Managing the requirements flow from strategy to release in large-scale agile development: a case study at Ericsson

In a large organization, informal communication and simple backlogs are not sufficient for the management of requirements and development work. Many large organizations are struggling to successfully adopt agile methods, but there is still little scientific knowledge on requirements management in large-scale agile development organizations. We present an in-depth study of an Ericsson telecommunications node development organization which employs a large scale agile method to develop telecommunications system software. We describe how the requirements flow from strategy to release, and related benefits and problems. Data was collected by 43 interviews, which were analyzed qualitatively. The requirements management was done in three different processes, each of which had a different process model, purpose and planning horizon. The release project management process was plan-driven, feature development process was continuous and implementation management process was agile. The perceived benefits included reduced development lead time, increased flexibility, increased planning efficiency, increased developer motivation and improved communication effectiveness. The recognized problems included difficulties in balancing planning effort, overcommitment, insufficient understanding of the development team autonomy, defining the product owner role, balancing team specialization, organizing system-level work and growing technical debt. The study indicates that agile development methods can be successfully employed in organizations where the higher level planning processes are not agile. Combining agile methods with a flexible feature development process can bring many benefits, but large-scale software development seems to require specialist roles and significant coordination effort.

Ville T. Heikkilä, Maria Paasivaara, Casper Lasssenius (Aalto University), Daniela Damian, Christian Engblom (Ericsson Finland): Managing the requirements flow from strategy to release in large-scale agile development: a case study at Ericsson