Interesting Times at cap hpi

By Mike Speight
Last updated: 15.02.2019

The Business

cap hpi is a UK market leader providing comprehensive automotive data to businesses and consumers alike.  With the backing of parent company Solera, the company is now expanding into the global marketplace, and is already selling valuations for cars and LCVs in Germany; providing Audatex’s market leading accident damage assessment software with vehicle valuations to allow engineers to decide whether damaged vehicles are economically viable to repair.


From its base in Capitol House in the centre of Leeds, it is fair to say that there has been a pretty substantial amount of change and growth over the past five or so years, from CAP Automotive’s acquisition by Solera, the merger with HPI and its subsequent consolidation into the Capitol House HQ and now the push to bring the company’s products and services to the global marketplace.  There is no denying that it has been an exciting, interesting, challenging and at times painful place to work over the past few years.


As part of this expansion, and to help the business continue to thrive and grow in an increasingly challenging business climate, the decision has now been taken to make an agile transformation within the business, disbanding the current organisational Departments (Product Development, Marketing, Sales, Customer Support etc) and adopt a new structure based on, and inspired by, the Spotify Model of agile, changing the way the business works; split into tribes focused around delivering one business area end to end; with autonomous squads within these tribes focused on particular deliverables or functions.



Let’s rewind a few years.  As with any business going through change and expansion, there have been bumps in the road and pain points along the way.  One of the motivations behind the merger was the great synergy between the market offerings but both businesses had a ‘traditional’ structure and there has been a lot of work required behind the scenes to bring the two organisations together, not least in Product Development.


Product Development adopted agile principles several years ago, whilst in the meantime, the transition and merging of the business continued.  The preferred methodology is Scrum and sometimes Kanban, depending on what the pipeline of work looks like.  However, as it came together the rest of the business has continued to operate in a more traditional waterfall manner.  This has resulted in challenges and occasional friction in terms of getting work into the pipeline, reporting progress, setting expectations and delivering new functionality.


Within the Product Development department there were also challenges created by the historical structure of the teams.  Each team was defined along technology lines – with teams of .Net Developers, Mainframe Developers, Java Developers, Database Developers and QA Analysts, along with input from the separate Product and Innovation department.  This presented challenges when trying to deliver end to end features, with different teams needing to be involved in a single delivery resulting in clashes in backlog priorities, and teams at times ending up blocking each other.



The business recognised that there were some pain points caused by both the merging process and the disconnect in processes between Product Development and the rest of the business.  To address this, it was decided that a more radical transformation would be required to help drive the business forward and improve the organisational culture and the environment for everyone.  After considering several possible ways to reorganise, the management team eventually settled on a new model.  The new structure involves dividing the business into tribes focused around particular business areas, containing squads focused on a specific function.  It was felt that this would offer the business a great deal of benefit from encouraging a flexible collaborative framework, allowing for autonomy and innovation, giving squads the freedom to operate in the most efficient way that they see fit to achieve their purpose.  It is anticipated that this will help to drive innovation and cross pollination of ideas between squads, and foster change and improvement from within.


Interestingly, at the same time, Solera was also looking at ways to make an agile transformation across the whole group and had independently come across and recommended the Spotify model.


Product Development have taken the lead in starting the transformation process; recently the old technology specific teams that were working on the global expansion have disbanded, reforming into multi-skilled development squads under a new Global tribe, with its own dedicated Product Owner, Business Analyst, and an Agile Coach to oversee the agile working of each of the squads.  At time of writing, the squads have all started their first fortnightly scrum sprint.


Whilst this transformation is going on, there is a great deal of effort going into agile training, mentoring and coaching, with dedicated agile consultants coming in and spending time with the business to help them understand the whole agile ethos and help align the other business functions into the new tribe structure.


Are we nearly there yet?

It’s still very early days, but thus far the signs from the areas of the business that have transitioned have been positive.  A lot of work has been put into ensuring that the pipeline of prioritised work is maintained and handed over from the previous management structure to the new Product Owner, with great care being taken to ensure that work doesn’t end up falling through the cracks or getting forgotten about.


There’s a massive amount of work still to be done to align the rest of the business, form the other tribes and squads and educate and change mindsets across the organisation, but thus far those first few steps have now been taken to move cap hpi towards a whole new way of working.


So where next?

It's not just the organisational structure that's changing, the whole office environment is in the process of being revamped as well.  To support the business structure changes, there are plans for desk moves; to get all tribe members sat together in their own area, aligned with the creation of agile collaboration spaces, meeting and breakout areas and whiteboards across all the floors that the business inhabits.  Going forward, a refurbishment of the office is also in the mix to give the place a fresh and up to date look and feel.  Even the table football and pool table might have to move!