Software development teams in large scale offshore enterprise development programmes are often under intense pressure to deliver high quality software within challenging time contraints. Project failures can attract adverse publicity and damage corporate reputations. Agile methods have been advocated to reduce project risks, improving both productivity and product quality. This article uses practitioner descriptions of agile method tailoring to explore large scale offshore enterprise development programmes with a focus on product owner role tailoring, where the product owner identifies and prioritises customer requirements. In globalised projects, the product owner must reconcile competing business interests, whilst generating and then prioritising large numbers of requirements for numerous development teams. The study comprises eight international companies, based in London, Bangalore and Delhi. Interviews with 46 practitioners were conducted between February 2010 and May 2012. Grounded theory was used to identify that product owners form into teams. The main contribution of this research is to describe the nine product owner team functions identified: groom, prioritiser, release master, technical architect, governor, communicator, traveller, intermediary and risk assessor. These product owner functions arbitrate between conflicting customer requirements, approve release schedules, disseminate architectural design decisions, provide technical governance and propogate information across teams. The functions identified in this research are mapped to a scrum of scrums process, and a taxonomy of the functions shows how focusing on either decision-making or information dissemination in each helps to tailor agile methods to large scale offshore enterprise development programmes.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Agile Alliance (2011) Agile alliance. http://www.agilealliance.org/, Accessed 25 Sept 2011
Ambler S (2008) Agile software development at scale. In: Meyer B, Nawrocki J, Walter B (eds) Balancing agility and formalism in software engineering, lecture notes in computer science, vol 5082. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 1–12. 10.1007/978-3-540-85279-7%5F1
Ambler S W, Lines M (2012) Disciplined agile delivery: a practitioner’s guide to agile software delivery in the enterprise. IBM Press, Boston
Balijepally V, Mahapatra R, Nerur S, Price K H (2009) Are two heads better than one for software development? The productivity paradox of pair programming. MIS Q. 33 (1): 91–118. http://misq.org/are-two-heads-better-than-one-for-software-development-the-productivity-paradox-of-pair-programming.html
BBC (2012) BBC news - Bank merger account glitches. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/moneybox/8946199.stm, Accessed 15 Sept 2013
Beck K, Andres C (2004) Extreme programming explained, 2nd edn. Addison Wesley, Boston
Begel A, Nagappan N (2007) Usage and perceptions of agile software development in an industrial context: an exploratory study. In: Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC, USA, ESEM ’07, pp 255–264. 10.1109/ESEM.2007.85.
de Cesare S, Lycett M, Macredie RD, Patel C, Paul R (2010) Examining perceptions of agility in software development practice. Commun ACM 53 (6): 126130. 10.1145/1743546.1743580
Chow T, Cao D B (2008) A survey study of critical success factors in agile software projects. J Syst Softw 81 (6): 961–971. doi:10.1016/j.jss.2007.08.020
Coad P, LeFebvre E (1999) Java modeling in color. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs
Cockburn A (2001) Agile software development. Addison Wesley, Upper Saddle River
Cohn M (2009) Succeeding with agile: Software development using scrum, 1st edn. Addison-Wesley Professional, Upper Saddle River
Computer Weekly (2012) Santander migration glitch affects Alliance and Leicester customers, http://www.computerweekly.com/news/1280093541/Santander-migration-glitch-affects-Alliance- affects-Alliance-and-Leicester-customers, Accessed 15 Sept 2013
Cusumano M A (2007) Extreme programming compared with Microsoft-style iterative development. Commun ACM 50(10): 15–18. doi: 10.1145/1290958.1290979
Dyba T, Dingsoyr T (2009) What do we know about agile software development IEEE Softw 26 (5): 6–9. http://doi.ieeecomputersociety.org/10.1109/MS.2009.145
França A, da Silva F, de Sousa Mariz L (2010) An empirical study on the relationship between the use of agile practices and the success of scrum projects. In: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM-IEEE International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, ACM, New York, NY, USA, ESEM ’10, pp 37:1–37:4, 10.1145/1852786.1852835
