Agile squads were developed to encourage rapid innovation and faster product releases by tech startups. The term entered the limelight due to Spotify‘s early experiments to find a better way to work. Squads were intended to extend the thinking behind Scrum Teams and are alternatively known as a Product Squads or simply a ‘Squad’.
But what do these development teams look like for a tech startup? How do they work? Are they for every project and company? We take a deeper look at these questions.
Roles and Responsibilities in an Agile Squad
Squads re-configure the structure, roles and ways of working found in small to mid-sized development teams. using the traditional waterfall methodology. Spotify initially published much of the early thinking on Squads and has since been re-intepreted by other scaleups.
Consistent with the Agile philosophy, there is significant flexibility to the definition and practice of a Squad. At the core of the concept, Squads are self-organizing and cross-functional. They’ll work in short cycles toward medium to long term objectives; in full autonomy completing all the work required to deliver the outcome. Each squad should deliver the best product in the most appropriate period of time.
Squads give the best in small teams of less than eight people. A single leader ensures that the goals are clear and the team is working effectively; on the other hand, all team members collaborate efficiently.
Usually, you build agile squads around a product manager, a lead engineer and 3-5 other developers. The team include usually a designer and, as well, a subject matter experts as required.
Squads, generally, self-contained responsibility for specific functional areas. In a larger organisation, they may work with other co-located Squads in a ‘Tribe’.
The Strengths of Agile Squads
Squads create numerous benefits over a similarly sized development team working according to a waterfall methodology. Working on a specific functional area, the structure and way of working should:
- Allow flexibility and collaboration.
- Remove bottlenecks and ensure to solve the most pressing problems first.
- Develop deeper functional expertise.
- Be more effective and responsive.
- Allow quicker integration of feedback from users and the market.
- Create a better experience for team members.
The Weaknesses of Agile Squads
Seems like, squads work best where shorter development cycles are beneficial and there is commitment to the Agile philosophy. Without commitment, feedback and collaboration, it is unlikely that a Squad will deliver the benefits listed above.
In that light, Squads face some disadvantages:
- In situations where innovation is prioritised over predictability, it is better to use agile squads
- Squads require a very different way of working. Hiring and management practice needs to reflect the required way of working.
- They need goals to operate within, to encourage self organization.
- The team has to be willing to fail and learn.
When are Agile Squads the Right Choice?
If you are facing with a long, linear development challenge, maybe squads are not the most suitable structure for your development team.
However, Squads offer a highly suitable development structure for the rapid development and release of products. They’re ideally suited to situations where innovation is key and requirements are uncertain.
A Squad structure is most commonly found in larger scale-ups, as products grow in complexity. Also, squads often emerge as startups scale or are restructured; in this way they ensure all the design, development, testing and delivery resources to a team focused on one function.
Establishing a Squad in Vietnam
Metasource can get your own offshore development team started in Vietnam in a wide variety of different structures. We’re specialists in remote and offshore teams, and we’re happy to share our experiences with your company or project.