sales support model did not support the fast pace required by the industry to win business. The organization was fragmented across end-to-end quote-to-cash process—and lines of accountability were unclear. Our processes took too long and cost too much—according to both our standards and external benchmarks—and our satisfaction suffered.

Thus, our Accelerate Team embarked on a radical journey to improve on the value we provide to IBM clients, sellers, and employees, by infusing the Agile methodology into our organization. The Accelerate Team was charged with re-organizing and coaching all of STS, so that we could increase client satisfaction by reducing our cycle time, decreasing our costs, and, most importantly, by enabling self-directed teams that are empowered and accountable for their results.

How did we work?

The strongest aspect our team was the mind set; we lived and operated by the Agile values of respect, openness, empathy, trust, and most importantly, courage. The team worked short, two-week sprints or iterations, following a set of Agile ceremonies (meetings and practices). We understood the difference between excellence and perfection—this philosophy kept the massive scale of our deployment ahead of schedule by one month. There were no cumbersome project plans or pre-set milestones; we started with the most complex areas of our organization; and, we learned from our mistakes, course corrected, and improved quickly.

What were the outcomes?

Our Accelerate changes in STS took 13 months from design to deployment. Highlights from our transformation to-date include the following successes:


-Reorganized into 730 Agile squads (operating teams) that directly support our 40,00 sellers in five months
-Trained and began coaching ~8,000 people in the Agile methods in five months


-Reduced year-to-year total expense by 15-20% with minimal impact to operations—including successfully closing two quarters mid-deployment
-Saw a 32.3% cycle time improvement and a 22% increase in throughput year-to-year in our pilot teams deployed last June


-Reduced 64% of job roles, which previously caused redundancy and confusion
-Reassessed our risk framework and eliminated ~60% of our redundant business controls
-Reassessed and removed 75% of our legacy metrics
-Removed two organizational layers


-Saw flat employee satisfaction during the transformation, but increased by 9% in the months after
-Client (seller) satisfaction rose by 31% in the months after Accelerate

In the end, what drove our team and our results was our goal to create a workplace where STS employees feel more empowered because of Agile: they have a better shared understanding and clarity of outcomes; they are able to delight clients in record time; and, they are able to think more boldly and help the company to continuously improve.