First Line Software is a premier provider of software engineering, software enablement, and digital transformation services. Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the global staff of 400 technical experts serve clients across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
On the client-side, requirements were formulated by the Business Unit and finalized and managed for the supplier’s team by the Product Owner (PO), and a business analyst on the supplier side played the role of Proxy Product Owner (PPO).
First Line was asked to make a special presentation to the Program Steering Group, and very soon the template was officially introduced as the standard reporting device on all First Line teams participating in the program.
Another thing that became clear pretty quickly was that the customer PM role has become unnecessary. The “tracking” and “control” functions were essentially already being carried out by the First Line teams themselves and evidenced by the template. In the spirit of Lean and Agile, the client eliminated the role of the PM, effectively folding its function into First Line’s Scrum Masters, who were now to report directly to the Steering Group.
Since Scrum teams are on average around 7-8 people strong, and the PM roles were filled by expensive onsite consultants, this move resulted in noticeable cost savings right away, with improved manageability.
Another realization that followed rather quickly was that there was a significant difference in the level of transparency they were getting from First Line vs. the other supplier on the program: whereas a program manager could glance at the latest Project Scope chart and quickly assess the likelihood of making the deadline in under a minute, based on solid data, answering the same question with the other supplier involved much more guesswork and much less reliable knowledge.
In short order, we are asked to train the other supplier in our project management approach, the use of the template, and the collection of metrics in order to ensure uniform levels of transparency across the entire program. First Line’s Scrum Project Template is now the official reporting toolkit of the entire program, including the other offshore supplier and the client’s in-house teams.
Naturally and very soon after the introduction of the template into the other supplier’s teams, PM positions were eliminated there as well. The resulting configuration looked something like the diagram on the left.
Moreover, on several projects, First Line Software analysts became so proficient in the business issues of the client that the decision was made to collapse the Product Owner – Proxy Product Owner duo into the single PO role fulfilled by the First Line Software analyst (see below).
Overall, the program was a resounding success for the client: over 60 online publications seamlessly ported to the new CMS engine are receiving up to 7 million unique visits a week; many new innovative features are bringing in higher ad revenues for the newspapers and the magazines, and the ongoing maintenance costs are now 1/5 of what they were before the implementation of the standardized content management platform.
While outsourcing is obviously fraught with challenges, experience shows that with solid Agile principles and discipline, you can achieve a dynamic, transparent, and productive environment, even on projects spanning several countries and involving hundreds of people.
First Line’s experience with distributed Scrum project management, based on hundreds of Agile projects delivered for the most demanding customers, was key to achieving better governance, transparency and coordination between multiple teams and stakeholders. It also enabled the client to streamline project administration and significantly reduce the cost of managing offshore suppliers.