Using permanent Scrum teams in a digital agency

Do you use fixed teams or do you employ a more flexible approach to your Scrum-teams?

In May 2013 we started implementing Scrum in my company – Bleau. We were at the time in the middle of building a new outsourced development-company, and we figured that Scrum would be able to help us ensure the necessary quality in our development projects. We were several people who had a great deal of experience using Scrum in a previous company, so we knew the benefits of using Scrum in an outsourcing environment.

We decided to reuse the knowledge we had from our previous effort – even though Bleau is a digital agency and our experience was from a software company. We have had to make several modifications to the Scrum-process in order to accommodate for this different setting, but we quickly decided to reuse the concept of permanent cross-functional teams consisting of front end developers, back end developers and Quality Assurance personel. Each team consists of up to five persons.

We haven’t been disappointed. The Scrum-process is working out greatly for us, and we’re able to deliver projects on time and with great quality.

However, there is still one issue that keeps on nagging me, and this is the issue of using permanent teams versus more flexible teams established from project to project. The permanent teams have ensured that it is very easy for us to plan our projects, we have team members who know each other very well and the different processes are running pretty smoothly.

However, it is a bit inflexible. One team is responsible for an entire project – meaning that we get into trouble if one project would potentially be solved better by another combination of developers.

So I’m still pondering about this issue – which approach is better? The permanent team or the flexible teams? As I can see it there are the following benefits of permanent teams:

  • The planning process becomes much more simple – you just establish one backlog per team, and then you can very easily see when the team will be ready to take on new projects
  • The team can become extremely efficient – especially if the team members enjoy working together
  • The team learns pretty quickly and can also adapt quickly to new insights
  • The team will quickly establish clear “roles”
  • Things quickly become more routine

However, there are also potential drawbacks:

  • It is difficult to employ the most relevant people on the projects
  • If one or more team members don’t like working on the team, the complete team will suffer
  • Exchanging new insights between different teams can become more difficult
  • Things can become too much routine

For now, I’m very satisfied with the results we have gained in a very short while, and this is not something that I’m going to change anytime soon. But Scrum is about learning to become better, and this is absolutely an area that has my interest. Does anyone have more experience with this matter?

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