A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less.
—William J. Mayo
Shared Services represents the specialty roles, people, and services required for the success of an Agile Release Train (ART) or Solution Train, but that cannot be dedicated full-time.
Because these resources are specialized—often single-sourced and typically quite busy—each ART and Solution Train must plan to engage the shared services personnel it needs, when it needs them.
The focus that comes from assembling all the necessary skills and abilities needed to deliver value is what characterizes ARTs and, by extension, Solution Trains. However, in many cases, it’s just not possible to devote some specialty functions to a single ART. There may be a shortage of a particular skill available. Also, the needs of the ART may fluctuate, making full-time availability impractical. To address this, Shared Services supports development by quickly focusing specialty expertise on the areas of the system or Solution that require unique knowledge and skills.
In some cases, the effort must occur ahead of the Agile Teams (e.g., security, information architecture), so that it may contribute directly to the Architectural Runway that supports new Feature or Capability development. In others, the resources can trail core development a bit (e.g., customer training, localizations). In some cases, merely being supportive and reactive quickly is sufficient.
In either case, without timely support and synchronization, the programs will struggle to meet their objectives. While not dedicated to the train, Shared Services must travel with it, as the train has to carry some of their cargo, too.
Summary Role Description
Potential members of Shared Services typically include people with the following types of specialized skills:
- Agile and software/systems engineering coaches
- Application/web portal management
- Configuration management
- Data modeling, data engineering, and database support
- Desktop support
- End-user training
- Enterprise architecture
- Information architecture
- Infrastructure and tools management
- Internationalization and localization support
- IT Service Management (ITSM) and deployment operations
- Security specialist (InfoSec)
- System QA and exploratory testing
- Technical writers
Shared Services personnel engage in the following type of activities:
- Participating in Program Increment (PI) Planning as well as Pre- and Post-PI Planning.
- Driving requirements where necessary, adding to solution intent and taking ownership of their portion of dependent backlog items.
- Collaborating with Agile teams to fulfill the dependencies that occur during PI execution.
- Participating in System Demos and Solution Demos, and Inspect and Adapt ( I&A) workshops, when appropriate, as many improvement backlog items may reflect challenges with the availability of specialized skills and dependencies.
Occasionally, members of Shared Services may choose to operate as a single team. In that case, they would iterate on the same cadence as the ARTs and work like any other Agile team.
Maintain Specialized Training
Because shared technical resources are highly specialized (as opposed to the generalized specialists of an Agile team), their skills must be continuously refined to keep up with advancements in their respective fields. Shared Services should receive training with the Agile teams during the ART launch.
Periodically Embed in Agile Teams
Supporting Agile teams requires either sustained or transitional specialty expertise. Shared Services personnel may temporarily become part of an Agile team for short periods of time. In this case, they have the benefit of experiencing the Agile dynamic, as well as an understanding of the speed of development and the quality of the product produced. It also accelerates the larger teams-of-Agile-teams dynamic that—only by acting together—can they deliver Enterprise value. Also, being embedded for short periods of time, enables knowledge transfer, reducing the ART’s dependence on specialized skills.
Learn More Leffingwell, Dean. Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley, 2011.
Last update: 2 October 2018