Around 70 developers from PROSTEP and sub-suppliers have been working for several years in a number of small teams at Daimler on maintaining and further developing Daimler's central PDM system. The tasks they perform also include developing innovative new PLM functions, creating a completely new, state-of-the-art PDM architecture and migrating existing functionality to the new architecture.
In the past, development was carried out within the framework of multiple smaller and larger projects, and the team structure was more technically oriented. Developers often worked on several projects in parallel, which led to resource conflicts and made it difficult to perform forward-looking resource planning. In addition, specialist knowledge was often concentrated in a small number of people, which led to bottlenecks and a considerable risk of losing know-how.
Most of the projects were organized differently when it came to working methods, collaboration with customers, billing models, release cycles, infrastructure, etc. Some teams maintained very close contact with the customer, with no close internal coordination, others used Scrum and worked with the customer's product owners, and still others worked to a large extent independently. Billing was based on either time and materials or on an agile fixed price. Story points were defined differently for the different commissions, which resulted in different criteria being used for estimates and for billing. These different working models significantly increased the time and effort required for coordination and meant that developers had to adapt to new circumstances every time they took on a new task. Ultimately, they prevented synergies from being exploited and made it difficult to respond to new challenges in a flexible manner.
Agile project based on SAFe
We launched the "PDM goes SAFe" initiative together with Daimler with the aim of simplifying and standardizing development activities in the field of PDM development. Instead of multiple projects with different billing and process models, the objective was to have a single agile project that used as uniform an approach as possible. This new project is based on the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). SAFe is the leading scaling framework and is used, among other things, to coordinate the work being performed by multiple Scrum teams.
We started off with eight cross-functional teams. However, it soon became apparent that the consistent use of cross-functional teams led to the creation of too many interfaces between the teams. This is why we have in the meantime switched to feature teams, which, unlike fully cross-functional teams, combine within the team the skills needed to implement specific features. A cross-team alignment meeting is used to coordinate the teams. Each team sends one or more delegates to this meeting. The delegates present the concerns of their team and coordinate them with the other delegates.
We have introduced so-called “communities of practice” to promote the transfer of knowledge between the teams. Communities of practice are interest groups in which people with common interests can exchange information on experience already gained and seek advice. Because knowledge transfer is essential, it is promoted within the framework of the project by providing a budget reserved specifically for this purpose.
A large number of developers and product owners needed training to learn how to use the new agile model. Although some of them had previous experience with Scrum, SAFe was entirely new to everyone.