Practical Agility Across Teams

Agile practices work best with small cohesive and co-located teams. How do you scale it for a larger organizational with multiple teams, possibly in different locations and even time zones? One approach would be to treat all these teams as one big agile team and try to work around the issues of remoteness and time zones. This approach is doomed for multiple reasons.

A better approach would be to break the development into vertical silos in which each team is completely responsible for a particular set of applications or services. This approach scales well as long as you can neatly break development into independent pieces that can be fully owned by one team. One downside of this approach is that knowledge sharing and opportunities for reuse are much more difficult.

A third approach would be to treat teams as users of each other. This allows collaboration and combining multiple teams to tackle big projects without losing the benefits of the original Agile team. This requires careful management to ensure teams’ schedules are properly coordinated and dependencies don’t halt development. This is nothing new, but in an agile context the planning game is typically done at the team level. When multiple teams work together (even loosely) there needs to be another layer of management that takes care of the cross-team planning.

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