How to scale agile methodology using unified flow?
By adopting agile methodologies, it became possible to have a workflow with continuous deliveries, more agility, and fewer bottlenecks, allowing the team to adapt itself to the new paradigms of the current market.
But when the company experiences growth, it is natural to lose control of some elements.
Therefore, for these cases, it is essential to know how to scale agile methodologies in a software development company through the “Unified flow.”
What is Unified flow?
The Unified flow is a model based on the Kanban method, which aims to handle flows more thoughtfully and know how to deal with possible problems more efficiently, especially when there is an increase in scale in demand or teams.
In other words, it is about allowing multiple teams to work on multiple projects (or different demands) through a shared flow between all teams, using appropriate tools. It is done by having a single backlog and seeking a balance of workload; one that does not generate excess or lack of tasks for the different teams.
What is the importance of scaling the agile methodology in the company?
Agile methodologies, by themselves, have great relevance to the challenge of a more efficient IT area. However, it is not enough to stop there: it is necessary to scale its use in the company. Below, we list some points that demonstrate this importance.
Minimization of delays
Excess demands cause teams to have bottlenecks in their daily activities, consequently generating delays. When scaling, it is possible to tailor tasks to teams, including adding uncommitted times to deliverables, to allow for emergency actions when necessary.
Increased customer satisfaction
Meeting deadlines and delivering quality deliveries in a continuous flow is one of the points that most generate customer satisfaction. By scaling activities in the agile methodologies scenario, your employees won’t feel suffocated or pressured to deliver quickly. Thus, it is possible not only to meet but to exceed customer expectations.
Increased market share
Another critical point is that, with proper scaling, it is possible to increase the business’ market share sustainably. In this way, it is possible to guarantee an increase in the number of projects conquered without jeopardizing the efficiency and reliability of your business.
Scaled efficiency with dynamic adaptation
Agile methodologies, in general, direct the work model to small teams, with continuous deliveries in an incremental way.
Although it is very efficient and one of the best drivers of customer satisfaction, this model is usually incompatible with structures that need several allocated teams and dynamic planning due to continuous changes in market focus.
Scaling agile methodologies using continuous flow will allow the high internal efficiency of teams to be leveraged throughout the organization. The purpose of each team is no longer individual delivery but the sustainability of the company itself, looking at the entire product portfolio and all customer’s needs.
How to use the unified flow to scale the agile methodology?
The unified flow, when well implemented, allows scaling of the agile methodology to continue enabling faster day-to-day deliveries. See some of the practices below:
The team pulls activities for execution only when space is available, respecting the workflow and avoiding bottlenecks or excess tasks.
Strong WIP limit
A limit of activities that the team can perform is established to avoid overloads. Thus, if the system has reached the limit, the team will not be able to pull any more tasks on the board.
Everyone involved in the teams shares the same backlog, consuming common queue tasks.
Sharing knowledge in a systematic way
It is the definition of actions that continuously allow the dissemination of knowledge in the business, even with the growth of the teams.
The team must carry out this matter to balance demands and capacity within defined loads. By doing that, it is possible to ensure a change of focus with agility and fluidity if necessary due to an urgent demand.
The slack concept helps the focus changes be more flexible, and it works to balance the slack for the capacity to meet urgent demands, redirections, or improvement activities. If there is, for example, a request for six work slots, the team’s capacity must be eight slots.
Automation streamlines processes and allows standardization. It is essential to avoid concentrating knowledge and tasks in the hands of a few people.
So, in summary, we can cite these measures to assist you in implementing the unified flow to scale agile methodology:
- Choose a visual management tool (or a set of them) to improve flow identification;
- Apply the pull system, as we said before;
- Take advantage of the use of shared queues;
- Apply practices that allow knowledge transfer (such as pair-programming and moving people around);
- Apply automation, which indicates the best moments for specific actions;
When should you seek to scale agile in your company?
Fact is: business growth does not always occur according to what we initially planned.
In many moments, teams and businesses grow in scale but much faster than expected. Hence, something that could be positive (a considerable growth) generates problems, mainly for the following reasons:
- bottlenecks generated in the task queues. If the demands increase and there is no monitoring by the teams, it is natural that these bottlenecks intensify, causing an increase in tasks stopped in the queue;
- decreased interaction if integration measures do not accompany the growth of teams. As a result, it is also challenging to transmit knowledge and carry out activities in a less collaborative way than before;
- mismatch among the teams. some areas are left with enormous demands for a long time, while others may have little work since some of the actions are held in bottlenecks or external dependencies.
The point is to adopt measures to scale agile methodologies with Unified flow as soon as possible. So, when the demands increase, the processes and the teams will be prepared for changes, responding more accurately to them. In this case, you will already be preparing your business for a possible scenario, avoiding being caught by surprise.
A real case
The Unified flow is a technique that emerged from practice. Some years ago, our company experienced fast growth and all the problems you saw in this article. So we started testing many different approaches and hypotheses, ones that ended up in what we call today by Unified flow. It was not made overnight, but an evolutionary process.
For the matter of this article, we will show the results through this chart.
More cases in other companies…
For this to become true in your environment, count on Objective to implement the adoption of the unified flow aligned with agile methodologies.