Communities of practice in a large distributed agile software development organization - Case Ericsson

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Abstract

Context

Communities of practice—groups of experts who share a common interest or topic and collectively want to deepen their knowledge—can be an important part of a successful lean and agile adoption in particular in large organizations.
Objective

In this paper, we present a study on how a large organization within Ericsson with 400 persons in 40 Scrum teams at three sites adopted the use of Communities of Practice (CoP) as part of their transformation from a traditional plan-driven organization to lean and agile.
Methods

We collected data by 52 semi-structured interviews on two sites, and longitudinal non-participant observation of the transformation during over 20 site visits over a period of two years.
Results

The organization had over 20 CoPs, gathering weekly, bi-weekly or on a need basis. CoPs had several purposes including knowledge sharing and learning, coordination, technical work, and organizational development. Examples of CoPs include Feature Coordination CoPs to coordinate between teams working on the same feature, a Coaching CoP to discuss agile implementation challenges and successes and to help lead the organizational continuous improvement, an end-to-end CoP to remove bottlenecks from the flow, and Developers CoPs to share good development practices. Success factors of well-functioning CoPs include having a good topic, passionate leader, proper agenda, decision making authority, open community, supporting tools, suitable rhythm, and cross-site participation when needed. Organizational support include creating a supportive atmosphere and providing a suitable infrastructure for CoPs.
Conclusions

In the case organization, CoPs were initially used to support the agile transformation, and as part of the distributed Scrum implementation. As the transformation progressed, the CoPs also took on the role of supporting continuous organizational improvements. CoPs became a central mechanism behind the success of the large-scale agile implementation in the case organization that helped mitigate some of the most pressing problems of the agile transformation.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1556-1577
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Volume56
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

    Research areas

  • Communities of practice, Large-scale agile software development, Scaling agile

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