What are product squads & can they improve your agile development process ?
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Squads are a relatively new methodology for product development popularized by Spotify. Spotify restructured its development organization into functional, eight-person squads — developers and a product owner — much has been written about this novel approach. But it seems few organizations have actually adopted it. There are several legitimate reasons why a product squad structure might or might not not make sense for your organization.
The way Spotify has set them up, each of these squads consists of a small team of developers and one product owner — usually, but not necessarily, a product manager. What makes these squads unique? A few things.
First, squads are responsible for functional areas of the company’s product line; they do not work across entire products or on ad hoc projects assigned by management. For example, one squad might focus on exclusively search technology. This allows the company to develop significant expertise and intellectual capital across each functional area of its offering. In other words, it can build teams of true industry experts, rather than a single large team of coding generalists.
The second way squads deviate from traditional product development approaches is that they are given real autonomy. In fact, Spotify thinks of its squads as independent startups.
What does that mean in practical terms?
It means that a squad can select its own areas of functional responsibility to work on. Once it has taken on such an area — again, search technology, for example — it can update the production version of its product anytime. It can push work out to users without waiting for approvals from anyone outside the squad.
So the basic idea is that product squads can lead to much more efficient product development, teams who are highly knowledgeable about the product’s various functional areas, faster development cycles, and ultimately more successful products.
Two Reasons the Squad Method Might Improve Your Product Development
1. It can generate true in-house expertise.
2. It can speed everything: development, feedback and learning, and updates.
Three Reasons the Squad Method Might Undermine Your Product Development
1. Your product line might not support this model.
2. You risk breaking your in-house product knowledge into silos.
3. You could lose some of the advocacy from both product management and development.
An understanding of the product squads.