Agile team structure in Software Development

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As the market and industries progress and evolve, more companies tend to adopt the Agile way of working with a positively new approach to project management which allows them to reap many benefits, such as being more responsive to immediate client needs, optimizing product development process, decreasing time to market, and the like. If done right, the company gets a highly efficient Scrum team that delivers real tangible results fast.

Agile software development team structure balances out the talents, creating a close-knit and result-oriented team that works towards achieving a common goal. Such a team may become the market advantage that places the company above competitors that are sticking to the old ways of working or are still in the transition period in their transformation. 

Agile software development team structure balances out the talents, creating a close-knit and result-oriented team that works towards achieving a common goal. Such a team may become the market advantage that places the company above competitors that are sticking to the old ways of working or are still in the transition period in their transformation. 
What makes a team Agile? What is the best composition for the team? What roles and responsibilities are carried out by each member? Let’s look into the topic of what makes up an Agile team. 

Approaches to Agile team structure 

Before talking about Scrum team structure, we have to remember that the end result is to get together people who will work well together, not requiring excessive support or control. At the end of the day, the team has to be self-manageable and self-sufficient. It’s a good idea to involve experts for coaching in the early steps of the team’s Agile journey if the need may arise. As example, our Scrum experts provided an Agile coaching training for Casumo team, that allowed a large cross-functional team to develop and start implement an action plan for becoming more collaborative and focused on one goal.  

Scrum team composition undergoes change as the team matures and evolves in its Agile adoption. The longer people work as one team, the better they become, the more defined the team structure becomes. Depending on skill levels and expertise of each member, a few approaches to how an Agile team may be structured are defined: 

  • Generalist Team consists of people with broad skill sets and experience, responsibilities including end-to-end product development. This approach is common for outsourcing companies. A generalist team usually consists of people highly competent and independent in their work. On the contrary, it may lack experts in a narrow field, which means sometimes an expert has to be involved from outside the team as development is already in progress. 
  • Domain Specialist Agile Team has expert specialists with specific skill sets in narrow fields. Every team member is responsible for one part of the project. This is common for software development teams where the team can quickly build complex products because they have experts with profound knowledge in the subject. Components are built individually so there may be a lack of alignment. Some other difficulties the team may face are lack of general knowledge, communication gaps. 
  • Hybrid Team is a combination of generalist and specialist. This is a high-quality separate component, integrated system. A hybrid team is high-performing and effective in development. However, it may be difficult to coordinate. Using hybrid teams for software development may be time-consuming and expensive. 

Then there are teams which are still in the process of transitioning to Agile. For big teams there may be sub-teams that operate as independent units. As observed, most companies are generalist teams which tend to create an environment in which people thrive, become self-sufficient, and learn how to take up responsibility.

Agile Team Key Characteristics

In order to understand how an Agile team differs from a traditional software development team, it’s good to take a look at some characteristics that are specific to an Agile team: 

  • Self-managing  

In an Agile team, responsibilities are clearly defined, each member of the team equally contributes to the tasks and takes responsibility for the successful and timely delivery. There is no hierarchical order in the team composition or management. Solutions are achieved with joint effort and so that everyone involved is satisfied with the solution. Scrum master usually guides discussions and sees to scrum ceremonies being performed in a proper way, that everyone adheres to established rules and procedures. The team comes to a solution that everyone agrees with. Product owner sets priorities. 

  • Cross-functional  

It should have sufficient knowledge to deliver a working product. This includes UX/UI, QA, integration, etc. This means not that any one member of the team should be able to deliver the product start to finish entirely on their own, but rather that all team members should work as a team, complement one another in skills and knowledge and work towards achieving the goals set for the team. This is not always realistic, especially if you are working with a small team, so introducing an SME may be a solution. 

  • Co-located or Distributed 

If a team is in the same location at all times, communication is immediate and adept. A team distributed across locations may face some difficulties but this is not at all uncommon. With proper tools and preparation, they can work just as efficient, starting from online PI planning for distributed teams to daily work on the project. 

  • Dedicated  

Every member of the Agile team should be fully dedicated to the project. It’s preferable to have all team members work exclusively for one project. This helps avoid distractions and delays in delivery of the product as developers don’t have to manage multiple projects at once. Focused undivided attention to the project results in better quality product and timely delivery, it helps with self-management and urges to take up responsibility for the project’s success. 

  • Long-lived 

A team that has been together for a long time, works well together. Newly formed teams may need training and time to get fully aligned. Each change in its composition may also mean time for adjustment. 

How Traditional Software Development Team Differs from Agile Software Development Team

Traditional software development team Agile software development team 
Business analyst (BA), Project Manager (PM), UX Designer,
Developers (front-end, back-end), Quality Assurance Engineer (QA) 
Product Owner (PO), Scrum Master (SM), Developers 
top-down project management self-managed and self-organized 
PM responsible for the project completion every team member takes up responsibility for completing tasks 
multiple projects simultaneously one project at a time
individual performance team performance 
big teams (size not strictly limited)preferably small teams of 3-9 people
distinct roles and job titles cross-functional teams with diverse skill sets
employees are human resources employees are talents
team metrics not clearly defined or not tracked at allcommon Agile metrics to track team performance, product quality, etc.

