Introduction

Effective requirements management is critical for identifying and managing dependencies in multi-team agile environments. Breaking down large-scale initiatives into manageable work units, aligning them with business needs, and prioritizing and managing dependencies between teams achieve this.

This section will explore how effective requirements management can help teams identify and address work dependencies. We will also discuss how requirements splitting patterns and Kanban boards can help track development flow and manage dependencies, giving insights into managing multi-team agile environments to deliver high-quality products that meet user needs.

Requirements leveling

Requirements management is crucial for planning in multi-team agile environments. This is achieved by breaking down large-scale initiatives into smaller work units aligned with business needs and managing team dependencies. By breaking down initiatives, teams can focus on delivering value incrementally, optimizing their processes, and ensuring a shared understanding of requirements.

Requirements levelling

  • Initiatives are high-level strategic efforts that align business goals with specific projects or product development efforts. By breaking them down into smaller work units, such as epics and features, teams can effectively align around common goals, prioritize work, and manage dependencies.
  • Epics are large, cross-functional efforts that can span multiple teams and sprints. Breaking down epics into smaller work units, such as features and stories, enables teams to align around specific functionalities and manage dependencies between them.
  • Features are smaller, more specific units of work aligned with user needs or use cases. By breaking them down into even smaller work units, such as stories, teams can manage dependencies, prioritize work, and coordinate efforts across teams.
  • Stories are the smallest units of work in an agile development process, typically completed within a single sprint. A detailed breakdown of specific work units enables teams to manage dependencies, track progress, and identify potential issues or roadblocks.

Requirements should be organized to minimize cross-team dependencies and allow for easy allocation to individual teams. This means requirement are organized in story maps/business processes or logical sequences and broken down into small pieces, offering multiple options for dividing work. By utilizing initiatives, epics, features, and stories, teams can manage requirements and dependencies effectively in multi-team agile environments, ensuring successful collaboration and delivery of projects.

Splitting business requirements

Software development uses requirements-splitting patterns to break high-level requirements into smaller, manageable work units. Here are some commonly used patterns:

Workflow Steps

This pattern involves breaking down requirements based on workflow or business process steps. Teams can split requirements into smaller, independently developable, and testable units by identifying key steps in the workflow.

Workflow steps

Deferring Performance

This pattern involves deferring performance-related requirements until a later development phase. By focusing on functionality first, teams can deliver value quickly while leaving performance optimization for a later phase.

Interface Variations

This pattern involves breaking down requirements based on interface variations, such as desktop versus mobile interfaces. By focusing on interface variations, teams can ensure each interface is well-defined and aligned with user needs.

DESKTOP vs MOBILE1

Data Variations

This pattern involves breaking down requirements based on data variations, such as different data types or data sources. By focusing on data variations, teams can ensure that data is well-defined and aligned with user needs.

Business Rule Variations

This pattern involves breaking down requirements based on variations in business rules, such as different pricing or discount models. By focusing on business rule variations, teams can ensure that requirements are well-defined and aligned with user needs.

Overall, requirements splitting patterns help teams to manage dependencies, prioritize work, and ensure that each unit of work is well-defined and aligned with user needs.

Using Kanban to track development flow

Kanban boards are visual tools that use cards or sticky notes to represent individual tasks or units of work and columns to represent the different stages of the workflow. Kanban boards can be used at different levels of an organization, from the portfolio level down to the team level. They can be interlinked to give a holistic picture of the product development flow across the entire enterprise.

At the portfolio level

Organizations can use a Kanban board to track high-level initiatives, such as business goals, strategic objectives, and large-scale product development efforts. This board should include columns for ideation, prioritization, planning, and execution. By tracking initiatives at this level, portfolio managers can ensure that teams are aligned with the overall business goals and can prioritize work accordingly.

 

Requirements at Portfolio Level - 12 to 36m view

At the Program level

At the program level, a Kanban board can track large-scale efforts that span multiple teams and sprints, such as epics and features. This board should include columns for the backlog, in progress, testing, and done. By tracking work at this level, teams can manage dependencies and ensure that work progresses smoothly across all teams.

Requirements Management at Program Level jpg

At the product level

A Kanban board can track product development efforts, including individual features or functionality. This board should include columns for the backlog, in progress, testing, and done. By tracking work at this level, teams can ensure they deliver high-quality features and functionality that meet user needs. LeSS uses a “One Product Backlog” that feeds multiple team backlogs. Scaled Agile Framework sometimes splits a single product over multiple Program level boards depending on the development organization’s size.

At the team level

A Kanban board tracks specific tasks or user stories at the team level. This board should include columns for the backlog, in progress, testing, and done. By tracking work at this level, teams can manage their workloads and ensure they deliver high-quality work within their specific areas of expertise.

Requirements Management at Team Level

Selecting the appropriate number of Kanban Levels

The number of “levels” will depend on the size of the engineering organization.

  • Two levels (Program and Team) should be sufficient for organizations with fewer than ten teams.
  • Three levels (Portfolio, Program, and Team) can manage approximately one hundred teams.
  • It is possible to scale this model up to four or five levels to run thousands of teams. 

In this context, teams may include non-development teams, like hardware, infrastructure, supplier, and non-technical teams.

Using Kanban to track dependencies

The Kanban boards at each level should be interlinked to provide a clear and transparent view of progress across all organizational levels. Teams can accomplish this by linking specific tasks or user stories on the team board to the corresponding feature on the product board and linking features on the product board to the related epic or initiative on the portfolio board. Interlinking the Kanban boards can help manage dependencies and prioritize work across teams.

Portfolio to Program to Team level breaking down Epics to Features to Stories

In addition to interlinking the Kanban boards, it’s also essential to establish clear workflows and processes for managing work across different levels. This includes defining roles and responsibilities, establishing clear communication channels, regularly reviewing progress, and adjusting workflows.

SAFe PI Planning Program Board with dependencies mapped

Using Kanban boards to track product development flow across different levels can be a powerful tool for managing work and prioritizing tasks and dependencies in a multi-team agile environment. By establishing transparent workflows and processes and interlinking the Kanban boards at each level, teams can effectively manage their work and deliver high-quality products that meet user needs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, effective requirements and dependency management are critical components of successful software development in multi-team agile environments. By breaking down initiatives into smaller work units, utilizing requirements splitting patterns, and tracking development flow with Kanban boards, teams can manage dependencies, prioritize work, and ensure that each unit of work is well-defined and aligned with user needs. Kanban boards can be used at different levels of an organization, from the portfolio level down to the team level. They can be interlinked to give a holistic view of the product development flow across the entire enterprise. By establishing clear workflows and processes and regularly reviewing progress, teams can effectively manage their work and deliver high-quality products that meet user needs. Ultimately, successful requirements and dependency management enable teams to work together efficiently and effectively towards shared business goals in a multi-team agile environment.

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