October 12, 2011

Up and Out: A Primer for My Upcoming Webinar on Scaling Agile Projects

[caption id="attachment_9783" align="alignright" width="211" caption="Global Team"]Global Team[/caption] On November 9, I'll be hosting the Agile XXL: Scaling Agile for Project Teams webinar. I haven’t ironed out the details of this webinar yet, but thought it would be good to write a primer for the event.  While I have been practicing many Agile techniques on large, distributed projects since 2002, I didn’t start formally putting them together as a collection of practices in the form of Agile projects until 2007.  It was in 2007 that I say my Agile journey and passion for Agile software development officially began. Since then, helping organizations adopt Agile practices for large and/or distributed project teams has been of particular interest to me because most of my clients have fit into the category. Let’s take a look at some numbers. In its 2010 “Agile Development: Mainstream Adoption Has Changed Agility” white paper, Forrester Research reported that a mere 12% of the 52 development professionals surveyed were operating within project teams of 1 to 10 people. So, roughly 82% were part of teams consisting of 11 or more members, with approximately 33% of teams having more than 100 members. On distribution, only 17% had team members co-located in one location, and 39% reported having up to 50% of team members distributed. While I cannot say that the Forrester study is reflective of the majority of organizations, when I couple the report with my own experience, my conclusion is that an opportunity clearly exists to address the needs of organizations looking to scale software projects using Agile methods. Rahul Sawhney and I recently discussed scaling Agile in our “Agile XXL: Scaling Agile for Project Teams” eBook. In the eBook, we proposed and elaborated on three project support pillars with interlocking relationships that increasingly come under stress as teams grow both in size and distribution. All Agile project teams must keep these pillars in balance, but it is especially important and difficult to do so for large and/or distributed teams because the cost of recovery or failure is usually much higher. Let’s take a closer look: [caption id="attachment_9750" align="aligncenter" width="302" caption="Figure 1: Project Support Pillars"]Figure 1: Project Support Pillars[/caption] An enterprise Agile project team successfully adapts Agile philosophies and methods to large or distributed teams. As teams grow, they need to ensure three things remain in harmony: people, process, and tools—what Rahul and I refer to as “project support pillars” (See Figure 1).
  1. People refers to the things that affect team culture, unity, bonding, dynamics, and structure.
  2. Process refers to the method of software delivery. For large and/or distributed teams, processes should be repeatable but flexible.
  3. Tools refers to the things (not necessarily software) that best facilitate the team’s success.
In the webinar, I’ll expand on this model and the eBook, and share some of my personal experiences. If you have specific questions or topics you'd like me to cover, please leave a comment on this blog post and I will attempt to answer as many as I can during the webinar. I hope you’ll join me!