Scrum of Scrums and Disciplined Agile Delivery: How to Scale Agile Your Way

scrum of scrums

One of the most common pitfalls in agile expansion is having too complex of a scaling framework for immature agile teams. It’s even worse when you try to replicate other team’s strategies without assessing the probability of success within your enterprise. 

Having early wins with agile at scale is important to manifest its benefits across your organization and get team buy-in. A rule of thumb is to start small and scale fast!

To give you a head start, we will introduce the two most popular scaled agile frameworks that can fit right into your business:

  • Scrum of Scrums
  • Disciplined Agile Delivery

Building Scrum of Scrums to Support Agile at Scale

Self-organizing teams (i.e., scrum teams) are the building blocks of organizational agility. In that sense, scaling agile is analogous to scaling scrum.

The most straightforward technique that we’d recommend is Scrum of Scrums (SoS), which was first mentioned by Jeff Sutherland in his publication “Agile can Scale: Inventing and Reinventing Scrum in Five Companies,” released in 2001. 

If your organization has multiple teams with their own product lines and sprint backlogs, managing them on the same release cycle is not easy. Scrum of Scrums shines where there are dependencies and layered features, as illustrated below.

scrum board

Typically, the lead product owner will assign features to the product backlog. The individual scrum team decides which stories from the backlog to schedule for the upcoming sprint. Their development work will then be integrated into a potential shippable product that can be delivered before the end of the sprint.

Scrum of Scrums facilitates cross-team collaboration to deliver the release commitment. At the same time, each scrum team must report and resolve impediments that could delay the release schedule, specifically in areas of integration.

For instance, you are managing three teams of seven members each. Every team conducts their own daily standup. They would then designate a person to attend the SoS meeting. You will have three representatives to discuss their teams’ progress and upcoming plans (not work status). The attendees are those in the right position to provide valuable inputs for a particular development phase.

It’s important to send the right people to the meeting, instead of dedicating the task to a scrum master, to accelerate decision making and avoid information degradation. Say, you are in the initial user experience design, you wouldn’t need to involve developers yet. And when the project hits the testing phase, the meeting would then be carried out by the technical leads and testers, for example.

scrum of scrums
Scrum of Scrums meeting

The goal is to lay out which tasks are dependent on the others, as well as the impact of those dependencies. As a result, teams can address potential integration pain-points before they disrupt the project delivery timeline.

Similar to a daily scrum’s agenda, get the teams to answer the following questions:

  • What has your team accomplished since the last meeting?
  • Were there any roadblocks that affected your team’s work?
  • Which PI goal does your team want to accomplish this week?
  • Will your team’s development affect (block) another team’s work?

The output of each SoS meeting can be captured on a burn-up chart. Because each meeting may result in changes in the project scope, you need to visualize both the total scope and work done in the previous increments.

You can create a burn-up chart in Jira reporting. Here’s an example:

jira reporting

Contact us to find out more about Scrum of Scrums best practices with Atlassian solutions.

Read more: Agile at Scale: Comparing the Popular Scaling Frameworks

Disciplined Agile Delivery: Taking Scrum to the Next Level

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DaD) is a hybrid between scrum and other methods, including Agile Modeling, Kanban, Lean, and SAFe. It’s designed for an end-to-end product delivery lifecycle, from project initiation, architecture, programming language, to delivering the solution to end users. Under this framework, teams can focus on all aspects of solution delivery, including the process gaps that scrum leaves out. 

DaD extends the power of scrum using the following agile components:

  • People-first: DaD stipulates what teams can improve, but it doesn’t prescribe the strategies. Team members are encouraged to be flexible and embrace skillsets beyond their specialty. Conversely, teams are self-organizing around shared business goals.
  • Goals driven: Striking a balance between providing guidance and being overly prescriptive, DaD sets a clear destination for teams while leaving them plenty of flexibility to choose how they get there.
  • Hybrid agile: The DaD framework extends the power of scrum while adopting strategies from several agile and lean methods. 
  • Learning oriented: Under this framework, teams are involved in identifying the stakeholder’s requirements, improving internal processes, and upgrading skills.
  • Full delivery life cycle: With early guidance at the project initiation phase, DaD ensures that teams are focused on the right things before getting to the development work, instead of “failing fast.”
  • Solution focused: All business units move towards the same solution delivery goals, instead of prioritizing software delivery on its own.
  • Risk – value lifecycle: DaD promotes a culture of addressing risks early in the lifecycle, with regular check-ins to ensure project viability. It is value driven in the sense that teams produce potentially consumable solutions along with risk management strategies.
  • Enterprise awareness: In an ideal environment, teams approach their tasks by leveraging existing functionality and the work accomplished by other teams to boost productivity. As such, DaD ensures there is a governance strategy to support the enterprise’s vision and goals, rather than focusing on team-level interests.

In conclusion, DaD is the only framework that covers all the core phases: inception, construction, and transition, making it the most pragmatic scaled agile framework. Essentially, DaD assimilates the hierarchical flow that the Agile Manifesto deliberately abolished. This makes it more enterprise-ready as compared to scaling scrum. Each phase consists of associated functions and practices.

Below is a complete DaD structure:

DaD structure

Under this approach, DaD helps to explicitly lay out the options for teams when it comes to decision making (like choosing programing languages) while fostering a learning culture through constant experiments. And because the framework extends beyond software to all areas of the business, it orchestrates agility throughout the enterprise in the name of a shared business goal.

Unlike scrum, which would specify that you need X features to deliver a shippable function, DaD only identifies the desired functionality and expected release date. It is left up to the teams to decide what features will fulfill that goal.

For organizations with large teams and a lot of regulatory requirements, Disciplined Agile Delivery offers the perfect agile approach, since it still adheres to the organizational hierarchy and decision-making process. By applying DaD, you’re able to ensure team-level agility without disrupting the larger organizational culture.

*The latest version of the Disciplined Agile Delivery framework is called Disciplined Agile 2.0, released in August 2015.

Contact us to find out more about Disciplined Agile Delivery best practices with Atlassian solutions.

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