From Seattle to Seoul: a Build Center in a box
LG CNS is a giant in the world of digital transformation, but even experts know when they need to evolve. Together, side by side with our Builders in Seattle, they transformed into a modern Agile software builder organization—and changed their entire business structure.
Build Center Ops, Recruitment, Culture Transformation, Agile Methodology, Cloud-Native Development, Application Modernization, Experience Design
Serverless, Node, Typescript, Java, NoSQL, AWS, partnership, creativity
This is a story with layers upon layers upon layers. Cultural, technological, blurring-the-lines-between-colleague-and-client. See, LG CNS was looking to completely transform their organization, becoming much more Agile and cloud focused.
But rather than simply delivering a technology product (which we of course did), LG CNS flew a team to meet with, work with, play with, and learn from our Builders. All with the aim of recreating the entire Build Center experience back home.
Consulting the consultants
LG CNS is the consulting and services arm of the giant that has probably made half the appliances in your home. They provide consulting, system construction, and operation services for LG Group Family companies and for open market (non-LG) companies. Born in the 1987, LG CNS was established to help LG Group with their technology and consulting needs, and soon grew into the #1 IT Service Provider in the Korean open market.
But, like all things, technology evolves. Business needs evolve. The entire global way of work evolves. And LG CNS wanted to leap forward. They’ve always used a waterfall approach to technology projects. And that typically entailed intense, detailed requirements gathering up front, then build out the product step by excruciating step. Once finished, they’d present the end product to the customer, pause for client feedback, iterate, incorporate, and repeat. It’s a process that leaves little room for reflection or revision, and no space for innovation and creativity. So, they knew they needed to get smart, get Agile. And fast.
They also knew they needed to ramp up their cloud efforts, both internally and for their client offerings. In fact, the chairman of LG Group laid out the vision for strategic initiatives of cloud adoption to revolutionize the way their organization innovates.
Who did LG CNS call upon for advice? Their friends at AWS. And due to our strong decade-long partnership with AWS, they quickly pointed LG CNS in our direction. They sent a team of leaders to Seattle to speak with President Mike Cowden and the team at Slalom Build.
After a productive discussion with the Slalom leadership team, the way forward was clear: they didn’t just want to learn things, they wanted to replicate exactly HOW we do them. They wanted to retool their 5,000-person engineering organization into one that can easily deliver the cloud-based migration, modernization, and new product development that was coming their way. They wanted to create their own Build Center back home.
Watching, doing, learning
And we all know that the best way to learn is to do. To achieve their goals, it was important to get LG CNS building side by side with Slalom Builders. These Builders would share more than just skills, they were to share how we organize, how we communicate, how we operate and how we build a culture around engineering.
So, 30 people from LG CNS packed their bags for a months-long trip, arriving in Seattle to work on two product workstreams, while a group of LG CNS leaders learned the ins and outs of building a Build Center. It was a completely immersive project highlighting just about every part of Slalom Build. Software engineering, front end, back end, database, different kinds of technologies. We also walked the team through how we handle each and every one of our capabilities, from software to data engineering, marketing, even recruiting and operations.
But again, this was no passive learning environment of whiteboarding and note-taking. This was See, Learn, Do. When we asked for a live application they wanted to work on, they offered up a modernization of one of their homegrown ERP systems, as well creating a Common Reservation System (CRS) – a brand new, internal digital system that covered everything from reserving conference rooms to sporting events to renting cars.
The technology they leveraged to modernize these apps ran the gamut, but the project team built cloud native applications using Serverless, Node, TypeScript, Java, NoSQL, and more. We also had many technical discussions on best practices for security, reliability, cost optimization, and operational and performance topics. Together the teams zoomed through the technological aspect of the cloud projects.
“This is the personification of Slalom Build as a movement. LG CNS heard about what we were doing and immediately saw the value in learning everything. So we gave it to them in all its glory. And all its warts.”
Kevin McClelland, Managing Director Slalom Build
“Slalom은 AWS에서 클라우드 네이티브 시스템을 구축하는 데 깊은 전문성을 갖춘 훌륭한 파트너입니다.”
Sang Yeob Park, LG CNS Build Center Leader
The LG CNS team was also fascinated by many aspects of how our team was structured. How could everyone work in such an open space and not get distracted? Why would you bring your spouse to a work event? And wait – HR doesn’t simply provide laptops but instead drives actual corporate culture and personal support!? After one event, a LG CNS team member was asked if this was different from the events back home. His reply? “Yes, it’s a bit different. We're working and having fun!”
Through it all the teams became great friends, enjoying a lot of non-work time together. Long discussions about where the best sandwiches were in Seattle, lots of Korean barbecue, and the hundreds little things that build strong friendships.
Which, in actuality, is an important aspect of Build Center culture, demonstrating that we value connections and experiences outside the walls as much as those that happen within. Ultimately, everything Slalom does was on the table. We showed them our process for creating modern software experiences, sure. But it was more than that.
We had their HR team join us for 2 weeks to work with our Talent Acquisition group. We showed them how we go about creating an inviting space and had their operations leader (a position which didn’t even exist before) come to Seattle to discover what that entails. We went deep on everything. Culture, staffing, opportunity management, people management, marketing, and really everything in between.
Ready, willing & already succeeding
When the project finally concluded and the team returned to Korea, they were armed with more than just checklists and playbooks. They arrived home with a firm organizational construct for the new LG CNS Build Center. They took with them a new a set of capabilities and skills for the people who established the new Build Center. They also knew how to harness all of it together to ultimately deliver value for their clients. And how even during work hours, fun can help productivity.
Now all that watching, learning, seeing, and doing is paying off. Their new Build Center employs several hundred people and are rapidly scaling and growing their business.
And the partnership is just beginning. The two teams still meet every week, talking about how to ensure they are always thinking about what’s next in the cloud, data engineering, machine learning, and more. Because this project was more than just guiding LG CNS in agile software delivery.
It was about teaching them the craft of Building.