At work our Scrum transition has been going on for almost 2 years now. We tried to do a full adoption in one go and learned that changing the ways we work is rather challenging and that it takes time. Now after two years Agile thinking has penetrated most of our solution unit with little impediments here and there. One of the biggest obstacles we encountered and countered was the mess created by one huge backlog. You really can’t mix several teams within one backlog. It produces scattershot sprints and removes the feeling of continuity. It also makes it hard to commit to backlog goals.

It took something like 6-7 months to realize this and 4-5 months to finally get into a position where we could rethink our ways of working with backlogs. The solution was simple, one team one backlog. So, we ended up with 5 teams with their own backlogs. This has enabled us to focus more, to produce smaller stories and to concentrate on continuous integration implementation. By giving out focused responsibility to the teams we have seen a huge outburst of proactive working. People have seen and felt the change very positively and it has brought more inertia to the daily work.

As a byproduct we have accidentally created Bounded Contexts by removing dependencies between teams with the content of our backlogs. Now every team is responsible for a solution instead of an odd number of binaries with version numbers. We are not yet using kanban to manage the communication and work flow between teams but we might try (I have at least introduce the idea already).

The simple act of separating concerns and responsibilities into logical backlogs has reduced the overhead of knowledge transfer and decreased the effect of “chinese whispers”. As we have teams on different continents we are still waiting to see how things will work out. There will be more things to tweak, that’s for sure, but we are now much better off than we were. We have found the agile spirit again and we are closer to the intent of agile.

We have improved.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice work Jussi. I had a similar problem early on in my capacity as uber po for three teams. Ultimately, I turned story backlogs over to the individual product owners. My role in backlog tending is now to organize at one level higher. That is, I prioritize the projects (and small enhancements) and dish them out to a single po who then owns it to completion. So far this is working very well (about a year in a upo). Are you a upo and/or do you have one?

  2. I’m actually /just/ a developer ;-) Rogue Agilista on the other hand though. I was a Scrum master for half a year, but decided to give that up to get my hands dirty with coding.

    We don’t have a UPO, instead PO’s collaborate when needed to adjust our products to match our strategy and vision. We have found that it works sufficiently well.

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