If your organization is encountering miscommunication and bottlenecks, what has proven effective time after time to improve team collaboration and customer communication is the adoption of a Scrum framework. This approach improves collaboration and customer feedback, but may seem complicated at first. In this blog post, we'll break down what a Scrum framework is, share how it works, and then show how we helped one client put the framework into practice.
The Scrum Framework at the Team and Program/Portfolio Level
At the team level, the Scrum framework’s events of Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Retrospective facilitate team member planning, collaboration, and learning. At the program/portfolio level, these same events can be scaled so that multiple teams with different areas of expertise can monitor the progress of work both within and across teams, address dependencies between teams, escalate and resolve team-level impediments, and collaborate as needed to provide a solution to a problem.
The program/portfolio events of Release Planning, Scrum of Scrums, System Demo, and Release review provide a means for teams to collaborate with one another and communicate progress to customer stakeholders. In particular, the Scrum of Scrums (SoS) or Scaled Daily Scrum (SDS) is a daily event where any person or number of people from participating teams may attend as needed.
According to the Scrum@Scale Guide, the goal of the SoS or SDS is:
“To optimize collaboration and performance, the Scaled Daily Scrum event mirrors the Daily Scrum, in that it:
- Is time-boxed to 15 minutes or less.
- Must be attended by a representative of each team.
- Is a forum to discuss how teams can work together more effectively, what has been done, what will be done, what is going wrong & why, and what the group is going to do about it.
Some examples of questions to be answered:
- What impediments does a team have that will prevent them from accomplishing their Sprint Goal or that will impact the delivery plan?
- Is a team doing anything that will prevent another team from accomplishing their Sprint Goal or that will impact their delivery plan?
- Have any new dependencies between the teams or a way to resolve an existing dependency been discovered?"
But what does all of this mean for you? Eliassen Group has worked with multiple clients to help them design their organization to best meet the needs of its customers. A common challenge is coordinating and collaborating on a customer request across multiple groups within the organization to deliver the solution effectively and efficiently. As the following example shows, a Scrum framework may help overcome these issues.
A financial services company was challenged by elongated delivery times of up to 18 months to implement client-requested changes to their retirement management platform. The delayed updates resulted in increased customer unhappiness, lost sales due to not providing new features in a timely manner, and poor quality.
The Retirement Management platform consisted of 5 distinct silos of expertise based on each silo’s unique technology stack. The silos consisted of the following: front-end, core processing, batch, reporting, and database. Each silo evolved over time as a hodgepodge to disparate technologies due to acquisitions over time.
90% of the customer requests or internally requested enhancements required changes to all 5 platform areas. The organization followed a waterfall approach to manage the flow of work, which elongated the delivery times further.
The organization realized that their current mode of working was unstainable and pursued both strategic and tactical approaches. Strategically, they realized they needed to rearchitect their platform to modern technology and reduce the complexity in their tech stack. Tactically, they needed to adopt Lean and Agile methods to optimize the flow of delivery using their existing platform and team structure.
They adopted the Scrum Framework to allow them to prioritize and manage the flow of work. Each request, either internal or external, was assessed to determine priority, effort, and functional areas impacted. Each request was treated as an Epic and placed in the program/portfolio level backlog within the Agile Lifecycle Management tool (ALM).
Design sessions consisting of representatives from each functional area were conducted weekly to refine and decompose Epics into Stories that were later assigned to the teams within each functional area. The Epic was used to track the progress of its child Stories across each functional area each Sprint.
Teams within each functional area met to establish an agreed-upon Definition of Done, which became the definition of quality before work was released into production. Then release planning for each quarter was established to determine what Epics are planned for delivery that quarter and which teams in which functional areas had dependencies.
Each morning, every team conducted a Daily Scrum to know how they were tracking toward their Sprint Goal and commitments. Impediments at the team level were escalated to the daily Scrum of Scrums to get resolved.
The Scrum of Scrums occurred daily so that members from each team could share their progress, resolve dependencies, remove, or escalate impediments. If additional collaboration or discussion was needed, this occurred directly following the SoS.
Each team would demo their story-level work at the end of each Sprint. Following the team demos was a platform demo to show how each Epic was progressing and if additional coordination was required going into the next Sprint. Members of the User Acceptance Team could then determine if completed work should get promoted into their environment to execute UAT and provide feedback to the teams.
Due to the adoption of Scrum, creating a minimal viable scaling model, and agreeing to a definition of quality, the organization was able to increase cross-team collaboration and reduce feedback cycle time via accelerated and more frequent feedback cycles. Customer releases were reduced from 18 months to 3 months. Severity Level 1 and 2 defects were cut by 50%, and Severity 3 defects by 30%.
As you can see, a Scrum framework can make a tremendous difference in terms of speed and quality, resulting in customer satisfaction and improved team communication. We have made this happen not just within the financial services industry but also several other industries.
Interested in learning more? Explore our Agile Consulting Services.
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“The Official Scrum@Scale Guide.” Scrumatscale.com. Accessed January 7, 2022. https://www.scrumatscale.com/scrum-at-scale-guide/.