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Performance Framework for Agile Implementation in the Gig-Economy

Performance Framework for Agile Implementation in the Gig-Economy

Pooley, Alan and Chan, Jin ORCID: 0000-0002-6275-9763 (2018) Performance Framework for Agile Implementation in the Gig-Economy. In: Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Annual Conference 2018, 6 - 8 November 2018, University of Birmingham.

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This research investigates the implementation of Agile by SMEs in the gig economy. Nowadays, many SMEs in the gig economy have a high number of their workers who are freelancers or self-employing. Under the new norm of resource uncertainty, those SMEs feel the need to alter their project management processes from traditional method to Agile approach. Nonetheless, there is limited knowledge about their challenges and the effects on performance of Agile approach within the gig economy.

This research primarily focuses on evaluating the performance of deploying Agile method in SME within the gig economy. Through an in-depth case study, we develop a performance matrix with tangible and intangible indicators for Agile application in SME.

Businesses in gig-economy, also referred as collaborative-, sharing-economy, are increasingly occupying an important position, with serious economic and societal implications, in the modern digital society in recent years (Sundararajan 2014; Forman et al. 2008). The phenomenon of “Uberisation” has becoming a common practice in many industries, not only practiced by big companies but also is increasingly noticeable in SMEs. SMEs negotiate and engage in the gig economy in various ways, including when they are increasing depending on the supply of knowledge and skills from the freelancers and self-employment workforces. The mobility of labour might not be physical but is powered through the internet, which enables SMEs to access to the required skills and knowledge, giving rise to the opportunities for disrupting long standing industries and displacing the incumbents (Morse, 2015; Zervas et al., 2015).

While these businesses provide workers with an unprecedented degree of flexibility (Hall and Krueger 2015), they encounter many challenges, for instance, how to maintain performance, retain knowledge, and manage team. This research investigates the challenges related to maintaining performance where SMEs attempt to implement Agile processes in their project management approach under the nature of resource uncertainty in the gig economy.

The Agile Manifesto calls for welcoming change through continuously develop-test-refine iterations in project development to increase the chances of success, learning from heavily upfront specified “waterfall” methodologies that often failed to deliver projects at great costs. However, by definition, Agile would seem at odds with estimating resources upfront which most businesses call for. This study aims to evaluate the deployment of Agile by investing into the performance of the SME in four respects pertaining to a digital enterprise, i.e. implementation success, knowledge management, worker engagement and brand citizenship.
Can an enterprise really be Agile and high performance in the Gig economy?

The research is a single in-depth case study of a start-up enterprise. The enterprise, SHL, is a small digital firm, who epitomize a gig economy corporation by providing a platform for a flexible workforce of self-employed and freelancers, that has attempted to reduce the uncertainty of their resource estimation through implementing a set of Agile tools and processes. SHL has particularly attempted to address the apparent dilemma, over the last few years, by introducing Agile processes and complementary strategies namely;
• Breaking down projects into parts where estimation is gated by technical developer’s approval
• Developing on boarding developer quality control through trial projects
• Developing coding development guidelines
• Introducing Agile Project Management tools such as bespoke Trello boards
• Encouraging inclusion and knowledge sharing through face to face contact and dedicated communication channels and online collaboration
• Rotating developer pairing
This research was conducted by a Practitioner-Researcher who was the company program director. In addition to insider knowledge, we conducted one to one interview with another eight participants. The interviewees were selected because they are considered to be the most active participants with the enterprise over the last year, in the sense that they were the most engaged in projects of SHL. The interviews were carried out over several weeks with each interview taking around 45 minutes to complete. The roles of the participants varied from developer, associate, team leader to partner/client, The diverse selection of roles is meant to gain a wider range of insights and comparison of multiple perspectives.

Each participant was asked around eight closed questions from an Assessment Framework constructed from the literature derived sub-themes of Implementation, engagement and knowledge management. After each question, the participants were then asked two open questions to gain more qualitative feedback, namely, What actions at SHL, if any, have made an impact in this area? How could SHL further make an impact in this area?

A Hybrid Analysis Framework was carried out through a thematic data analysis summarising points raised, coding and categorising themes. The findings were then processed and presented with a series of graphs and tables and finally a structured narrative was developed to ensure the qualitative essence of the research findings were maintained.

The findings demonstrate the implementation of planned Agile tools and processes as having an impact in both tangible and intangible metrics. With tangible elements being demonstrated in substantial increase in projects won and turnover, whilst intangible were positive impacts in the engagement and knowledge management metrics

However, as well as the limitation of the small sample size, it is noted that the implementation of planned Agile tools and processes were not alone and completely dominate in their impact, other exciting themes emergent around brand citizenship with unanimous agreement that the enterprises practices would influence their personal working methods going forward and they would all essentially promote the company’s brand image to maintain a competitive advantage (Buil et al., 2014; Burmann et al., 2009). Further, organic development with worker and project (company) growth and quality recruitment of quality workers came to fore during the interviews.

The overarching management policy therefore calls for a blended implemented the aforementioned Agile processes and complementary strategies to be further complemented by recruitment of quality workers whom are positively encouraged to engage and develop with the enterprise to all thrive in the Gig economy. The success of the policy can be measured for both tangible and intangible impact using the metrics of Implementation, Engagement and Knowledge Management developed in this paper.
For SHL, putting the processes and complementary strategies into practice involved developing work flows where project estimations required developer’s approval, on-boarding developers including a trial project, continuous agreeing and developing of coding guidelines. Whilst project management was practiced through tools such as Trello boards, online collaboration such as through Slack and Google drive was positively encouraged along with face to face interaction where possible. Junior and senior developers (for guidance) were typically paired in projects.

Development of workers, whilst organic in that they would grow with the company projects was complimented with one-to-one reviews with reference to the metrics of Implementation, Engagement and Knowledge Management.

The recruitment of quality workers would probably be one of the biggest challenges for an SME, quite often, recruitments agencies demand prices beyond their reaches, although the prospect to develop within an interesting project would quite often be a counter.

Whilst the impact of the policy and practice apparent for the enterprise in this case study, SHL, it would appear just as applicable for other gig economy SMEs looking for continued grow in engaging freelancers/Solo/Self-employment workers in today’s growing Gig Economy.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: SMEs, Agile, Sharing economy, performance matrix, project management
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of Systems Management & Strategy
Faculty of Business > Networks and Urban Systems Centre (NUSC) > Supply Chain Management Research Group
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2019 13:28
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
Selected for GREAT 2019: None

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