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50 Leading Companies of the Year 2017

We make the complex simple: Zen Ex Machina

thesiliconreview-mia-ceo-stephen-senior-agile-coach-matthew-cio-zen-ex-machina17“An expert in solving complex project problems with the solutions of elegant simplicity.”

Zen Ex Machina (ZXM) is a professional management services consultancy established in 2011 by Mia Horrigan (CEO), Matthew Hodgson (CIO) and Kai Koenig (CTO). With offices across Australia and New Zealand, ZXM uses agile frameworks and user centred design techniques to work collaboratively with clients to solve complex business problems.

The company’s core values are simplicity, agility, collaboration and sustainability – values that underpin their elegant solutions. This focus on business value and users over just technology change is one of the reasons ZXM is a leading brand in delivery of agile services in this digital age. Matthew Hodgson says “We don’t do easy. We make easy happen through hard work, continuous improvement, and deep collaboration with our clients and their stakeholders”.

Foundation of ZXM

The company was set up to focus primarily on customer experience and digital product design and development with a passion for being agile over doing agile. Digital transformation is a big area of concern for the company’s clients, and ZXM’s experience in both the human and technology sides of modern product development put them immediately in the limelight in the Asia Pacific region. After some of their very initial engagements, clients began asking ZXM whether they could teach their staff the agile frameworks used throughout their projects. It was from these early conversations that the company’s agile coaching and digital transformation services were developed and now represents its biggest service delivery area in the global marketplace.

From these early beginnings, ZXM was a pioneer in adapting behavioural science models from psychology to assist its clients with agile adoption, change management and digital transformation. Challenges with cultural change were a perpetual issue for many of ZXM’s clients. Armed with this unique blend of frameworks, ZXM helped alleviate the problems of adoption in a way that was sustainable, long-lived and unique amongst their competitors. These frameworks still underpin the company’s consulting services from agile coaching and training, to digital agility and project, program and portfolio management. Combined with 21st century, digital, agile and design thinking techniques, their foundation values have made ZXM learn faster, deliver better, and continuously improve their practice.

We make easy happen through hard work

ZXM faced challenges during it’s growth into the business world as agile services were still only an emerging capability. The company worked through the global financial crisis with clients who had similar values and this helped them to build deep trusted relationships that they have continued to maintain. While change is the one constant that adversely impacts many modern organisations, ZXM has learnt to continuously improve and adapt it’s skills to meet the evolving needs of their clients, and embrace new and complex challenges. Design Thinking has been a key tool in this space, helping ZXM consultants to engage in curious, critical and creative dialogues in collaboration with their clients. By using empathy for the context of a problem, insights are drawn from context with rational analysis matching peoples’ needs with simpler solutions that are both technologically feasible and viable as a business strategy.

Today’s challenges

Digital transformation is now ZXM’s strongest capability. With a multi-tiered approach that encompasses strategic, tactical and delivery layers, the company works alongside executives to develop the vision and roadmap while coaching staff to own, embrace and execute change. Helping people at all levels of an organisation to embrace change as an opportunity to “work smarter not harder” is still a challenge, but ZXM’s consultants are passionate about the benefits it brings. “There’s no turning back for me now”, says Stephen Morgan, ZXM Agile Coach. “When you can help people emerge from their silos and rediscover the joy in collaborative work that also delivers value to their own customers, you just love turning up to work every day”.

The company enjoys what they do and the clients they work with. Making time to celebrate the wins and learn from each set back has helped ZXM to understand what they can do to continuously improve. This paves the way to learn more and invent new ways to help their clients.

Today, ZXM sees Agile, Lean, Lean UX and Design Thinking, as highly integrated ways of thinking. The company employs these methods as multi-disciplinary tools to bring clarity and transparency the problems client’s face, because while delivery can be agile, without consideration of the user-experience, products may not be fit-for-purpose nor engaging, and without being agile, speed to market might suffer or the effort going into the product result in little value for its customers.

The future

ZXM continues to grow it’s enterprise agile coaching services with  added capability to provide certified Agile training including Scrum Master and Product Owner Certification and the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). “We’re planning growth and expansion of our services across Australia and the Asia Pacific, particularly in India, China and Singapore”, says Mia Horrigan. “The way we think and work strikes a chord with so many of our clients. People want more and we’re planning to deliver it to them.” 

ZXM leadership

Mia Horrigan, CEO - Mia is an experienced Enterprise Agile Coach and Senior Program Manager with over 15 years senior executive management experience leading and implementing ICT programs including digital transformations, from planning through to development and implementation. She is focused on service delivery, digital solutions and digital integration services.

Matthew Hodgson, CIO – Matthew is an ICT strategist with two decades of experience leading business programs from their strategy through to execution by leveraging organizational psychology, organizational change and modern Agile, Lean, UCD and Lean UX methods. Digital transformation is Matthew's specialty.

Kai Koenig, CTO –Kai leads the technology side of ZXM’s business. With 20+ years experience in application development across desktop, web and mobile he focuses on helping clients to make sound technology decisions and to implement solutions that meet today’s and future business goals. Kai is a sought-after expert and regularly presents at development and technology conferences across the world.

Stephen Morgan, Senior Agile Coach–Stephen has five years of experience leading agile change in scrum teams using agile methods and ten years as a technical team lead. Considered to be highly motivated, multidisciplined and resourceful, Stephen focuses on strategic value and tactical business solutions both as a team lead and software developer.

"We help government and corporates to improve their digital business products and services by using Agile, Lean and UX methods.”