Communities of practice help with the development of a new organisational structure

The product development organisation for Ericsson Finland went through a vast change process, forming a new structure for the organisation. The first research results on the topic have now been published.

Christian Engblom from Ericsson states that when a big organisation gives up the traditional project structure and moves to working in small agile teams, a structure is needed in the background to ensure that the cooperation works in a large organisation.

“No team can be responsible for the whole on their own, but a structure must always be created to support technical decision-making and to ensure compatibility and synchronisation. Ericsson has hundreds of teams and several products. Many teams work on the same feature,” Engblom explains.

Engblom says that the Scrum theory offers Scrum of Scrum as a solution to coordinating several teams.

“However, this was not sufficient, so we started using a practice where Scrum of Scrum and the Communities of Practice (CoPs) meet. We still refer to these communities as CoPs. They are formed around products as well as practices, and all decisions related to the product or practice are made together,” Engblom states.

 He says that, in addition, CoPs were used for traditional tasks at Ericsson. These include sharing information, supporting learning and solving problems.

There is little research literature available regarding scaling agile methods for large organisations and using CoPs in software development companies.

The Software Process Research Group (SPRG) lead by Casper Lassenius at Aalto University examined the role of CoPs in supporting the structural change of Ericsson’s product development organisation, and he also published an article on the topic. According to Project Manager Maria Paasivaara, the group continues their pioneering research, and its particular focus is on how the CoPs can support the organisations’ move towards using continuous deliveries.

The Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a certain skill or professional expertise. The topic of the Community of Practice may be the common interest of its members, or it can be created in order to process a certain topic. The basic task of the Community of Practice is sharing competence and responsibility.

Further information:

Article: Communities of practice in a large distributed agile software development organization – Case Ericsson: