Disciplined Agile Roles at Scale

Collaboration between different roles

When you scale agile strategically to address the needs of your entire enterprise, a multitude of roles appear.  This article addresses the following topics:

Why So Many Roles?

The reason why there are so many roles at scale is due to the breadth of activities that occur throughout a modern enterprise.  Every single process blade introduces one or more specialist roles: for example, the Portfolio Management blade introduces the role of Portfolio Manager/Coordinator and the Operations blade introduces Operations Manager and Operations Engineer. As your scope widens to address agility across your entire organization, you find that you also need to address a correspondingly wide range of roles than what you typically find in narrowly focused agile methods or frameworks.

The Danger of Defined Roles

The primary danger of having defined roles is that they will be perceived as positions.  When this happens the natural tendency is for people to start adding activities around the position so as to make it more important.  In the case of a management position the tendency is to increase the number of people reporting into the position so as to increase the influence of the manger.

It is important to realize that we are describing roles, not positions, in this article.  Any person may take on one or more roles and they will change the roles that they take on over time.  Any given role will have zero or more people fulfilling it at any given time, and that will also evolve as needed.

At the end of this article we discuss the need for you to determine how to apply these roles in your organization.

Tactical Scaling Roles

In Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) we define ten roles that occur on delivery teams, five primary roles and five supporting roles. The five primary roles (Stakeholder, Team Member, Team Lead, Product Owner, and Architecture Owner) occur on delivery teams regardless of the situation faced by the team.  The five supporting roles (Specialist, Independent Tester, Domain Expert, Technical Expert, and Integrator) are typically needed when delivery teams face one or more tactical scaling factors.

The following table summarizes the specialist roles, and their responsibilities, that may appear at the Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) level of the DA toolkit to support tactical agility at scale.

Table 1. Disciplined agile roles that support tactical scaling.

Role Responsibilities Process Blade(s) or Scaling Factor
Ambassador
  • Travels between sites, working at the location for a period of time before returning to their “home site”
  • Keeps communication between sites going
  • Helps to build relationships between people at disparate sites
Geographic Distribution
Boundary Spanner
  • Coordinates communication between geographically distributed sites
  • Looks for opportunities to help people at different sites to communicate with one another when needed
  • Works with boundary spanners at the other sites to promote collaboration between sites
Geographic Distribution
Chief Architecture Owner (CAO)
  • Leads the architecture team within a program
  • Effectively a Team Lead for the Architecture Owners within a program
  • Mentors and guides the architecture owners within a program
  • Guides the Architecture Owners through negotiating technical dependencies within a program
  • Works closely with the enterprise architecture team
  • Often takes on the role of Architecture Owner on one or more delivery teams
Program Management / Large Team
Chief Product Owner (CPO)
  • Leads the Product Owner team within a program
  • Effectively a Team Lead for the Product Owners within a program or a Product Manager for the program
  • Works closely with the Program Manager to allocate work between sub-teams
  • Mentors and guides the product owners within a program
  • Guides the Product Owners through negotiating functional dependencies
  • Works closely with the product management team
  • Often takes on the role of Product Owner on one or more delivery teams
Program Management / Large Team
External Auditor
  • Audits teams within your organization, or the entire organization itself, for compliance to industry regulations
  • Not an employee of your organization, they typically work for a government agency or for a professional services firm
  • They will assess you for compliance and report where, if at all, you need to improve
Regulatory Compliance
Internal Auditor
  • An auditor who works for your organization
  • They are very familiar with the applicable regulations
  • Teaches people about applicable regulations
  • Works with teams to help them identify what they need to do to be compliant
  • Assesses teams, potentially simulating an external audit, to determine level of compliancy
  • Works with external auditors to help them to gain access to the people and materials they require to audit
Regulatory Compliance
Program Manager/Coordinator
  • Organizes sub-teams within the program
  • Coordinates the activities within a large delivery team (program)
  • Collaborates with Product Owners to allocate and organize work amongst sub-teams
  • Collaborates with Architecture Owners to negotiate technical dependencies
Program Management
Project Manager
  • Manages or coordinates a project (even in organizations where you have long standing teams, also called product teams, you may still have projects that need to be managed)
  • Coordinates large portions of work (projects) that require several delivery teams to work on
  • Coordinates work (projects) across organizational boundaries
  • Coordinates work (projects) across organizations, particularly when the work is being done for a customer organization
  • Does NOT manage or direct members of an agile team
Organizational Distribution

