How Agile Scrum Can Be Effective with an Outsourced Development Team
The Agile framework has revolutionized the world of software development, offering a flexible and collaborative approach to creating successful products. There’s no shortage of information on how to implement Agile practices with an in-house development team. But what if your development team is outsourced? In this blog, we will delve into the strategies developed at SpinDance to successfully deliver end-to-end digital products, using Scrum principles, while working with outsourced or cooperative development teams.
The Challenge of Outsourced Agile Development
Outsourcing has become a common practice for many companies looking to leverage external expertise, control costs, or access a broader talent pool. However, adapting Agile principles to an outsourced development team can present unique challenges, including communication barriers, difficulty arranging a self organizing team , and the potential lack of industry-specific knowledge.
To address these challenges, SpinDance has devised a strategy that enables Agile principles to be successfully applied in a software consulting environment, resulting in faster time to market, improved product quality, and satisfied stakeholders.
Dual Product Owner Role
One of the primary adjustments that SpinDance has made to the standard Agile team composition is the introduction of a dual product owner role. In a traditional Scrum configuration, a single product owner is responsible for defining user stories, managing the backlog, and aligning with stakeholders. Yet, in the context of an outsourced team, identifying a single person to serve as product owner that has the domain specific knowledge within a particular industry, as well as the crucial rapport with engineers that makes the entire team productive, is almost impossible. This is where the concept of a “Dual Product Owner” comes into play:
- Technical Product Owner: This is a role we’ve developed at SpinDance. The Technical Product Owner takes on the classic responsibilities of a product owner, such as authoring user stories, leading backlog refinement sessions with the development team, and engaging with stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of a product. However, their experience is primarily within a particular genre of technology such as IoT, and they might not possess deep industry knowledge related to that specific product.
- Client Product Owner: The second product owner comes from the client’s organization, serving as the “Client Product Owner.” This individual brings crucial industry knowledge and specific marketplace expertise to the product. They work closely with the Technical Product Owner to define major features, quantify the value and prioritization of each user story, and refine the strategic vision of the entire product. It is this individual’s responsibility to ensure the work being completed aligns with the vision of the organization. They are uniquely positioned to have access to the conversations surrounding 5 and 10 year plans and prioritizing the work being done.
The close relationship between the internal and external product owners bridges the knowledge gap and ensures that the development team is equipped with well refined user stories and a technology-focused backlog. Regular communication and collaboration between these two product owners is essential to prioritize user stories and maintain a well-structured backlog.
This creates an environment that is much more akin to a true partnership between the organizations than the typical outsourced development team that often blindly delivers on requirements that don’t effectively add value to the product.
Let’s illustrate how this dual product owner approach works with a practical example. Imagine a coffee maker manufacturer looking to create a smarter, connected version of their high-end coffee maker. At the start of the engagement with SpinDance, a Technical Product Owner from SpinDance is assigned to the project, while someone from the client’s organization takes on the role of the Client Product Owner. The Client Product Owner leverages their deep knowledge of coffee appliances to define the major features and identify the value of those features to their customer base, while the Technical Product Owner provides insights into the feasibility and technical implementation based on their experience in creating successful connected products for a myriad of industries.
This collaboration ensures a well-structured backlog that is trusted by the development team, re-aligns priorities every sprint cycle, and fosters a truly agile development workflow.
The Advantages of Dual Product Ownership
Despite this non-traditional Agile team configuration, we’ve found that the dual product owner approach often yields greater efficiency and better outcomes than fully in-house teams. The combination of technical expertise and industry knowledge ensures that the right features are prioritized and that the development team works efficiently with well understood user stories.
Applying Agile principles with an outsourced development team requires thoughtful adaptations to the traditional Agile Scrum framework. The dual product owner model can make a substantial difference in the success of a digital product. By bridging the knowledge gap, improving communication, and ensuring a well-structured backlog, SpinDance is able to consistently demonstrate that agile teams can thrive in a consulting environment, ultimately leading to successful outcomes and lasting partnerships.