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Scott W. Ambler - Agility@Scale
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Agility@Scale: Strategies for Scaling Agile Software Development
Updated: 1 week 4 days ago

Large Agile Teams

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 20:39

I recently wrote a detailed article about Large Agile Teams that was a detailed walkthrough of how to structure agile teams of various sizes.  I suspect that this is the most comprehensive online discussion of this topic.  The article addressed the following topics:

  1. Organizing Agile Teams.  The article starts with a summary of the results of some industry research that I've done regarding the size of agile teams, showing that agile techniques are in fact being successfully applied on a variety of team sizes.  It then goes into detail describing the organization structure of agile teams at various sizes.  The article starts with a discussion of small agile teams, covering the common rhetoric of how to organize such a team and then making observations about what actually happens in practice.  It then walks through two approaches to organizing medium sized teams of 15 to 50 people - a structure for a single team and a structure for a team of teams.  Finally, it walks through how to organize a large agile program of 50+ people, focusing a fair bit on the need for a leadership team to coordinate the overall activities within the program.  This advice is similar to what is seen in the SAFe framework although proves to be a bit more flexible and pragmatic in practice.
  2. Supporting Large Agile Teams.  The leadership structure to support a large agile team is reasonably straightforward once you understand the issues that such a team faces.  In this section the article overviews the need for three important sub teams within your overall leadership team: The Product Delivery Team, The Product Management Team, and The Architecture Team.  It also describes the need for an optional Independent Testing/Integration Team, something misleadingly labeled an integration team in SAFe, that reflects some of the known agile testing and quality practices that I've been writing about for several years.
  3. Organizing subteams.  The article includes a detailed discussion for how to organize the work addressed by agile sub teams within a large agile program.  These strategies include feature teams, component teams, and internal open source teams.  As you would expect with the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) framework, the article clearly summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of each approach on provides guidance for when (not) to apply each one.  I suspect you'll find this portion of the article to be one of the most coherent discussions of the Feature vs. Component team debate.
  4. Tailoring agile practices.  The article provides a detailed overview of how the various DAD process goals are tailored to address the issues faced by large teams.  This advice includes:  Do a bit more up-front requirements exploration; Do a bit more up-front architectural modelling; Do a bit more initial planning; Adopt more sophisticated coordination activities; Adopt more sophisticated testing strategies; and Integrate regularly.  My hope is that you find this part of the article very illuminating regarding how the DAD framework provides flexible and lightweight advice for tailoring your approach to address the context of the situation that you face.
  5. Other Resources.  The article ends with a collection of links to other resources on this topic.

I welcome any feedback that you may have about Large Agile Teams.

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