Balancing Consistency and Autonomy in Agile Product Development

Aviral Vaid

Aviral Vaid

Jul 13, 20233 min read

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Balancing Consistency and Autonomy in Agile Product Development

In today's fast-paced and competitive business landscape, empowering product teams to make decisions is crucial. However, for these teams to effectively make informed decisions, they need to have the necessary context. This article explores the importance of providing a strategic context to product teams and the challenges of balancing consistency and autonomy in agile product development.

One of the key principles of agile development is the ability to respond to change quickly. This often leads to the rise of messy, inconsistent, and emergent architecture. While consistent architecture and fast autonomous teams are desirable, it is important to recognize that achieving both simultaneously is challenging. Making all decisions from a single level of consciousness may not lead to lower operating costs, but rather increase them in favor of time to value.

To strike a balance between consistency and autonomy, organizations should consider structuring their architecture around their teams, rather than the other way around. Microservices, a modern software architecture pattern, can help break applications down into smaller decoupled parts that can act as lego blocks to create a whole application or product. However, the devil is in the details when it comes to implementing microservices effectively.

One challenge with microservices is dividing the application into small logical pieces. Versioning can be a useful strategy to avoid duplicating code entirely. By creating new versions of each microservice, different teams can work on different versions simultaneously, preventing the snowball effect of changes. This approach allows for cost savings, reuse, and consistency while still enabling autonomy, adaptability, and time to value.

It is essential to recognize that there is no perfect solution to this dilemma. It ultimately comes down to what an organization values more – cost, reuse, and consistency or autonomy, adaptability, and time to value. However, it is crucial to understand that competing goals, such as being the cheapest company and being the best, cannot coexist. To achieve faster value realization, responsiveness, and adaptability, organizations need to adopt a different mindset and behavior.

In conclusion, providing product teams with the necessary context is vital for empowering them to make informed decisions. Balancing consistency and autonomy in agile product development can be challenging, but it is essential for organizations to consider the trade-offs and prioritize their goals. Here are three actionable pieces of advice to help navigate this balance effectively:

1. Foster open communication and collaboration between product teams and architects to ensure a shared understanding of the strategic context.

2. Embrace a mindset of adaptability and flexibility, allowing for the occasional messiness and inconsistency that comes with agile development.

3. Continuously review and evaluate the trade-offs between cost, reuse, and consistency versus autonomy, adaptability, and time to value to ensure alignment with organizational goals and values.

By embracing this approach, organizations can navigate the complexities of agile product development and achieve a balance that enables both consistency and autonomy.

Resource:

  1. "Coaching – Strategic Context | Silicon Valley Product Group", https://www.svpg.com/coaching-strategic-context/ (Glasp)
  2. "Agile Architecture — the rise of messy, inconsistent and emergent architecture | HackerNoon", https://hackernoon.com/agile-architecture-the-rise-of-messy-inconsistent-and-emergent-architecture-e6801ab25b61 (Glasp)

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