Technical Dependency Challenges in Large-Scale Agile Software Development

Paper on Technical Dependency Challenges in Large-Scale Agile Software Development was accepted by XP 2014 conference in Rome.

In this joint work with Ericsson AB, we discovered five main challenges around technical dependencies in large-scale agile development as well as the vicious way how these challenges interact. Especially hidden technical dependencies make it hard to plan work in a way that limits dependencies between cross-functional teams. Consequently, good prioritization of tasks becomes much harder. Managing code quality and continuous integration suffers and stressed teams start to fail to communicate about dependencies with other teams. This in turn affects the ability to plan work in a way that limits such dependencies.

Nelson Sekitoleko, Felix Evbota, Eric Knauss, Anna Sandberg, Michel Chaudron, and Helena Olsson. Technical Dependency Challenges in Large-Scale Agile Software Development. In Proceedings of International Conference on Agile Software Development (XP ’14), Cantone, G. & Marchesi, M. (Eds.), Springer LNBIP 179, pages 46-61, Rome, Italy, 2014.

Abstract. This qualitative study investigates challenges associated with technical dependencies and their communication. Such challenges frequently occur when agile practices are scaled to large-scale software development. The use of thematic analysis on semi-structured interviews revealed five challenges: planning, task prioritization, knowledge sharing, code quality, and integration. More importantly, these challenges interact with one another and can lead to a domino effect or vicious circle. If an organization struggles with one challenge, it is likely that the other challenges become problematic as well. This situation can have a significant impact on process and product quality. Our recommendations focus on improving planning and knowledge sharing (with practices such as scrum-of-scrums, continuous integration, open space technology) to break the vicious circle, and to reestablish effective communication across teams, which will then enable large-scale companies to achieve the benefits of large-scale agility.

Keywords: Technical dependencies, Large-scale agile, Cross-Functional Teams (XFT), Qualitative research.

Pre-print: nelson-felix-dependency-communication

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