Agile at the Team Level - Key Challenges

Thursday, May 25, 2017
Agile delivery in a corporate environment is challenging, requiring teams to strike the right balance between maintaining the flexibility required to capitalize on the benefits of an Agile approach, whilst also keeping the process rigid enough to ensure focus on the product delivery. In this two part series, we highlight 3 major challenges that appear in this complex environment and the key techniques applied to address them.


In a separate series, Pcubed highlighted how you could start your journey to Agile and Bi-Modal.  In this series we intend to highlight some of the common pitfalls one may experience while implementing Agile and some of key points to address to increase the chance of a successful Agile implementation across your teams.  We begin with a focus on 3 of the more common pitfalls we see in Agile transformation programs.

1. Lack of clarity around the process being implemented with no clear expectations of each team member’s roles and responsibilities

When implementing with a new team it is likely that people will have worked across a number of different Agile styles such as Scrum, Kanban, DSDM, and SAFe.  Yet they may not have even worked in an Agile environment before. This leads to there being a number of views within the team on the ‘right’ way to run the project causing confusion and sometimes conflict. To overcome this it is important to ensure that there is a clear outline of how the project and ceremonies will be run as well as definitions on what the hygiene expectations are from team members on both a daily and sprint basis. In a true Agile manner, this is able to be modified, but should be raised at the end of an iteration during the Retrospective meeting to give the process the opportunity to bed in.

2. Large size, poor structure and distributed location of teams

Teams may not always be structured in an ideal way, both in terms of team size (6-8 members per team) or location (co-located). This causes poor communication and inefficient use of resource time, greatly impacting the delivery both in terms of the total workload able to be delivered and the quality of the product.

When a team is overly large it is often helpful to break them down into smaller sub teams and modify the meeting structures so that multiple teams can be accommodated.  Managing those distributed teams to ensure that there are effective channels of communication both between team members (stand ups) and between the project managers (structured sprint meetings and additional regular communication channels) is no small undertaking.

3. Poor visibility and reporting on how the sprint work links up to the high level deliveries

A team will have its own metrics on how it is delivering and measuring its progress as part of the Agile approach. However when the project is reporting to senior level stakeholders it is key that management has visibility on how the sprint work actually relates to the high level project plan.

On a recent global investment banking project, Pcubed tracked the project within their issue management system (in this case Jira) ensuring that each Epic had a functional definition of what was expected by a given time point and links up to the milestone on the development plan. This allowed the stories and tasks under the Epic to still have the freedom on approach, yet also permitted measurement of the progress against each by the percentage of stories complete by size. This information was then able to be translated into a report for management.

In the follow-on article we will cover off additional techniques to counteract these pitfalls allowing the organization to capitalize on the benefits of Agile.

Ben Beavers is an Agile delivery specialist and Senior Consultant at Pcubed, based in the London office. He is a qualified SAFe SPC4 consultant, specialized in implementing and enhancing Agile deliveries. His most recent project has seen him working with global teams in big data, analytics and reporting tools at a tier 1 investment bank.

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