Case Study: ecoATM

ecoATM Gazelle


ecoATM is an end-to-end buyer and reseller of used mobile devices. Typically found in shopping malls and large retailers, their advanced kiosks test and examine the device, assess the value on the global reseller market, and pay out cash in moments. The devices are then securely stored for retrieval, sent to a refurbishing facility, and resold on their global wholesale marketplace.

ecoATM has had an epic journey of growth on their way to over $200M in annual revenue. After explosive growth, they were acquired by Outerwall, owners of Coinstar and Redbox. They later went private again, then merged with Gazelle, the largest online reseller market for used mobile devices. These mergers and acquisitions created a unique set of technical and organizational challenges, where a mid-sized (2000+ employees) enterprise was forced to behave like a much larger company. Their culture and identity was that of a large enterprise, but they didn’t have the manpower to deal with the overhead. They were buried in bureaucracy.

I was brought on as a coach and a consultant for the VP of Technology. This was a deep engagement, where I interfaced with every facet of the engineering organization, performed an in depth audit of the technology and organizational landscape, presented my findings and recommendations to the C-Suite, and coached the team through implementation.


Siloed Teams

It was clear that there were two distinct companies in the organization, referred to as the “ecoATM side” and the “Gazelle side” of the business. The ecoATM engineering teams were run efficiently, the product was high quality, and the people were highly motivated. Gazelle, on the other hand, had massive stability and quality issues, constant fire-fighting, and a completely burned out team. Reportedly on average, 30-50% of the company’s resources were spent in reactive fire-fighting mode to support this system.

“With the acquisition of the Gazelle business to ecoATM, we introduced a completely different technology stack and business system, in addition to what we had built over the past 7 years for ecoATM.  The introduction of this new Gazelle technology stack, combined with a renewed focus on operational uptime improvements, revealed a need to improve software quality as well as overall software operational processes.”

Legacy Tools and Processes

In addition, the teams were saddled with legacy tools and processes used to manage and deploy the product which were not capable of keeping up with the business needs. Due to a lack of automated testing and deployment, shared resources between development and operations support, and home-grown systems that were no longer supported by the original developers, it took two to three times longer to test and deploy a release than it took to develop it.

Top-Down Process

The company’s product development process had been pushed from the top-down, without involving the teams in its creation. The process was not designed to fit their needs, and they did not feel a sense of ownership of their own work process. This resulted in friction between engineering and the PMO, a high level of risk aversion, lack of ability to innovate or improve, and decrease in morale.

“While Outerwall provided much needed structure to our organization initially, they became a barrier to success and frustratingly didn’t move at the pace we wanted to, and I never felt like they had a clear understanding of our business and the way we needed to run it.”

Leadership Challenges

Teams reported a lack of knowledge of upcoming initiatives, and even a lack of understanding of the company vision and its customers. Product management did not clearly deliver requirements in a consistent manner. Managers were tactical, often engaging in day to day development and operational tasks instead of focusing on developing the team. The organization lacked a centralized business intelligence function. These issues lead to disengagement, low productivity, and ultimately attrition.


My first order of business was to get down to the ground level and engage with the engineers to get the unvarnished truth. I performed interviews, collected surveys, and shadowed the teams through their agile ceremonies. I collected data, insights, and recommendations from across the organization in the areas of Leadership, Process, Product Management, Teams and People, Automation, Tools, and Architecture.

I then worked with the VP of Technology to craft a short, medium, and long-term roadmap of initiatives to improve in these areas, including:

  • Leadership training at all levels of the engineering organization
  • Large scale architecture and integration plan for Gazelle
  • A company vision and roadmap review
  • Agile development process training
  • Bottom-up process improvements
  • Several automation projects
  • Change management process
  • Business intelligence foundation project

I then continued to coach the VP of Technology and the engineering managers to implement these changes and reshape aspects of their company culture. We setup goals, milestones, and metrics to track progress and drive success of these initiatives.

“Eric took a 360-degree look at our product development, software development, QA, DevOps and change management processes.  He performed discovery (e.g. review of existing documentation and artifacts), in-person interviews, online surveys, analysis of existing processes, detailed findings, recommendations, as well as an executive briefing.  I was very impressed with both the breadth and depth of the questions posed to the team, as well as the actionable insights we gained.”


At a company of this size, progress is typically very slow. I was amazed at the speed at which the team implemented these changes, and the immediate results we achieved. With inspiration from their leadership, the teams were ready to put in the work to improve their systems and processes and ultimately make their lives better.

“After years feeling like the organization had poor management but great people on the ground, I finally feel like management has clear direction and solid leadership skills.”

We continued to measure employee engagement and satisfaction, and found significant improvements in all of these areas:

  • I am engaged and enjoy my work
  • I understand the value of my work, and how it fits into the big picture
  • Leadership is sensitive to my needs and the needs of my team
  • My team collaborates well with other teams that impact our work
  • Product management consistently delivers clear requirements
  • Once requirements have been delivered, they do not change prior to release
  • Tools and processes are consistently rolled out and managed across teams
  • I have a voice in defining our work process
  • I am proud of the quality of output my team produces

In addition, we measured improvements in several key metrics, including:

  • Team productivity (velocity, cycle time, committed/completed ratio)
  • Time to market (lead time)
  • Uptime
  • Operational effort
  • Quality incidents (volume, impact, response time, resolution time)

The nice thing about working with big companies is that even a modest efficiency gain across the whole organization can result in a huge dollar cost savings. By reducing the operational overhead and support costs, we estimated a cost savings of over $10M per year.

“I was able to implement most, if not all of the short-term recommendations right away, which were small tweaks to existing processes with positive impact to the team.  I then built-in many of the medium and longer term recommendations to our next year’s budgeting process (such as addition of automation resources) as well as making some structural and functional organization improvements to improve collaboration and accountability.”


Working with a company of this size, I often have to temper my expectations for the impact I can make in a short time-frame. In this case, I was incredibly happy with the organization’s ability and willingness to take risks and make meaningful change.

“I would absolutely recommend Eric to anyone or any company looking for software development methodology guidance.  Eric is well rounded, intelligent and highly experienced in the field.  He was able to come in to a rather large engineering team, and quickly establish a non-threatening environment in order to collect open and honest feedback. That feedback and his recommendations have been extremely valuable to me as an engineering VP.”

If you struggle from any of these challenges, I may be able to help. I have over 10 years of executive coaching and consulting experience across a wide range of industries and company sizes. If you’d like to chat, please connect with me on LinkedIn, email me at er[email protected], or simply book a time to speak with me.

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