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Q&A with Francesco Fullone

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Francesco Fullone, Strategic Business Consultant @Daruma Consulting di Francesco Fullone.

How could you describe your career path in few words?

My career path has been quite diverse and unpredictable. I've mostly been an entrepreneur in the digital world, starting my first company at the young age of 19. I have worked on different small to medium gigs, iterating to different kinds of industries from logistics, to food, to software development services and even conference organizing. Five years ago, my interest in social entrepreneurship peaked, and from there, I began studying sustainability, in all its forms, where I got an MBA in 2020. Later, applying agile and digital transformation approaches to sustainability transformation projects has been a major focus of mine. Overall, my career path has been quite erratic, but I am proud of the diverse experiences I have gained along the way and I love mentoring students and young entrepreneurs to teach them the lesson I learned from my errors and at the same time learn from them something new.

How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years?

Agility is super important for businesses these days, and that's why we are probably hearing a lot of people buzzing about agility in the business world these days. It's all about being able to respond quickly and effectively to changes and challenges in today's fast-paced environment. However, the concept of agility is not new, and it has been around for a long time, especially in the tech industry. Basically, agility means having a flexible and adaptable mindset that's all about continuous improvement.  The latter part (the "continuous improvement" thing) is often forgotten. Some companies think that by having a certification, you can become an agile company overnight, thanks to a one-size-fits-all (magic) solution, but it's a process that requires a strategic approach, taking small steps towards a bigger goal, and closely monitoring progress. You need to be selective and intentional about the initiatives and projects you undertake, making sure they align with your company's vision and goals.

Creating an agile company culture is also key to achieving agility. This means fostering a culture of experimentation, risk-taking, and continuous learning. You want and need, to empower your employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work, and encourage collaboration and open communication. Interestingly, smaller service-oriented companies are more aware of the importance of agility than big ones. Maybe it's because they're more nimble and have less bureaucracy, making it easier for them to implement agile practices, and this is instilling the seed of change in their customer (big companies). The transformation is still happening.

What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you?

The first example I can think of is my experience working on a circular economy project where we used an agile (and lean) mindset to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the cosmetics industry. I was fortunate to be part of a team made up of companies and organizations in the cosmetics industry. We knew that the industry was known for its high greenhouse gas emissions, so we set out to find ways to reduce them. Thanks to agile methodologies, we found some really effective solutions by iterating and experimenting on different aspects of the issue.

First, we identified where the most greenhouse gas emissions were coming from. Then we prioritized the areas we needed to focus on first; we defined experiments and talked with the stakeholders working with them as a big team. I was amazed at how well these approaches worked. We achieved our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the cosmetics industry while also minimizing waste (the project was nominated by the Financial Times as one of the 20 most prominent projects led by a university in 2022 [1]). It was a great example of how agile transformations can be applied to any industry, not just software development.

The second example [2] is a product company that was bold enough to undergo an agile transformation in the innovation and decision-making area and saw tremendous growth as a result. By using agile methodologies, the company was able to choose the right activities and focus its time and resources on what mattered most, using iterative processes to validate ideas and technologies. This led to significant growth in the company, which opened two new branch offices across Europe in 2022 and was one of the 500 Italian companies that achieved the greatest increase in sales performance in the period between 2018 and 2021.

Will agile practices continue to generate interest? 

Agile practices have come a long way since their inception, and I believe they will continue to evolve and adapt to different industries and concepts. While 20 years ago, they were mainly adopted by developers struggling to complete software projects, agile has now become more of a mindset that is applicable to almost any industry. However, I think we may see a fall in complex approaches driven mostly by the need for companies to have a certification to feel authorized to apply Agile, such as SaFE. Instead, we may see a rise in small agile frameworks that can be built together like LEGO bricks to approach specific areas of knowledge. This ecosystem of small agile frameworks will make it easier for organizations to adopt agile practices in a way that suits their specific needs and challenges. Overall, I believe that agile practices will continue to be relevant and useful, but they will need to evolve and adapt to stay effective.

What challenges do you see in the context of deploying these practices?

The word "agile" can still carry certain biases, but it's important to remember that it's not just about speed. It's about being flexible and adaptable in the face of challenges. Agile practices can help frame problems in a way that allows us to approach them without fear of failure. Ultimately, I believe that as organizations continue to adopt agile practices, we will see a shift in mindset towards a more collaborative and innovative way of working. For sure, I will continue to use my knowledge about agile as an effective tool for the sustainability transformation project I will invest in or be involved in.

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