Government & Public Sector
With the help of Xebia, Wigo4it, provider of one of the most widely used software solutions in the Dutch public sector, embarked on its transition to Azure and DevOps. A multi-year project that required a huge organizational shift accompanied by a significant knowledge injection. With Wigo4it’s data center retirement fast approaching, let’s take a closer look at the journey that paved the way for Wigo4it’s bright future!
Driven by Cost-reduction
Dutch software developer Wigo4it supplies the country’s four largest municipalities with a social welfare management solution. One day, they started to question its value for money. “In response, we commissioned a study that showed we were offering a feature-rich, ultra-secure, but high-priced service. Back then, the choices we made for our data center were not all lean and mean. You could say we were running the Rolls Royce of data centers,” says Teun Van der Vorm, Managing Director of Wigo4it.
Driven by a significant cost-reduction ambition, Wigo4it then teamed up with Xebia to implement a multi-year plan to move its business to Microsoft Azure, adopt a DevOps way of working and future-proof its product. René van Osnabrugge, CTO at Xebia, adds: “The idea was to transform Wigo4it into a full-focus SaaS company, switch off its overly expensive data center and realize additional cost savings through DevOps and automation. Ultimately, the goal was to reduce costs by 50%.”
We’ve been working together for a while now. Where do we stand today? Time to check in with Wigo4it!
“Soon, we’ll switch off our data center forever! This will save us millions and give the organization a huge boost. After a journey like this, looking back and seeing how far we’ve come together is amazing. If we can do this, we can do anything!” ”
Kicking Off the Journey to the Cloud
Well aware that buy-in can make or break a transformation, Xebia initiated the change at C-level. “If you had tried to start this journey at any other level, we might’ve made progress, but we would never have been where we are today. Having a cloud and DevOps ambassador on our management team solidified the importance of this move from day one and led to a company-wide transformation,” says Jean-Paul van der Ham, Tech Lead at Wigo4it. Van Osnabrugge adds: “In the past, we have tried to initiate this kind of change on other levels, but almost every transformation meets resistance, and buy-in from management is crucial in addressing that.”
From the C-level, change trickled down into the organization, and all preparations were made to migrate Wigo4it’s more than 20-year-old application. But if you think this was a purely technical affair, think again. “Everything has changed,” says Van der Ham. “From how we run the business and the technologies we work with to embracing entrepreneurship, reducing hierarchy, and adopting an Agile mindset. We are a completely new company!” Dennis Hermans, Tribe Lead at Wigo4it, adds: “It’s by no means easy to transform a company on this scale. But should you even consider separating cloud and DevOps? They reinforce each other, and if you only do one, you’ll never reap the full benefit.”
"What we are doing with Wigo4it is not a project. It’s a full-blown transformation. From a traditional to a value stream-driven company. From a project to a product company. From an on-prem to a SaaS company." — René van Osnabrugge, CTO at Xebia Microsoft Services.
"Sure, we are saving money, but more than anything, the cloud is boosting our DevOps culture." — Jean-Paul van der Ham, Tech Lead at Wigo4it.
Wigo4it Switched off the Data Center and Saved Millions
At the start of the journey, Wigo4it struggled with a knowledge gap.
Geert van der Cruijsen, Consultant at Xebia, “Besides temporarily taking on the CTO role, our main task was to share our cloud and DevOps skills.” Sabine van Rooijen, Tribe Lead at Wigo4it, adds: “Azure training gave everyone a solid theoretical foundation. But our main focus was on learning on the job. We encouraged people to take the time to explore Azure together. That formed the foundation of the amazing knowledge-sharing culture we have today.”
Today, Wigo4it’s teams regularly engage in collaborative practices such as pair programming, joint refinement sessions, Azure meetups, and knowledge chapters. They also prioritize innovation through quarterly ‘Funovation Days,’ during which backlogs make way for time to experiment and explore new concepts. This mindset of continuous learning and experimentation is crucial for personal and professional growth, according to Van Rooijen.
