Agile Teams for Software Development
Enterprises may sometimes focus solely on their technical capabilities, but may still struggle with software development due to a lack of understanding of their organizational culture and how their teams communicate and interact. As software development becomes increasingly complex, well-organized teams that can interact and adapt to the system’s demands are essential. To achieve this, managers must create agile teams that work independently and are structured around the flow of work, responding to feedback and delivering value. Agile development principles emphasize collaboration, communication, and teamwork, enabling teams to adapt to feedback and changes throughout the development process. However, in reality, product development is highly dynamic, requiring coordination and support between teams throughout the software development cycle. Factors such as organizational models, communication culture, management styles, scenarios, context, and complexity can all impact this process, and not all enterprises are efficient in building and delivering software.
AGILE ORGANIZATION MODEL
The success of software development is heavily influenced by the relationship between teams, organizational culture, and communication. Therefore, it is crucial to align teams effectively to ensure the success of the business. This idea is not a new concept and was introduced by “The Impact of Culture on Agile Teamwork” by E. Moe, T. Dingsøyr, and N. Brede Moe. or “The Importance of Communication in Software Development Projects” by L. Carvalho, L. Silva, and R. Souza.
The agile organizational model and team structures are designed to align with the desired software architecture, with agile development teams adapting to the operating context and end-users’ needs to create successful outcomes. To build the right software, it is essential to form an outcome-based team with specific skills and capabilities.
AGILE TEAM’S STRUCTURE
To deliver software consistently and efficiently, it is crucial to have a team structure that is optimized for various aspects of the development process. Managers create agile teams with an interaction model that encourages responsibility, accountability, and a lean-agile mindset focused on solving end-user needs. Empowered teams with flexible structures that can adapt to workflows and react with agility are essential for success. Clear expectations of behavior among team members promote a high-trust environment. Agile teams are designed to evolve with the organization and its technologies through collaboration and communication. To ensure that tasks are completed efficiently, managers assign responsibilities to agile teams based on the expertise of individuals and their workload capacity. The small size of agile teams and their autonomy allow them to achieve their objectives without being overburdened. Regular evaluation of team interactions and workload management helps to avoid bottlenecks and ensure that the team’s cognitive skills are not overloaded. To develop the right software, it is critical to implement an organizational model that considers culture and organizational changes and encourages team interaction and collaboration in unpredictable and uncertain business environments.
AGILE TEAM DESIGN PRINCIPLES
Organizations establish agile teams to collaborate with internal and external partners and operate effectively with new technologies while avoiding silos. Agile teams are formed naturally based on the desired final product, so it is crucial to analyze the intended product architecture and communication patterns before creating a team.
Assigning agile teams to a project is a crucial competency for achieving business agility since these teams develop and support software products. Therefore, a company’s team organization and technical abilities are essential for building dependable products.
Agile teams operate on shared visions and purpose in a flow-based model with authority and accountability. Ideally, teams consist of five to ten cross-functional members who commit small batches of work in short cycles, adjust based on feedback, and continuously learn and adapt to minimize handoffs and delays.
To align teams with product architecture, teams collaborate seamlessly in smaller modules with minimum dependencies, creating a loosely coupled architecture that maximizes their ability to work efficiently in a fast flow of rapid changes and adaptations to new contexts.
Managers with technical expertise and organizational structure understanding are responsible for designing agile teams for a fast-flow team model. They also evaluate communication, frequency, and collaboration styles within teams, between paired teams, and with other teams to identify necessary tools for improving communication flow and relationships based on the volume and patterns of communication.
AGILE TEAM INTERACTIONS
To achieve organizational agility, the formation of agile software teams is essential. These teams are responsible for delivering quality products on time while operating within their cognitive capacity. Agile teams are typically small and cross-functional, allowing for low friction interactions, autonomy, and a sense of system ownership.
Before becoming highly productive, agile teams require time to adapt and develop cohesiveness. Coaching activities are essential in nurturing team members to prioritize the team’s needs above individual interests, incentivizing and rewarding teams appropriately.
Managers should assign workloads to agile teams based on their expertise and domain complexity to avoid overloading and reduce context switching, ensuring team motivation. The size of the system and team capacity should also be considered when designing software boundaries to optimize team performance.
Agile teams define interactions, such as working patterns and interfaces, to facilitate communication and collaboration with other teams. Separation of concerns is important in maintaining separation between teams.
AGILE TEAM DESIGN
To simplify organizational design, agile organizations create teams with specific responsibilities and behaviors that maintain autonomy, fluent interrelationships, and independent work streams. When deciding which team structure to adopt, organizations can base it on values and components that coexist and work on parts of the system. The SAFe agile framework provides guidance on the different types of teams that organizations may consider when designing agile teams. These teams include:
- Agile Teams/Scrum: These teams are organized around a value and are aligned to a single stream with a purpose around a business domain area or capability. They work independently with live systems and other teams serve them.
- System shared services: These are subsystem teams with specialized skills that support other teams.
- Enablers: Enabling teams are specialists who assist other teams in acquiring new technologies, capabilities, and practices.
- Cloud/platform teams: Cloud/platform teams provide platforms, APIs, tools, and services to other teams.
Agile teams work collaboratively with other teams to deliver quality products efficiently. They focus on the flow of changes, constantly learn from feedback mechanisms and strive to reduce handoffs within their boundaries. Agile teams that continuously improve from feedback develop awareness of their product users and market needs, allowing them to quickly identify and address issues (responsive teams).
The success of agile teams is dependent on several factors, such as the operations context, leadership, experience, and interactions with other teams in the surrounding environment. Agile teams are self-sufficient and share code with other teams in a coordinated fashion while maintaining discipline to avoid technical debt accumulation and improve stability.
To improve delivery cadence, specific roles are established to manage and support interactions between teams. Agile teams also have external dependencies from IT operations functions, such as platform or enabling teams, who create services to be consumed on a self-service basis. This helps to maintain the team’s autonomy and avoid delays.
DevOps teams are created depending on the enterprise’s operational context, the technical maturity of the teams, and the scale of the software needs. Applying DevOps practices helps balance the team’s commitment and ensures systems reliability.
Team leaders define responsibilities effectively and help build capabilities while making adjustments and splitting responsibilities to avoid the creation of dependencies. Agile team leadership set the methods for tracking responsibilities and help maintain the appropriate communication patterns, determining the impact or interference of dependencies in the workflow.
AGILE TEAM INTERACTIONS EVOLUTION
The focus of organizational design is on creating team interaction modes that promote the flow and enable software delivery to meet the changing needs of the business. Agile teams need to adapt and change to remain competitive and evolve in their communication, services, and support to other teams. To achieve this, careful communication and awareness of agile best practices and formalities are necessary, as well as an understanding of how teams collaborate and behave. Team interactions are designed to anticipate the intended software product and continuously adjust to meet the needs, requirements, or contexts of interacting teams.
Before designing agile teams, it is essential to analyze the organization’s technologies and technical capabilities to ensure effective collaboration. Implementing agile and DevOps practices can help build key capabilities to increase speed and stability. Managers must understand their team’s capabilities and provide support to drive improvements. Capabilities can be cultural, technical, or process-related and impact software delivery. Successful organizations recognize that people are their most valuable asset, as their software development is crucial to business success.