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A Heterogeneous Approach to Agile Tailoring

Salameh, A


A Salameh



Self-organisation is recognised as one of the fundamental principles of Agile software development since the introduction of the Agile Manifesto. In large-scale agile, self- organising teams must cooperate to produce a software product jointly. Previous research has identified barriers to self-organising autonomous teams in large-scale agile, such as lack of guidelines for how teams should be organised, and other challenges related to building autonomous teams and aligning them. The Spotify model is an example of a very large-scale agile approach, which is driven by creating loosely coupled, yet tightly aligned squads. However, there is a conflicting trade-off between squads autonomy and alignment. Too much alignment might hinder squad autonomy, but without alignment, the squads are autonomous but are not effective.

This research aims to (1) explore how Agile practitioners, from a FinTech organisation, resolve the conflicting trade-offs between squads autonomy and alignment, and (2) develop and evaluate new architectural governance practices, in a FinTech organisation tailoring the Spotify model. To address these aims, a qualitative research design was utilised. This research comprises two parts, a longitudinal embedded case study and an intervention embedded case study, which were conducted in a FinTech organisation (i.e., FinTechOrg).

The longitudinal embedded case study lasted over 21 months, during which 225 ceremonies were observed, 14 semi-structured open-ended interviews were conducted, and data were collected from different sorts of artefacts. The collected data were analysed using an approach informed by the Grounded Theory method.

The analysis identified influential factors on different aspects of Spotify Tailoring, which contribute to resolving the conflicting trade-offs between squads autonomy and alignment. These aspects are (1) establishing and building autonomous squads, (2) aligning autonomous squads, and (3) performing B2B product development by tailoring the Spotify model. The first contribution is identifying factors influencing establishing and building autonomous squads. The second contribution is identifying factors influencing aligning autonomous squads. The third contribution is identifying the impact of product development on Spotify tailoring as well as factors influencing Spotify Tailoring for B2B product development. Each identified factor is supported by a set of practices and attributes, which can aid Agile practitioners in improving squad autonomy, aligning autonomous squads, or facilitating the conduct of B2B product development.

The fourth contribution is identifying a novel approach to Agile tailoring, called Heterogeneous Tailoring. Three key features characterise this approach. Firstly, each autonomous squad is empowered to select and tailor its development method. Secondly, each squad is aligned with other squads and to common product development goals and objectives. Thirdly, the product steering committee draws the strategy of squads’ missions and aligns the product backlog among autonomous squads. This novel approach to Agile tailoring has improved the creativity for some squads and increased the productivity for others, as reported by the practitioners of FinTechOrg.

The Spotify model and the revealed Heterogeneous Tailoring approach do not provide practices or guidelines for governing Agile architecture across autonomous squads. Thus, an embedded case study intervention was conducted to contribute to facilitating Agile architecture governance. In this intervention, a novel approach to architectural governance was developed and evaluated in FinTechOrg, which is considered the last contribution. This approach incorporates a structural change and an architecture change management process. The intervention lasted 3 months, during which 32 ceremonies were observed and 8 semi-structured open-ended interviews were conducted. The collected data was analysed using an approach informed by the Grounded Theory method.

Based on the results of the intervention, the Heterogeneous Tailoring approach was adapted to accommodate the novel approach to architectural governance. This adaptation has impacted the key features of the Heterogeneous Tailoring approach. Establishing autonomous squads was impacted by the introduced structural change. The alignment of autonomous squads was impacted by governing Agile architecture. Product development was impacted by the needs for planning architecture based user stories. Also, the adaptation of the Heterogeneous Tailoring approach revealed a new key feature, called Release Strategy, which is concerned with the continuous delivery of architecture enablers.


Salameh, A. A Heterogeneous Approach to Agile Tailoring. (Thesis). University of Salford

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 10, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 10, 2020
Award Date Aug 19, 2020


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