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  • Hiren Doshi
    ENTERPRISE SCRUMS - A TIERED APPROACH This is the blog I wrote at http://www.practiceagile.com. Please share your thoughts.One might think large corporations
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 21, 2009
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      This is the blog I wrote at http://www.practiceagile.com. Please share your thoughts.
      One might think large corporations like EMC would have nailed out Agile and Scrum process right to the core. Unfortunately, we have the same challenges that any enterprise organization would have, like global teams, a mix of component and feature teams, suite of products, demanding priorities between different products, etc...

      Earlier, in Agile development with Scrum, we tried the bottom-up approach where each scrum team provided input and what they planned to do in their upcoming iteration. Since scrum teams were aligned at monthly boundaries, teams demonstrated their achievement at the end of each month. Very soon we realized that each team is working on stories they deemed important, but their deliverable did not converge on value added functionality we set out to achieve out for our customers. We had setup a guidance team (Architects, Product Managers and few leads) to keep tab on deliverables from each team and align their deliverable to a value add feature. But it was difficult to achieve the alignment across globally dispersed 12+ scrum teams.

      Since then, we moved to top-down model similar to Dean Leffingwell's whitepaper "The big picture of enterprise agility" with some tweaks. We still have the guidance team in place, but to improve transparency and aligndeliverables from each team, we extended guidance invite to team leads/scrum masters for each scrums along with Architects, Product Managers and Engineering leads/Product Owners. We also requested product managers to defineprioritized list of themes they would like to see in the first release of the product. In addition, we did one month of advance pre-planning i.e for September iteration, the guidance team met in the month of August.

      Next, we modeled a 3-tiered approach. Tier1 starts with high level guidance - In the first week of each month, the guidance team looks at prioritized themes from product management's backlog. In a group setting, the guidance team would add more detail and color to these themes to set a common vision and goal to which all teams should contribute in the upcoming iteration.

      In Tier2 guidance which happens in the 2nd and 3rd week of each month, the guidance team gets together and decomposes Tier1 stories further. We start with a brain dump of listing out high level stories along with teams that should work on it, to accomplish the vision set in Tier1. Then with product manager's and product owners help, weprioritise the list of high level stories that were created. Following this, there is negotiation with product managers on which stories are absolutely necessary for upcoming iteration and what can deferred to future iteration. The idea behind Tier2 is to ensure each team has enough details to decompose stories further into iteration level stories.

      In the Tier3 guidance, that happens in the last week of each month, the guidance team reviews the overall backlog and ensures all teams are aligned correctly to achieve the goal guidance team has envisioned.

      At each tier, we have also setup a feedback loop through each team's scrum masters and engineering leads. Correct expectation is set with these leads to keep the guidance team informed on what can be realistically achieved and which items need further negotiation.

      So that's the approach we have setup and marching forward with. Have you tried a different approach that worked for you in your environment? If yes, please share your thoughts.

      Hiren Doshi
      Blog: http://www.practiceagile.com

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