Agile software development team Roles and Accountabilities

In Agile development, a typical Scrum team size should be 3 to 9 people. Scrum defines three major roles in an Agile team, that of Product Owner (PO), Scrum Master (SM), and Product Development team. Then you also have your Stakeholders, Business Analysts (BA), and Subject Matter Experts (SME). All the people involved share different roles and take responsibility for some part of the delivery process. 

agile team roles and responsibilities

Let’s take a closer look at what should be the Scrum team roles and accountabilities: 

  • Product Owner manages the stakeholders and is responsible for making sure that the product meets all client requirements. PO manages the product backlog. 
  • Scrum Master is the process owner. The role of the SM is to make sure that everyone on the team abides by Scrum rules and procedures. 
  • Developers. These are in-house or dedicated developers working on the project in close cooperation including front-end, back-end developers, QAs, UX designers. 

The specificity of the product that is being developed may dictate what additional project team roles need to be introduced. SME is invited to work on a project if their specific skills or qualifications are required but the involvement is not substantial or long enough to justify a full-time hire on the team. SME may be a member of a different Scrum team, and any member of your team may be an SME for another team on a different project. SMEs are involved in a project but all responsibility for the project’s success lies on the team doing the work. It’s preferable that an SME is dedicated to one team instead of getting involved with multiple teams simultaneously. 

Business Analysts may also be of use for a Scrum team as they help gather requirements and may have the knowledge and experience that a Scrum team may find useful. However, the team should closely work with business, therefore a BA may come as a hindrance to smooth collaboration. In a Scrum team, the person responsible for the requirements is the PO. BA can support the PO and the team. 

In Scrum, it’s highly undesirable to have temporary team members as it creates confusion and risks. Try to keep the team small and simple, introduce change gradually. This way you will get a process that is fine-tuned to work well together and efficiently carry out their Agile team roles and responsibilities. 

What benefits you get from having Agile Software Development Team on your project 

The benefits of having an Agile team working on software development stem from the Agile mindset adoption which determines how the team approaches the project and takes responsibility for the job well done. It’s all in the values and principles that ingrain a certain feeling of personal responsibility and have each team member interested in a successful delivery. 

Some benefits of having an effective Agile team are as follows: 

  • Good communication and effective collaboration are important parts of teamwork. Team members make it clear what they are working on and inform of any blockers. As the delivery is dependent on many people, continuous communication assures that dependencies are well managed and any issues are immediately addressed. 
  • Common goalSpecifics of an Agile team is that all team members are focused and work hand-in-hand on achieving the same goal. It goes beyond making sure that your own part of the job is done. An Agile team manages dependencies and oversees that there is good collaboration and tasks that involve multiple people are completed and don’t become stagnant. 
  • Well-defined responsibilities. Every member of the team knows their scope of work and what part of the project they are responsible for. Roles and expectations are clearly defined from the start. 
  • Strong team culture. This is what Agile is all about. It’s values and principles lay out the foundation for a company culture that is healthy and goal-oriented. Adopting the Agile approach and being part of the Agile culture creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and support. It is the recipe for efficient teamwork. 
  • No need to be overbearing and controlling as the team is interested in doing the job right and delivering good results. This helps save time and focus on business objectives. 
  • Flexibility and responsiveness to change. The essence of Agile is being flexible to change and making adjustments to the project as new client requirements arise. This being the norm in an Agile development process, the team is responsive to client feedback and needs less time to adapt. Such flexibility positively affects product quality and delivery time, saves money – the later on in the development process, the harder and more expensive it is to introduce changes – making this a big business advantage. 
  • Faster speed to market. This helps manage increasing market demands and deliver ready-to-use products in a matter of weeks. As example, having applied Agile Framework for VirtualStock extended teams allowed them to significantly improve product delivery time when they were faced with an urgent need to provide product for new markets. 
  • Better product quality. Since an Agile team is ready to implement change and conducts quality testing all throughout the development process, this makes the end-product high-quality and corresponding to requirements and industry standards. The team achieves that by creating an efficient feedback loop and maintaining continuous communication with the client – upon each iteration the client is presented with a built increment and gives feedback which is then used to adjust the work. 
  • Saved expensesWith an Agile team everyone has a clear understanding of what should be done and alongside iterative development and frequent delivery, all major changes to the project can be done early on in the development process. This greatly saves expenses as compared to cases of miscommunication or when requirements are not properly set from the very beginning and can’t be overviewed prior to the end of development, as is the case with traditional software development model.

Summary 

An Agile team is sleek and streamlined in structure, with every member of the team like a gear that fits right inside the mechanism – nothing more and nothing less. This ensures that the job is being done in accordance to all requirements and delivered on time. At the same time, team resources are used wisely and not wasted, which translates to time, effort and skill. Knowledge sharing is greatly encouraged, thus, creating a dynamic environment of constant growth and support where each team member gets to bring something to the table and grow in their own expertise.  

If you’ve decided to implement Agile for your software development or even a non-tech team but are hesitant where to start, feel free to reach out to us. Our experts with help you with Agile consulting and coaching or set up an Agile training session to establish the process best suitable for your team. 

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