Many of our clients have embarked on their journey towards a more Agile organisation to adapt to changing markets as time passes. They excel quite fast at using the agile practices and start to learn to have an Agile mindset when they develop products for their customers.
However, in some cases we see that the change has little or no impact in the way that they interact with the customers. This is a big flaw that needs to be mitigated.
The symptoms of this flaw are:
- It is hard to identify a single customer group to be the receiver of increments
- Teams suffocate from managing dependencies when releasing increments
- The number of impediments for external factors rise.
Flawed Team Organisation
The reason for the flaw is the way that the teams are organised. The common denominator learned from our clients is that teams are primarily organised by technical platforms or systems.
These kind of teams resemble the nature of a platform team. Platform teams are described in “Team Topologies” by Matthew Skelton. A book that is recommended for all agile organisations. Matthew Skelton defines four types of teams:
- Stream-aligned team: aligned to a flow of work from (usually) a segment of the business domain
- Enabling team: helps a Stream-aligned team to overcome obstacles. Also detects missing capabilities.
- Complicated Subsystem team: where significant mathematics/calculation/technical expertise is needed.
- Platform team: a grouping of other team types that provide a compelling internal product to accelerate delivery by Stream-aligned teams
Read more about team topologies in this blogpost on drafting perfect software delivery teams.
Re-Organising Your Business to be Customer-Centric
Being able to organise in a customer centric way cannot be done using only platform teams. You need to restructure towards stream-aligned teams. Teams that are organised by the way the customer works with business products.
One way to solve this is to address the way teams are organised. This can be done using two practices that in combination addresses the customer centric value creation and the more technical aspects of delivering products:
- Defining operational value stream
- Defining development value stream
The operational value stream is customer centric and focuses on how business products are used. It’s an overview that describes step by step how a product is triggered in the business until money is generated with the customers.
The development value stream is describing the supporting product development organisation defined by teams. This where we need to consider the four types of teams described in “Team Topologies”.
This means that you must collaborate closely with your customer and business to identify the products that you will support and the associated operational value streams. Following the definition of the operational value stream you must target the technical organisation to discover how the best orchestration of teams should be. This should be done in close collaboration with the team members as this will impact their daily work. If the current organisation is based on legacy systems design, the new design will have a major impact as team members might swap teams and current systems might have shared ownership. Over time the team members will settle in their new location and hopefully find more motivation in being able to deliver incrementally. However, the shared ownership of systems needs to be addressed as this will cause intermediate dependencies. You could consider splitting the system into smaller pieces with separate ownership or making a Platform or Enabling teams that supports the Stream aligned teams in delivering.
The vision for the organisational changes should always be to setup customer centric development – not just another change for the sake of implementing changes.
Co-founder of Buildingbettersoftware and Agile Leadership Coach
Søren Pedersen is a strategic leadership consultant and international speaker. With more than fifteen years of software development experience at LEGO, Bang & Olufsen, and Systematic, Pedersen knows how to help clients meet their digital transformation goals by obtaining organizational efficiency, alignment, and quality assurance across organizational hierarchies and value chains. Using Agile methodologies, he specializes in value stream conversion, leadership coaching, and transformation project analysis and execution. He’s spoken at DevOps London, is a contributor for The DevOps Institute, and is a Certified Scrum Master and Product Owner.
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