It’s no secret that a truly Agile approach minimizes the risk organizations assume with waterfall or other traditional project management methods, by letting teams iterate and inspect and adapt as they go. But many companies lack clear visibility into real-time dependencies at the team level—even with daily standups, iteration and release planning, and a regular cadence of cross-team check-ins. This lack of visibility impacts organizational agility and can erase the value of an investment in agile.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” When it comes to planning within an enterprise, being aware of the biggest risks of hidden dependencies will help you keep a proactive approach and drive value from strategic objectives to tactical execution. Here are some of the risks of the most common dependencies and how to uncover them:
- Teams that are distributed (or use multiple Agile platforms) do not have the flexibility to work across teams as easily as their co-located counterparts. This slows down response time, which in turn slows down releases. Teams must make dependencies transparent at the highest level to stress their importance. Make sure your team has an advocate, such as a Scrum Master, to raise red flags when dependencies or risks emerge.
- Medium- and large-scale organizations may run multiple release planning sessions for one product. Running them at the same time, or in a sequence but in different locations, increases the risk that teams will overlap work and not plan for dependencies.
- Many organizations and teams try to plan for dependencies by adding more time to their estimates as a buffer. While this seems like a good idea, it hides a problem by burying wait time and masking the real blocker. Organizations and teams should ensure that estimates are only based on complexity and effort and do not reflect “waste” such as wait time. Doing so helps reveal impediments for what they are.
- In larger organizational structures, infrastructures are complex and teams tend to be highly dependent on one another delivering work, with a chain effect of one team’s work beginning only after another finishes. As they look to adopt and scale Agile, organizations should closely examine their structure to ensure it is optimized. This will reduce risks and dependencies, rather than exaggerate them.
- Team members often allow “blockers” and “dependencies” to get in the way of completing work while still committing to a sprint or release goal. If team members foresee a dependency or blocker with key features, user stories, etc., they should not commit to the work. It is the responsibility of each individual to refrain from committing to work that they know they cannot complete.
Visualization is Key
Organizations can adequately manage dependencies and risks if they can plan for them. One helpful technique is to create a road map for releases. When consistently updated throughout at the end of each sprint, a road map helps teams identify risks and evaluate dependencies continuously. Selecting a platform that allows real-time visualization into dependencies is another way to prevent time-wasting while giving insight into the right details at the right time.