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Being Agile on Multiple Products for a team


I have been moved to a new project recently. At my previous project, I was working in an Agile Environment where the whole team works on a single product. Here at my new workplace, everyone works at a fast pace and not everyone has the luxury of working on a single product.

Some teams trying to progress on a new product, some maintaining prior versions of an old product, some resolving operational issues and some are working towards the enhancement of several products in parallel. Hence I started thinking what is the primary objective of those teams who work on several products at the same time.

I believe teams who are working on a multi-product approach are worried about the adaptation of Scrum. It's very challenging for them to accept that they have the ability to even use Scrum or any other approach close to it.

We all know that the world is moving towards multi-tasking. We can easily spot it in our daily life. We have seen mothers working on the phone and packing lunch for their children. We have seen fathers driving kids schools and attending work conference call.

Teams working on multiple products face some challenges too. I have observed two major issues:

Context Switching: This occurs when team members switch from one product and start thinking about another one. This actually affects the overall productivity of the team.
Prioritizing the priority: This occurs when the team is instructed to prioritize one product over another.
But having obstacles is a part of life. I mean you don't stop going to work because you live in Gateshead and you face heavy traffic every morning to reach Cobalt. You try to find a different route to the office with less traffic, isn't it?

Similarly, We can still be agile and work on multiple products if required. Let me share an example. I use to work with a french digital agency in London.

There we use to have a team which specialized in different kinds of promotional websites. An ideal project for them includes few iterative sprints for the launch of a new Product/Services portal. But they also had a minor enhancement to an e-commerce site which sells ladies purses. And adding new trailer video for a new upcoming movie on a movie premier landing page. And fixing bugs on a charity portal which was developed ages ago in plain HTML. And adding EU cookies consent popups to mobile accessories website which they build a few months back.

It seems to me fair enough if one individual prioritizes all this work for the team. It's actually good for the team to work on more than one product if the priorities have been set by one person.

Although I strongly believe that having more than one product owner for multiple projects is a pain in a** for a single team. Because each "product owner" will be prioritizing things separately and expect the piece of work to be delivered as per his/her priority.

If you pour water into a tank from multiple inlets then it's difficult to maintain the accountability. But if you connect all inlets into a big valve and then put a meter on it. It will be super easy to measure the volume of water filled into the tank.

Similarly, I think if there is a single conduit for any kind of new work coming into the team. It's fine to work on multiple products. And in Scrum Framework this conduit is named as team's Product Owner.

I know very well that many of you will say that, the team needs to focus on a single product to maximize the productivity. And how wrong I am. And I agree to that because in many cases focusing on a single product will undoubtedly increase the overall productivity.

But in the real world sometimes working on multiple products is far more important than the productivity of a team. And having a single pipeline of work for teams working on multiple products could help in achieving success with Agile.

single conduit: Team product owner is a key for bringing in work.

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