Disciplined DevOps Roles

Disciplined DevOps is the streamlining of IT solution development and IT operations activities, along with supporting enterprise-IT activities such as Security and Data Management, to provide more effective outcomes to an organization. The following table summarizes the roles, and their responsibilities, that appear at the Disciplined DevOps level of the DA toolkit.

Table 2. Disciplined agile roles that support Disciplined DevOps.

Role Responsibilities Process Blade(s)
Database Administrator
  • Operates, supports, and evolves existing legacy data sources
  • Collaborates with delivery teams, ideally as a member of those teams, to ensure that data sources are developed and evolved in a quality manner
Data Management
Data Manager
  • A Functional Manager who leads the data management team
  • Effectively a Team Lead of the Database Administrators
  • Leads the long term refactoring of legacy data sources
  • Guide data-oriented activities within the organization
  • Collaborate with delivery teams to ensure that data quality is maintained and enhanced across disparate data sources
  • Leads the development of data-oriented guidance
Data Management
Operations Engineer
  • Runs and monitors the existing solutions and IT operational infrastructure
  • Works with delivery teams to help them to understand and leverage the existing infrastructure and to deploy their solutions into it
IT Operations
Operations Manager
  • Functional Manager who leads the operations team
  • Effectively a Team Lead of the Operations Engineers
  • Manages change within the operational infrastructure
  • Plans for and mitigates operational disasters
  • Guides the development of operational guidelines
  • Collaborates with the Enterprise Architecture team to help them to understand the current operational environment and to evolve your organization’s technical roadmap
  • Collaborates with the Release Manager to streamline the overall Release Management process
IT Operations
Release Engineer
  • Works with delivery teams to help them release their solutions into productionDevelops and evolves release management guidance
Release Management
Release Manager
  • Functional Manager who leads the release team (if any)
  • Effectively a Team Lead of the Release Engineers
  • Coordinates the multitude of solution releases into production across all delivery team
  • Facilitates the determination of whether a solution is production ready
  • Guides the development of common release practices
  • Manages the release schedule
  • Collaborates with the Operations Manager to streamline the Release Management process
Release Management
Security Engineer
  • Helps teams to build secure solutions
  • Helps to build a secure operational infrastructure
  • Evaluates security tooling, including but not limited to testing tools, code analysis tools, development toolkits, security infrastructure products, and so on
  • Works with external security experts and practitioners to keep abreast of evolving security threats
Security
Security Manager
  • Functional manager who leads the security engineering team (often called an InfoSec Team)
  • Works with Enterprise Architects as a security expert/stakeholder
  • Works with executive leadership to help them understand the implications of security
  • Works with external security experts and practitioners to keep abreast of evolving security threats
Security
Support (help desk) Engineer
  • Helps end users to understand and work with the solutions provided by IT
  • Identifies potential enhancements to existing solutions
  • Addresses most end-user requests for help
  • Escalates difficult problems to operations or delivery teams as appropriate
Support
Support Manager
  • Functional Manager who leads the support (help desk) team
  • Effectively a Team Lead of the Support Engineers
  • Manages the escalation process
  • Works closely with stakeholders to ensure that the support team provides proper levels of service to them
Support

Disciplined Agile IT Roles

Disciplined Agile IT (DAIT) addresses how to apply agile and lean strategies to all aspects of Information Technology (IT) processes. This includes IT-level activities such as IT operations, support, data management, reuse engineering, and other capabilities. The following table summarizes the roles, and their responsibilities, that appear at the Disciplined Agile IT (DAIT) level of the DA toolkit. It is important to note that many of these roles should also be considered Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE) roles (see the following section) because the corresponding process blades straddle both DAIT and DAE.

Table 3. Disciplined agile roles that support DAIT.

