Scrum, System Development and Multiple Suppliers



There are a number of challenges when developing products or systems using multiple suppliers.  My experience mirrors that of those of the Defense & Aerospace Group on LinkedIn that many systems are developed with more than one supplier, each with a sub-assembly or sub-system constituent of the entire system assigned to a multiplicity of suppliers.  Agile can work here also; however, there are a number of challenges with communication and coordination of the work. One of these, the coordination, is not as difficult.

Systems Development and Scrum of Scrum

Consider the product backlog, arguably the starting point of any agile project.  Now also suppose we are working on a system or collection of components that comprise a subsystem.  To be able to assign these packages to different suppliers we will need to have the system already described so we are back to post concept.  Our product backlog can be structured to reflect the systems expectations; we will call it the systems backlog.  We will need our teams to be collocated as we pull items off of the prioritized systems backlog for execution by the various scrum teams.  In this way, we coordinate the work required to meet the system backlog expectations.  If one part of the system is delivered but the other part of the function has not been delivered, then the backlog item will not be met.

Coordinating the system backlog, each supplier will take on their respective portion of the system. This will be that supplier’s sprint backlog.  This will focus the development effort on delivering an iteration of the system that has a well defined and prioritized content, and this specific sprint will focus on immediate system expectations.

Scrum of Scrum

We will, of course, have the individual sprint daily meetings, but we will also need to have a short meeting at the systems level as we are working within a scrum of scrums.  This is where we will manage the coordination of the work from the systems perspective.  As we learn the individual scrum team results, we can adjust the system along the way in the same way we would adjust the specific sprint items and backlog.

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