Embracing Agile in a Staff Augmentation Model

Agile is a technique that enables development teams to respond to change effectively, especially in the turbulent and uncertain environment that we live in. It enables teams to acquire in-depth knowledge of the present situation and recognize the groundwork needed to cope with future uncertainties.

Many companies make the move to Agile in order to to stay competitive. However, it is primarily thought of as a next-generation framework for companies with mature, modern processes. So, is it possible to implement Agile in a staff augmentation context?

The short answer is, “yes,” but there are several important considerations that must be taken into account for Agile to work hand-in-hand with staff augmentation. They are:

  • Bridge the Gaps : In a staff aug model, the Agile Release Train (ART) will consist of multiple geographical time zones, which can cause cultural and communication gaps. To bridge these gaps, ceremonies must be planned during overlapping hours, meetings held via videoconference, and everyone must be provided with a headset and webcam. It’s important to record the meetings and upload them to a common team space, along with the minutes of Sprint planning and Retro meetings. The use of repetitive emails or chat apps is discouraged. Communication should instead take place on a centralized project collaboration tool to keep everything transparent.
  • Be Inclusive: Program Increment (PI) Planning must include onshore members, and as many offshore colleagues should travel onshore as is practical or possible. The teams communicate online during team breakouts, for a walkthrough on planning and feedback. A telepresence robot can be employed to stand-in for any colleague who cannot attend. They can remotely control its movement and be virtually present at the ceremony.
  • Encourage Cross-team Collaboration and “One ART”: ART objectives must take priority over team objectives. The teams often support each other by sharing technical and functional expertise. In urgent cases, resources are shared between teams for a specific duration, to meet the gaps.
  • Resolve Conflicts Effectively: The entire agile team needs to own both the problem and the solution. Working towards a Sprint goal is everyone’s responsibility, and failures are owned as a team.
  • Continuous Improvement is a Must: Working from PI to PI often gets tiring, and can threaten to drag the team into monotony and boredom. To keep everyone sharp, ART members are encouraged to use Inspect and Adapt (I&A) sprints for self-study, training and personal development. Events like hackathons can also be organized to leverage innovation and encourage cross-team engagement.
  • Don’t Forget About DevSecOps: Manual or repetitive tasks often hinder the progress and achievement of PI objectives and sprint goals. A dedicated Systems Team should stay focused on improving software and hardware maintenance as well as introducing continuous integration and deployment process.
  • Manage Metrics Effectively: Relentless collaboration between offshore managers can help keep the priorities clear and ensure that offshore members who are split-up into teams stay integrated. It’s important to get periodic feedback from Scrum Masters and track monthly team-level deliverables to determine progress and performance.

Agile is a great way plan, predict and perform in a much transparent and focused manner, but applying it to a staff augmentation model will always be challenging. To be successful, one needs a mature approach that relies on new-age tools to overcome the obstacles. Leveraging technologies like Continuous Integration and Deployment has proven to be an effective way to overcome delays in the value chain and move towards stability.

Remember, Agile only provides the framework. It is up to us to find the right tools and methods to get the job done, while staying within the framework.