dan sandler

Company Growth & Communicating While Agile

     Successful communication means an environment that keeps departments and sprint teams in the loop of what's coming or is being working on. The responsibility of maintaining stakeholder awareness should be shared. Shared across Agile/Sprint team roles including empowering stakeholders themselves instead of being the responsibility of one group.  Transparency of the work done outside teams can help people both inside or outside the Sprint understand the larger picture; "how does the work fit in?", "how will the work done here change what happens outside?", "is anyone paying attention to this?". If the company is not operationally ready by communicating properly, it’s not setup for success.

     As a company grows and becomes more organized, the harder it is to communicate project initiatives effectively across departments. This problem grows as a an organization grows with dividing/developing departments. Agile projects and the strategies that surround them that affect the organization create a need for transparency. Without this, it creates a state of frustration, resentment and mistrust between groups. The end goal is for everyone to be operationally ready when these things come to fruition.

     A common progression of company departmental growth is the separation between technology and all other departments. Unlike other departments, when technology separates their actions can directly/indirectly affect everyone else. Projects created need to give a general awareness across the board on what is going to take place. There are two distinct reasons for this. First, is if the project will affect those around it. It won't be identified if there is an effect on near neighbors without review. This cannot be easily done by those involved in the project i.e. on the Agile team. Second, the awareness directive is really for the the stakeholders. If anyone is kept out of the loop purposefully or not will create conflict later.

     Stakeholders are commonly thought of as a singular group focused on the final product. This is only partially true, I like to think of stakeholders as a group of individuals at different levels. Each level is interested in different aspects. There are those that are interested in its’ creation, use, documentation, support, training, and sales. Each will require a their own set of information and will have some some input to provide. The key to accuracy of this information however is that it needs to circle through the multiple people involved all of which can be inaccessible due to the organisational divide.

     Clear communication is key but doing it right means awareness can be achieved. It’s very easy for Agile teams to get fixated on getting to end of the sprint or to the release. Little thought is given to what happens afterwards which is too late at that point. To close this, I’m reminded of a situation I was involved in where a project manager was worried that some bit of functionality needed to be built for an ad campaign. The project manager was in process to gain resources to have this functionality built. One person on the team decided to ask outside of their group to find out if the functionality already existed. Thankfully they did and I was able to show that it was already built, tested, documented, demoed and ready for use at their leisure. Had no one communicated there would have been a lot of wasted resources. Just another example of why clear communication is not just key to efficiency, awareness, but can also prevent wasteful practices.