What Organizational Concepts Matter the Most to Agile at Scale

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The team is responsible for its process. Teams employ their local knowledge about what is required to do their work, complementing required enterprise standards. The team agrees to use and improve its own processes. Processes exist to serve the people, to help them get their work done. No process is perfect; when problems arise, the team is responsible to stop, change the process, and start again, all without affixing blame to any one person.

The Landscape of Large-Scale Organizations

Several concepts take on greater significance as the scale increases.

Enterprise

By the “enterprise” we mean all parts of the organization that are involved in the value stream of the product or service being created, enhanced, or maintained. In an IT organization this includes the business and IT sides. In a product company, it also includes marketing, sales, delivery, support, and development.

Product Organization and Customer Organization

“Product organizations” create software products for companies that derive revenue directly from the software. Customers are primarily external to the organization and developers are managed along product lines. In contrast, “IT organizations” create products for companies whose principal products are not software but that depend on software and applications to deliver or manage their products or services. Examples include financial institutions, healthcare providers, and insurance com- panies. Customers are primarily internal to the organization and developers are managed by roles.  Of course, these are just two endpoints on a spectrum; companies might have a mix of both.

Customers

Customers are the end users of the software products, the people who consume the product for some purpose. The goal of a software organization is to add value for its customers.

In IT organizations, customers usually come from the business side of the company. Software exists to support the business as it provides products or services to external customers. If external customers use the products and services directly (for example, a banking Web application), the business side represents those customers to IT.

Product Manager

The Product Manager describes someone who makes the decisions about which products to create or enhance. Product companies may use the term “program manager” or “product manager.” IT organizations may call this role the “sponsor.”

Project

We use the term “project” to represent a fixed body of work selected to be implemented. It is the work required to create or enhance a product. For “project,” you can substitute the phrase “product creation,” “product enhancement,” or “product fix” if that helps orient you toward product thinking.

Process

“Process” means different things to different people. In software development, we think of a process as an agreement by a team about how they will work together.

The team is responsible for its process. Teams employ their local knowledge about what is required to do their work, complementing required enterprise standards. The team agrees to use and improve its own processes.

Processes exist to serve the people, to help them get their work done. No process is perfect; when problems arise, the team is responsible to stop, change the process, and start again, all without affixing blame to any one person.