Role Responsibilities Process Blade(s)
Community of Practice (CoP) Lead
  • Guides CoP members in gaining new knowledge
  • Provides career guidance to CoP members
  • Organizes training and certification opportunities for CoP members
Continuous Improvement
Enterprise Architect
  • Collaborates closely with senior stakeholders to develop the technical roadmap for the organization
  • Provide direction to architecture owners, often taking on the role of architecture owner on delivery teams
  • Collaborates with delivery teams to ensure that they understand and leverage the existing infrastructure and follow the appropriate roadmap(s)
  • Collaborates with the Operations Manager to understand the current operational environment and to evolve the technical roadmap
Enterprise Architecture
Functional Manager
  • Builds high-performance IT delivery teams
  • Has authority over a specific group of professionals (such as Product Owners, Team Members, or Support Engineers)
  • Provides career guidance and management to their group
  • May have People Management authority over a collection of delivery teams
  • Ensures there is the right number of people available with the skills to fill the specific job function (e.g. the Functional Manager for the POs ensures your organization has enough POs available to staff your delivery teams)
  • Note: This is a “super class role” in Disciplined Agile. Examples of “sub class” roles are Data Manager, Operations Manager, Release Manager, and Support Manager
People Management
Human Resource Manager
  • Responsible for the overall People Management effort
  • Helps teams to identify, evaluate, and hire new team members
  • Facilitates the organization of teams within your organization
  • Guides and supports career management activities
  • Facilitates staff evaluation and assessment activities
  • Facilitates capacity and succession planning
People Management
Governor
  • Coordinates and oversees your IT Governance effort
  • Ensures that IT Governance is as lean and flexible as possible
  • Educates team about governance strategies
  • Motivates and enables people to “do the right thing”
  • Works with internal auditors to ensure compliance
IT Governance
Portfolio Manager
  • Leads the identification of new potential delivery endeavors/initiatives/projects, collaborating closely with Product Managers
  • Initiates experiments to explore the viability of potential endeavors
  • Oversees ongoing delivery teams
  • Plans IT capability, collaborating with Human Resource managers to do so
  • Manages relationships with vendors
  • Guides and mentors Program Managers (if any)  and Team Leads
  • Works closely with the IT Governance team and is often a member of it
Portfolio Management
Process Engineer
  • Guides the development of common standards and guidelines
  • Helps teams to document their processes, often due to regulatory requirements, in a concise manner
  • Monitors process improvements made by teams
  • Promotes communication of process improvements and learnings across teams
Continuous Improvement
Product Manager
  • Develops and evolves the business roadmap
  • Explores and prioritizes potential product ideas, collaborating with your Portfolio Manager to do so
  • Manages functional dependencies between products
  • Markets products both internally within your organization and externally
  • Provide direction to Product Owners
  • May take on role of Product Owner on delivery teams
Product Management
Reuse Engineer
  • Harvests, develops, evolves, and supports reusable assets
  • Works closely with delivery teams to harvest potentially reusable assets and to integrate existing reusable assets into their solutions
Reuse Engineering

Disciplined Enterprise (DAE) Roles

A Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE) is able to sense and respond swiftly to changes in the marketplace.  It does this through an organizational culture and structure that facilitates change within the context of the situation that it faces.  Such organizations require a learning mindset in the mainstream business and underlying lean and agile processes to drive innovation. The following table summarizes the roles, and their responsibilities, that appear at the Disciplined Agile Enterprise (DAE) level of the DA toolkit. It is important to note that many of the DAIT roles (see the previous section) should also be considered DAE because the corresponding process blades straddle both DAIT and DAE.  Furthermore, your organization is very likely to have roles that are specific to your business domain that are not indicated in the table below.

Table 4. Disciplined agile roles at the enterprise level.

