Many organizations adopting Agile methods strive to get teams to work together and to break down walls that can inhibit the development of the goods and services they produce. This typically means, in the software development arena, that we want cross functional teams. We want our developers to work closely with our QA engineers and our UI designers and business analysts as well as our stakeholders. So, do we model our organization after these cross functional teams? Not everyone does. The various disciplines we find along the development pipeline are often still represented by a silo of individuals reporting to a manager for that discipline and team members are assigned to arbitrary teams. So, we might see an organization with a business analysis group reporting to a BA manager/director; and a development group reporting to one or more development managers; and a QA group reporting to a QA manager….each of these manager would assign some of their people to a team. How well does this work for everyone?

Conway’s Law tells is that the design of a product tends to mirror the communication and organizational structure of a company. That is, if you have development shops in Denver, Austin, Bangladesh, and London; you are apt to see that your application will consist of modules developed exclusively in each of those centers. Eric Raymond once restated Conway’s Law by saying, “If you have 4 groups working on a compiler, you’ll end up with a 4 pass compiler.” Don’t these silos of disciplines reporting to separate managers also run the risk of being the process version of Conway’s Law. Imagine the scenario where high level direction from the Development group involves setting policy for something that makes quality assurance difficult or vice versa. This could be a matter of tooling or process. Either way, we end up with pods of activity within a development pipeline that don’t always work well together. What would suffer in that event is the overall effectiveness of the organization.

To be fair, this topic could easily be titled “How does a development manager fit into an Agile organization?” or “How does an UI Manager fit into an Agile organization?” In this discussion, we will ask, “How does a QA manager fit into an Agile organization?” because, well….it’s the QA SIG. However, we should be able to discuss concepts that we can use to help improve the effectiveness of our siloed organizations regardless of discipline.

So, please bring your descriptions of how your organizations are structured. What challenges does the provide for your group? What are the benefits? Has anyone transitioned from an siloed organization to one based on cross-functional groups (or the other way around)? We would love to hear all stories in this discussion.

Speaker: Lee Fox

Date/Time: 2/19/14 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Venue: Planview, 8300 N Mopac Expy, Austin, TX 78759

To Register (and for more info): http://www.eventbrite.com/event/10385714953.