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Gains in productivity | Enhanced responsiveness as company grows

Freeletics: consolidation for growth

At a pivotal stage in its rapid growth, Freeletics engaged IndigoBlue to consolidate its Agile ways of working and enhance further its responsiveness and delivery capability, easing its transition from startup to global company and resulting in massive productivity gains.

COMPANY BACKGROUND

Freeletics is a sports and lifestyle company based in Munich, Germany, providing a suite of lifestyle apps, including the popular personal trainer which uses AI technology to guide users as they plan their own gym-free workouts.

As well as a passion for health and sports, the founders of Freeletics share a common vision based on a belief that every individual has the potential to shape their life, reach their goals and become the greatest version of themselves. They are also convinced that a high level of physical and mental strength plays a decisive role in this process: training the body also trains the mind. In order to realise this vision, a strong focus on and understanding of user needs has been central to the development of Freeletics’ products.

Founded in 2013, Freeletics has grown at an astonishing rate to become a leading brand in the digital fitness industry, with over 20 million users in more than 160 countries. The ethos, youth and global reach of the company is also reflected in the gender-balanced, young and international makeup of its workforce.

With its massive rate of growth set to continue, Freeletics is evolving beyond the tech startup phase and is scaling up for success in the next stage of its product and business development. With great foresight, Freeletics from its inception adopted an Agile approach which gave it an inherent ability to flex and respond to challenges and opportunities as it grew.

While scaling presents many opportunities to a business, it also brings risk. As organisations grow larger, they can lose some of the qualities that made them successful in the startup stage, such as dynamism, flexibility and responsiveness.

As the creator not only of a suite of lifestyle products but also of a global community of users, Freeletics must remain responsive to the needs of these users and customers as it grows. The company engaged IndigoBlue to this end, seeking to scale its delivery capability for future growth whilst enhancing its responsiveness, strengthening its product management capabilities and optimising the management of its development pipeline.

The challenge

Our team of senior consultants, richly experienced experts in Agile and Lean approaches to product management and service delivery, ran a brief diagnostic review at the start of the engagement. They found several areas in which business responsiveness and productivity could be improved through the hardening of processes: optimising predictability and strategic product alignment.

One contributing factor was that different development teams focused on specific product areas, for instance the nutrition or personal trainer app, at some expense to the degree of collaboration on the product overall.

A more significant factor was the level of alignment between the business’s priorities and the outputs of its product delivery teams. It was evident that support needed to be given to enable Freeletics’ executives, product management and development teams to make more effective value assessments and interventions in order to plan and prioritise the portfolio and product backlog.

The result of these factors was that for Freeletics’ executive team, there was insufficient visibility and predictability of when they could bring to market new high-priority features.

Our approach

In order for a business to be truly responsive in its product management, it needs to be able to act quickly and decisively on the feedback it receives from customers.

In a startup, this can be straightforward to achieve; but as a growing business takes on more development teams and the number of stakeholders across a company increases, this responsiveness becomes more of a challenge. To this end, our initial steps were to help to enhance Freeletics’ planning and delivery capabilities to address this challenge.

With regard to planning, Freeletics needed support to establish clarity around one shared, agreed plan. Through early workshops that brought in stakeholders from across the business, our consultants facilitated the alignment of business goals to portfolio plan, and portfolio plan to product backlog.

The outputs of this exercise were then visualised as a physical portfolio plan on the wall, and our team encourages the use of this prominent information radiator as an important tool underpinning collaboration. The agreed plan is prioritised in a way that manifests Freeletics’ responsiveness to its customers’ needs and forms the key reference for day-to-day product decisions.

The use of this physical, visible plan will be reinforced as we focus in the next phase of the engagement on helping the business improve its Agile governance and change management processes, augmenting Freeletics’ responsiveness still further.

While achieving new clarity around the plan, we worked in parallel on the other key factor in preserving Freeletics’ responsiveness while it scales up: its delivery capability. We strengthened the Agile ways of working and thinking of the development teams so that they work as effectively as possible as delivery units. By reinforcing Agile practices, our embedded, expert coaches have enhanced collaboration within and between the development teams. We have also honed the teams’ Agile planning and estimation skills so that they are able to provide the business with much greater confidence as to when features will be ready for release.

Through our coaching and training of the Freeletics teams, the Agile culture has been further consolidated and is flourishing, attracting new Agile talent into the business.

The outcomes

Our engagement with Freeletics is still underway and the early interventions were hugely successful.

The improvement in the cohesion, practices and knowledge of the teams is remarkable and – in combination with the new clarity in the portfolio plan – is making Freeletics more responsive to its customers even as it grows, smoothing the flow in the delivery pipeline from customer insight to business priority to product deployment. All of this complements the work of Freeletics’ CTO, who has been improving Freeletics’ technology stack and making progressive use of artificial intelligence in order to meet the demands of scaling.

Already, Freeletics has seen massive productivity gains aligned to greater predictability. These are foundations on which we will continue to build during our ongoing engagement with this innovative, growing business, and we will update this case study as our work progresses.

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