Gibbs G (2007) Analyzing qualitative data. Sage Publications Ltd, London
Glaser B G (1992) Basics of grounded theory analysis: emergence vs. forcing. Sociology Press, Mill Valley
Glaser B G (1998) Doing grounded theory: issues and discussions. Sociology Press, Mill Valley
Glaser B G, Strauss AL (1999) Discovery of grounded theory: strategies for qualitative research. Aldine Transaction, Piscataway, NJ, USA
Glick B (2013) DWP writes off millions of pounds on universal credit IT, damning NAO report reveals. http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240204715/DWP-writes-off-millions-of- pounds-on-Universal-Credit-IT-damning-NAO-report-reveals, [accessed 02-11-2013]
Hannay JE, Benestad HC (2010) Perceived productivity threats in large agile development projects. In: Proceedings of the 2010 ACM-IEEE International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement, ACM, New York, NY, USA, ESEM ’10, pp 15:1–15:10. doi: 10.1145/1852786.1852806
Hannay J E, Arisholm E, Engvik H, Sjoberg D I K (2010) Effects of personality on pair programming. IEEE Trans Softw Eng 36 (1): 61–80. doi: 10.1109/TSE.2009.41
Hansard (2012) House of Commons Hansard debates for 11 Sep 2012 (pt 0001). http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120911/debtext/120911-0001.htm, Accessed 15 Sept 2013
Herbsleb J D, Mockus A (2003) An empirical study of speed and communication in globally distributed software development. IEEE Trans Softw Eng 29 (6): 481–494. doi: 10.1109/TSE.2003.1205177
Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2010) Organizing self-organizing teams. In: Proceedings of the 32nd ACM/IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering - Volume 1, ACM, New York, NY, USA, ICSE ’10, pp 285–294. doi: 10.1145/1806799.1806843
Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2011) The impact of inadequate customer involvement on self-organizing agile teams. Inf Softw Tech 53 (5): 521–534
Hoda R, Noble J, Marshall S (2012) Developing a grounded theory to explain the practices of self-organizing agile teams. Empir Softw Eng 17 (6): 609–639. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10664-011-9161-0
Hossain E, Babar M, Paik Hy (2009) Using scrum in global software development: a systematic literature review. In: 4th IEEE International Conference on Global Software Engineering (ICGSE). IEEE, pp 175-184. doi: 10.1109/ICGSE.2009.25
Hove S, Anda B (2005) Experiences from conducting semi-structured interviews in empirical software engineering research. In: Software Metrics, 2005. 11th IEEE International Symposium, pp 10–23. 10.1109/METRICS.2005.24
Jalali S, Wohlin C (2010) Agile practices in global software engineering - a systematic map. In: IEEE 5th International Conference on Global Software Engineering (ICGSE), IEEE, pp 45–54. 10.1109/ICGSE.2010.14
Ktata O, Lévesque G (2009) Agile development: issues and avenues requiring a substantial enhancement of the business perspective in large projects. In: Proceedings of the 2nd Canadian Conference on Computer Science and Software Engineering ACM New York
Kvale S, Brinkmann S (2009) Interviews, learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing, 2nd edn. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks
Larman C, Basili V (2003) Iterative and incremental development: a brief history. Comput IEEE 36 (6): 47–56. doi: 10.1109/MC.2003.1204375
Larman C, Vodde B (2008) Scaling lean and agile development: Thinking and organizational tools for large-scale scrum: Successful large, multisite and offshore products with large-scale scrum. Addison Wesley, Upper Saddle River
Leffingwell D (2007) Scaling software agility: Best practices for large enterprises. Addison Wesley, Boston
Lui K M, Chan K C C, Nosek J (2008) The effect of pairs in program design tasks. IEEE Trans Softw Eng 34 (2): 197–211. doi: 10.1109/TSE.2007.70755
Martin A (2009) The role of the customer in agile projects, PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Martin A, Biddle R, Noble J (2009a) Xp customer practices: a grounded theory. In: Agile conference, 2009. AGILE ’09., pp 33–40, 10.1109/AGILE.2009.68
Martin A, Biddle R, Noble J (2009b) The xp customer team: a grounded theory. In: Agile conference, 2009. AGILE ’09., pp 57–64, 10.1109/AGILE.2009.70
Mens T, Tourwe T (2004) A survey of software refactoring. Softw Eng IEEE Trans 30 (2): 126–139. 10.1109/TSE.2004.1265817
Miles M B, Huberman A M (1994) Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook, 2nd edn. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks
Moe N B (2010) A teamwork model for understanding an agile team: a case study of a scrum project. Inf Softw Technol 52 (5): 480–491. doi:10.1016/j.infsof.2009.11.004
