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We have an organization where we're moving to two scrum teams working on different parts of our our backlog. I understand the idea that each team should be a complete cross-functional unit, and shouldn't have other distractions. That seems like a perfect ideal.

In our case, we have a team member whose skills could be useful to both teams, but where both teams usually don't have full-time work for her. To make this concrete, she's a web designer (and web is not our main product), but the same thing could apply to anyone with a specialized skillset. And she's very good at what she does, so saying "well, work on this one team and find other ways to help — write some docs or something" is both suboptimal and unfulfilling for her.

Is there a good way for her to contribute to both teams without feeling like she has double the meta-work and conflicting priorities?

If so, how best to handle this? What if there's four people who feel this way rather than just one?

If not, what to do instead? The approach I'm leaning towards is making sure all user stories are split such that everything which requires some web design can be handled entirely by her team, but I don't know how well that will scale.

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I see this happen all of the time with System Architects. Their specialized skills are needed by multiple teams, but no single team consumes all of their time during the sprint.

The best solution I've seen for this type of situation is to have the group of specialized individuals (architects, designers, whatever) operate as their own scrum team making commitments based on their capacity to fulfill the needs of the other teams.

By doing so you ensure that the specialized group/individual can make an honest commitment and you expose the problems with having the teams reliant on a specialized resource allowing you to inspect/adapt to solve or mitigate those problems.

  • +1 - Interesting way to operate. You're basically using Scrum to run teams that support other Scrum teams. – jmort253 Mar 7 '12 at 21:06
  • How does this team make its commitments at the beginning of the sprint? – Zsolt Mar 8 '12 at 13:53
  • They total up their capacity for the sprint and start committing to the highest priority items where their specialization is needed. If two teams need the web designer's expertise for her full capacity, a decision (or compromise) of priority needs to be made. – Clayton Mar 8 '12 at 16:15
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According to Scrum, it is not possible, but in the real life it happens time to time, and it is a good thing and it is working. Make sure that she can attend both stand-up and planning meetings so that she can organize his work, know what will come and the teams know what to expect from her. I don't see any other good solution.

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Scrum by the book, states that team members need to be neither in different teams nor in different projects. This is an ideal situation, but if a company is transitioning to scrum/agile it may take a while to be able to get project resources structured in a scrum way.

I would start with having them on multiple teams and projects, even if this is not ideal, but reduce the simultanious splits as much as possible. Then, in the retro's you need to be alert to how the team and project is working. If everybody is happy, cool. If not, work with management to provide for a better situation. This might be having a junior architect on your team for the whole time, or even doing the "architect as a scrum team" idea by clayton.

Deliver first, if management see good results, it is easier to talk them into the changes needed for even better results.

Don't be affraid to "make a shitty start", scrum is about improving your process, not about getting it right from the get go.

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Have her contribute to each team sequentially. It is not ideal. But, it is better than having her multi-task.

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