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Customer Story

Scientific Leader Nikhef Realizes 100% Workforce Transparency and Improved Efficiency

Dutch physics research institute optimizes HR efficiency across long-term projects while empowering staff and increasing job satisfaction
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Data Technology | Agile



Nikhef is a Dutch scientific leader that looks for answers into the main physics questions of our time. It performs research into subatomic physics and provides scientific equipment for experiments in the field. The organization works with a number of international research partners, including CERN in Switzerland, and KM3NeT in the Mediterranean Sea. Nikhef is located at Amsterdam Science Park. The office houses large departments for developing and producing mechanical technology, computing facilities, and electronics. Nikhef has a workforce of close to 300 full-time staff and collaborates with scientists from around the world.

Maintain an overview of large international projects to promote transparency
Guided implementation of relevant Agile principles and tools
Adopting Agile principles and methodologies, as well as Scrum components in specific situations and contexts

Creating Dependable Processes Over Time

Nikhef’s work at the frontlines of science often involves global projects with a lead time of between three and twenty years. The dynamic aspects of these projects, coupled with highly skilled staff that tend to go too far in the pursuit of perfection, often led to delayed schedules, budget overruns and resource inefficiencies, frustrated employees, and workload swings. In the most extreme cases, products were sometimes obsolete by the time they were delivered. The challenge for Nikhef was to maintain a steady grip on these projects while improving efficiency and effectiveness for increased job satisfaction and greater transparency.

Information Available to Everyone

Just as scientists must remain objective, the team at Nikhef understood that they needed to find expert external knowledge of Agile to successfully implement it. “We cautiously started trying Agile ourselves, which provided the necessary inspiration, but we soon realized that we needed help to go further, so we contacted Xebia,” explained Pieter van Braam van Vloten, head of HR at Nikhef. Instead of a standard method, Xebia introduced Nikhef to Agile principles and launched Scrum components that could apply to specific situations and contexts. “Transparency is essential for a successful project meeting,” explained Theo Gerrits, Agile Consultant at Xebia, “It ensures that information is always available to everyone.”

“Thanks to Xebia’s advice, transparency has increased. It's easier to spot the root of any issue, and people are better equipped to solve problems step by step. Obviously, when you give people a little more room to initiate or decide things themselves, they will.”
Stan Bentvelsen Director of Nikhef

Jira Improves Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

With Xebia’s guidance and frequent feedback, Nikhef began implementing Agile within several projects. Throughout the process, they determined the required competencies needed for each team based on a matrix structure and used Jira to raise coordination and the aggregation of resources to the desired levels. Nikhef has now secured a new way of working. “Increasing transparency within the project meetings was not easy but desperately needed,” Bentvelsen said, “Thanks to Xebia, collaboration has greatly improved. Now people spontaneously help, train and replace each other when needed. In the past, all of that had to be arranged by the management.”

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