Monteiro CV, da Silva FQ, dos Santos IR, Farias F, Cardozo ES, do A Leitão AR, Neto DN, Pernambuco Filho MJ (2011) A qualitative study of the determinants of self-managing team effectiveness in a scrum team. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on Cooperative and Human Aspects of Software Engineering, ACM, New York, NY, USA, CHASE ’11, pp 16–23. doi: 10.1145/1984642.1984646
NVivo (2013) NVivo 9 help. http://help-nv9-en.qsrinternational.com/nv9_help.htm, [accessed 10-09-2013]
Paasivaara M, Durasiewicz S, Lassenius C (2008) Using scrum in a globally distributed project: a case study. Softw Process: Improv Pract 13 (6): 527–544. doi: 10.1002/spip.402
Paasivaara M, Heikkilä V T (2012a) Experiences in scaling the product owner role in large-scale globally distributed scrum. In: 2012 IEEE 7th International Conference on Global Software Engineering, IEEE Computer Society, Los Alamitos, CA, USA, pp 174-178. doi: 10.1109/ICGSE.2012.41
Paasivaara M, Lassenius C, Heikkilä VT (2012b) Inter-team coordination in large-scale globally distributed scrum: Do scrum-of-scrums really work? In: Proceedings of the ACM-IEEE international symposium on Empirical software engineering and measurement, ACM, New York, NY, USA, ESEM ’12, pp 235–238. doi. 10.1145/23722512372294
Patton M Q (2002) Qualitative research & evaluation methods, 3rd edn. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand OAKS
Pikkarainen M, Haikara J, Salo O, Abrahamsson P, Still J (2008) The impact of agile practices on communication in software development. Empir Softw Eng 13 (3): 303–337. doi: 10.1007/s10664-008-9065-9
Poppendieck M, Poppendieck T (2003) Lean software development: An agile toolkit. Addison-Wesley Longman. Publishing Co., Inc., Boston
Raithatha D (2007) Making the whole product agile: A product owners perspective. In: Proceedings of the 8th international conference on Agile processes in software engineering and extreme programming, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, XP’07, pp 184–187, http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1768961.1769003
Ramesh B, Cao L, Mohan K, Xu P (2006) Can distributed software development be agile Commun ACM 49 (10): 4146. doi: 10.1145/1164394.1164418
Reifer D, Maurer F, Erdogmus H (2003) Scaling agile methods. Softw IEEE 20 (4): 12–14. 10.1109/MS.2003.1207448
Robson C (2011) Real world research, 3rd edn. Wiley, Chichester
Schwaber K (2004) Agile project management with scrum. Microsoft Press, Redmond
Schwaber K, Beedle M (2001) Agile software development with scrum. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River
Seaman C B (1999) Qualitative methods in empirical studies of software engineering. IEEE Trans Softw Eng 25 (4): 557–572. doi: 10.1109/32.799955
SFIA Foundation (2014) SFIA - skills framework for the information age. http://www.sfia-online.org/, Accessed 15 April 2014
Sharp H, Robinson H (2004) An ethnographic study of XP practice. Empir Softw Eng 9 (4): 353–375. 10.1023/B:EMSE.0000039884.79385.54.
Stapleton J (1997) DSDM: Dynamic systems development method. Addison Wesley, Harlow
Sutherland J, Viktorov A, Blount J, Puntikov N (2007) Distributed scrum: Agile project management with outsourced development teams. In: System Sciences, 2007. HICSS 2007. 40th Annual Hawaii International Conference on, p 274a, 10.1109/HICSS.2007.180
van Waardenburg G, van Vliet H (2013) When agile meets the enterprise. Inf Softw Tech 55 (12): 2154–2171. 10.1016/j.infsof.2013.07.012. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0950584913001584
Weiss R S (1994) Learning from strangers: the art and method of qualitative interview studies. Free Press, New York
Wilkerson J W, Nunamaker J F, Mercer R (2012) Comparing the defect reduction benefits of code inspection and test-driven development. IEEE Trans Softw Eng 38 (3): 547–560. doi: 10.1109/TSE.2011.46
Yin R K (2009) Case study research: design and methods, 4th edn. Sage Publications, Inc, Thousand Oaks
The anonymous reviewers are thanked for their detailed comments, which have substantially improved the clarity of the article. I am also grateful to all the companies and interviewees who were generous enough to contribute their time and resources to participate in this research. Thanks also go to the current and former students of the Executive MBA at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, who helped to identify target companies. The research benefited in part from travel funding from the UK Deputy High Commission, Bangalore, Science and Innovation Network; the Institute for Innovation, Design & Sustainability (IDEAS) at Robert Gordon University, UK; and accommodation and sustenance from Company H during the data collection visit to Delhi, India.