In addition to in-house knowledge sharing, Wigo4it (the first Dutch government institution to move to the public cloud) is also committed to sharing knowledge with peers. “Our mission is to make a social impact. In this context, we want to pass on the knowledge and experience we have acquired with public resources to the community,” says Hermans. ” A lot of public institutions are afraid of the cloud. They stress about where to store data and how to protect it properly. We want to show them that this fear is unfounded. Microsoft Azure offers endless possibilities, and things like security are well taken care of.”
An Epic Workplace
Today, Wigo4it is a one-of-a-kind employer within the public sector. Van Rooijen, “Here, people can experiment, learn from their mistakes, and use innovative technology to work on a high-quality product. Combined with the sense of purpose that this domain offers, working at Wigo4it now appeals to many people.” Van der Vorm, “Talented people want to work for an organization at the forefront, simply because that is where they’ll find the most challenging, enjoyable, and satisfying experiences. Being a technical pioneer makes you less vulnerable because it helps you attract the best IT professionals, keep them on board, and ensure your services are up to date.”
Besides attracting new talent, Wigo4it can now offer its current employees a new and improved employment experience. Van der Ham, “We’ve established a can-do culture: less asking for permission, more doing, confidence, courage, problem-solving, great results, a good vibe, extremely low turnover, and happy people.” Van Rooijen adds: “A prime example of this is our ‘architecture without architects.’ Wigo4it used to be jampacked with architects. Today, the squads do that work themselves, boosting awareness and responsibility. Is the quality as amazing? Not always, but it’s definitely as good as we need it to be.”
Partnering With Xebia
Over the past two or three years, Xebia has been instrumental in guiding Wigo4it through its organizational transformation. Of course, its technical know-how and execution power have been of enormous value, but what may have been of even greater significance to the software company is the partner they have found in Xebia.
"Having a vision is great, but having the guts to turn that vision into a reality is another story. And that’s where Xebia really proved their worth. They repeatedly reassured us that the transition makes sense and is feasible, even for a government organization like ours."– Teun Van der Vorm
What Xebia did for (and with) Wigo4it:
- Take a top-down approach to ensure that change permeates all layers of the organization, and everyone is involved
- A new organizational design based on value streams, with squads, product owners, and minimal middle management
- Address the eight pillars of engineering culture, for instance, create a clear digital vision, activate in-house knowledge sharing, shape the release process, and maximize team responsibility (‘you build it, you run it’)
- Clear technical debt to ensure a smooth transition to the cloud
- Establish a BIO-compliant Azure platform
- An intensive knowledge transfer track with the managers, after which they can now operate independently as executives of a cloud company
Currently, a small team of Xebia’s experts is still at Wigo4it to refine practices and help people move (further) beyond their comfort zone. “Old habits die hard. Xebia is still helping us break old patterns here and there and challenging us to explore the unknown. For instance, refactoring code is new to us. So, by showing us how it’s done and then teaching us to do it ourselves, they’re helping us stand on our own two feet more and more,” says van der Ham.
"Our mantra is to show you how it’s done, do it together, and then let you do it yourself." – Rene van Osnabrugge
A Unique Product
By the end of 2023, Wigo4it aims to have its web application running in the cloud. Then, the data center will close soon after. But that doesn’t mean its journey has come to an end!
Van der Vorm, “We were overly customer-driven. To turn that around, we still have lots of optimizing to do.” Van der Cruijsen adds: “The four municipalities essentially had their own unique products. That makes getting back to one solid offering quite challenging — one change requires four different approaches.” Van der Vorm continues: “We’ve started to remove any customization and are working towards a universal, standard solution with a fantastic user experience. After that, we want to further clarify our proposition and expand our market.”
Hermans, “In this stage, we wanted to change as little as possible for the user. We wanted to fully focus on meeting our technical and financial goals first.” Van der Vorm concludes: “And we are happy to say we have achieved these goals! Now, after we’ve switched off our data center, we’re excited to start refining and adding new features.”