Role Responsibilities Process Blade(s)
Chief Finance Officer
  • Officer of your organization, with fiduciary responsibility to ensure that your financial reports are accurate
  • Functional manager who leads the finance team
  • Works with other executives, including portfolio management, to develop budgets
  • Monitors and guides cash flow within your organization
Finance
External Auditor
  • Audits teams within your organization, or the entire organization itself, for compliance to industry regulations
  • Not an employee of your organization, they typically work for a government agency or for a professional services firm
  • They will assess you for compliance and report where, if at all, you need to improve
Control
Finance Specialist
  • Works with teams to understand financial concerns
  • May support teams in developing budgets
  • Works closely with portfolio management to develop budgets and monitor cash flow
Finance
Governor
  • Coordinates and oversees your  corporate governance efforts
  • Ensures that governance/control is as lean and flexible as possible
  • Works with executives to develop governance strategies
  • Works with internal auditors to ensure compliance
Control
Internal Auditor
  • An auditor who works for your organization
  • They are very familiar with the applicable regulations
  • Teaches people about applicable regulations
  • Works with teams to help them identify what they need to do to be compliant
  • Assesses teams, potentially simulating an external audit, to determine level of compliancy
  • Works with external auditors to help them to gain access to the people and materials they require to audit
Control
Legal Counsel
  • Works with teams to help them understand the legal implications of what they are doing
  • Works closely with procurement staff to develop contracts
  • Works closely with executives to help them understand the legal implications of their strategies
Legal
Marketing Analyst
  • Works with marketing team and product management to identify market trends and needs
  • Collects and analyzes market data to identify potential customer needs
  • Analyzes data generated by your organization from the delivery of offerings (products and services) to your customers
  • May work with delivery teams as a market domain expert
Marketing
Marketing Manager
  • Functional manager who leads the marketing team within your organization
  • Guides the product management efforts
  • Supports and often leads strategic planning across product and service management efforts
  • Leads/guides the advertising and public relations activities
Marketing
Procurement Officer
  • Works with teams to identify their procurement needs (for services, infrastructure, facilities, and more)
  • Negotiates and monitors contracts with external providers of goods and services
  • Supports teams when working with external providers to ensure contracts are properly fulfilled
Procurement, Portfolio Management
Public Relations (PR) Specialist
  • Works with marketing and product management to promote good will for your organization or one or more of its offerings
  • Monitors and analyzes media coverage
  • Develop publicity material
Marketing
Sales Engineer
  • Sells offerings, either products or services, to customers
  • Has intimate knowledge of the offering that they sell
  • Answers customer questions, or ensures that the questions get answered, during the sales process
Sales
Sales Manager
  • Functional manager who leads a sales team
  • Monitors customer feedback and preferences to guide sales efforts
  • Resolve customer complaints about sales and services
  • Work with product management to determine price and discount schedules for an offering
Sales

Where to Go From Here

We began this article by pointing out that due to the breadth of the DA toolkit it covers a very wide range of roles.  The number of roles we’ve identified in this article reflect the complexity of your organizational process and structure.  Here are a few points we’d like to leave you with:

  1. Roles are not positions. Many people can fulfill the same role and any given individual may take on several roles at a time. How you choose to define your organization structure and positions within it is up to you.
  2. It can be more complicated than this. For several of the process blades, particularly the DAE ones, there is an opportunity to define a more comprehensive view of how to address them.  In doing so we will invariably identify more specific roles.
  3. Existing roles will need to evolve. All aspects of your organization will need to evolve their way of working (WoW), and by implication that means all roles within your organization will potentially need to evolve.  This is an important aspect of your People Management efforts.
  4. Some existing roles will go away. As your organization streamlines its WoW, as it becomes more agile, you will automate many existing tasks, rethink how you approach the manual aspects of work, and rethink aspects of your organizational structure.  An implication of these changes is that some existing roles in your organization will disappear, some will evolve, and some new ones will emerge.
  5. You need to support people in becoming agile. Change is afoot. The leadership in your organization needs to recognize that an important aspect of becoming agile is that they need to help people transition into agile roles and ways of working.
  6. You still need managers. As you likely noticed, there are still many management (or perhaps coordination or leadership) roles.  Having said that, organizations that work in a traditional manner tend to have many more people in management roles than what we see in agile organizations that are working in more streamlined and effective manners.  The implication is that some existing managers may transition into new agile management/leadership roles but many will discover that they need to find different ways to add value to your organization in non-management roles.  This is a topic that we will cover in a more detailed article.