Communicated by: Brian Robinson
Interview Guide for Off-Shore Agile Software Projects, January 2010
I want to ask you about your experience of geographically distributed agile software development projects. The research involves interviews with people doing a range of different roles and from companies with different development models.
I want to learn more about your views on agile processes. I am particularly interested to know what factors are affected by geographical location and separation. The purpose here is to try to understand the factors that affect project outcomes, successful or otherwise, so that we can try to learn for the future.
I want to ask you the following questions and tape record your answers. I will keep your responses completely confidential and nothing will be shared with any client companies. I do plan to publish interview extracts but I will make names and companies anonymous. Can I switch on the recorder?
Your Current Project(s)
How many projects are you working on currently? What is (was) the title of your current (or most recent) project? What is the project management structure? How is the project organised geographically? Is the project maintenance/evolution or a new build project? Is the project COTS or bespoke? How many people are in the project team?
What are the special features of agile projects (compared with other development processes)? What agile project development practices are being used in your project? What agile practices are not used?
How are requirements decided and prioritised? How do user stories evolve over time? How do user stories move up or down the backlog? How do you interact with customer representatives (XP)? Are they onsite?
Product Owner/Customer (POC)
How do you represent the product development team within the client organisation? How do you represent the client organisation within the product development team? Which remotely located stakeholder groups are most supportive or challenging? Which remotely located stakeholder groups do you interact with most/least frequently? What would help make life easier for you?
Releases and Testing
How does unit tested code become a release? How is user acceptance testing managed? How are bugs reported back, prioritised and fixed?
What forms of social media or electronic communication are used in the projects? What forms of cloud computing services are used in the projects?
How does learning take place within the team? How does learning take place for you personally?
Any Other Comments
Now, I want to check if there is anything else you would like to add? Do you have any further comments in relation to geographically distributed agile development projects?
About Your Organisation
Now I want to ask some questions about you and your organisation. These details will be kept confidential.What is the name of your organisation? What industry sector is your organisation in? What industry sector are your development projects in? How many people are there in your organisation?
Your name? Your age? What is your role (product owner, developer, architect or scrum master)? What experience or formal qualifications do you have? How much experience do you have or when did you qualify? How long have you been working in your current organisation?
Interview Guide, Agile Method Tailoring [Company H], May 2012
I want to ask you about your experience of agile software development projects. The research involves interviews with people holding a range of different roles, and from companies with different development models.
The purpose here is to try to understand how agile methods are used in [Company H], so that we can try to learn in the future. I want to ask you the following questions and tape record your answers. I do plan to publish interview extracts but I will make names, projects and clients anonymous. Can I switch on the recorder?
What agile methods and practices are you using? Would you describe agile methods as being successful for you? In what ways? What challenges have you encountered with agile methods?
Scaling to Enterprise Projects
Describe any software tools or technologies you use to support agile methods? Have you adapted agile methods because of the geographical distribution of the team? Have you adapted agile methods because the client organisation was geographically distributed? Have you adapted agile methods because of a particularly large team? Have you used agile methods in a context with demanding regulatory compliance? What adaptations did you make? Have you used agile methods in a particularly complex domain context? What adaptations did you make? Have you used agile methods on a particularly technically complex project? What adaptations did you make? Have you used agile methods with an especially complex range of stakeholder relationships? What adaptations did you make? Have you adapted agile methods for use on a strategically important enterprise architecture programme?
What future trends do you forsee in your use of agile methods? If there was one thing you could change about the way agile methods are used at [Company H] what would it be? What advice would you give to improve agile productivity? What advice would you give to improve agile product quality? What advice would you give to improve transitioning to offshore agile?
About Your Project(s)
Now I want to ask some questions about you and your project. These details will be kept confidential.What project are you working on currently? How many projects? How is the project team structured (for management purposes)? How is the project team organised geographically? What is the project domain? What is the project purpose? How large is the project in terms of team size? In terms of value? When did the project start? How much longer will the project run for?
Any Other Comments
Now, I want to check if there is anything else you would like to say? Do you have any further comments in relation to agile methods?
Your name? Your age? What is your role (product owner, developer, architect or scrum master)? How long have you been in your current role? How long have you been working in your current organisation? How long have you been working in the software industry? What formal qualifications do you have, if any?
About this article
Cite this article
Bass, J.M. How product owner teams scale agile methods to large distributed enterprises. Empir Software Eng 20, 1525–1557 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10664-014-9322-z
- Agile software development
- Large scale offshore enterprise development programmes
- Product owner
- Product owner teams
- Grounded theory