As we all are aware, a project includes an excessive amount of work. It is therefore essential to allocate the work between teams accurately to deliver the project on-time and within budget.
Scrum teams typically follow the two most common ways to organize themselves as:
- Feature Teams and
- Component Teams.
These two are completely different approaches to software delivery. Let’s have a look at them.
What are Component teams vs Feature teams?
A feature team is a cross-component, cross-functional, and a long-lived team that picks end-to-end customer features one by one from the product backlog and completes them. These teams play a crucial role in scaling up Agile development. An organization without a feature team structure is expected to create plenty of problems that lead to a sequential development cycle like Waterfall. This team structure fixes all these problems and also introduces some changes and challenges.
A component team is a single component and cross-functional team that focuses on developing one or more components that can be used to develop only a part of an end-customer feature. The components developed by the component team can be reused by other teams to create customer-valuable solutions.
Where is it used?
Feature teams have been around for a long time in developing large products, for instance, within compiler development (Microsoft) and telecom systems (Ericsson). Feature teams have gained more popularity with the introduction of Agile and especially Scrum because these teams focus more on shorter cycle times and end-customer requirements.
Component teams present traditional methods that most of the companies start with to develop the product successfully. This is because they believe that a particular team who can make effective changes to the specific area of code should own it to make the components more clearly.
Feature Teams vs Component Teams
The table below shows the major differences between feature teams and component teams.
|S.no||Feature Team||Component Team|
|1||A Modern way of organizing teams||A Traditional way of organizing teams|
|2||Responsible for the whole customer-centric feature||Responsible for only part of a customer-centric feature|
|3||Targets on multiple specializations||Targets on single specialization|
|4||Shared team responsibilities||Definite individual responsibilities|
|5||Focuses on system productivity||Focuses on increased individual productivity|
|6||Increases flexibility by reducing dependencies between teams||Dependencies between teams drive additional planning|
|7||Expert engineering practices are required||Works with poor engineering practices|
|8||Carries iterative development||Carries Waterfall development|
|9||Delivers maximum customer value||Delivers a maximum number of lines of code|
|10||Difficult to implement||Easy to implement|
To understand the differences between feature teams and component teams more clearly, let’s consider the following example:
- Feature: “A search feature needs to be developed for a website”
- Components: Front end code, back end code and a database
Now, let’s see how the teams are structured with respect to the component of systems.
When the above-demonstrated feature is given to the feature team, it would look like a user story in the feature team’s product backlog. And, the team would break the desired feature into three separate tasks as shown in the figure below.
The feature team holds complete responsibility for the feature to be done, which means that the team holds the knowledge of each and every component that forms the feature. This means that the team consists of a front end developer, back end developer, and a database specialist. So, the task will be done by one team since the team:
- Holds capability
- Has access and authority to make decisions of all the components that form the feature.
The process is as follows:
Let us assume that we have three different component teams, where each team holds a solid knowledge of a specific component. Therefore, we would have:
- The Front end developer team
- Back end developer team
- Database specialists team.
In such cases, we can’t expect one team to have all the skills required to complete the story. Every team needs to perform their tasks sequentially, doing which results in the working flow of the individual tasks as shown in the below figure.
The task has three handovers from one team to another before the product is shipped. A ‘Handover’ is nothing but simply giving the task to the next team. It can also include:
- Explaining things about the team’s component
- Asking queries regarding other components, or
- Asking for access to other components.
From the above example, we can conclude that the output of one team would appear as a ‘Feature’ to the other team that it needs to develop in case of component teams, which serves as a ‘Task’ to the feature team.
Should one choose Feature Teams or Component Teams?
Both have their own pros and cons and finally, the decision is yours. The points below might help you decide which one to choose.
Feature teams may work well for you if:
- You want to develop your lead time
- You prefer to work always on the most valuable items
- Your employees work full-stack
- You can’t design future component integrations confidently.
Instead, you might consider component teams if:
- You are satisfied with your lead time
- You can plan a balanced workload
- Your employees can’t work full-stack
- You can design future component integrations confidently.
Most of the organizations are making transitions from component teams to feature teams because they believe that feature teamwork brings measurable benefits to their clients and creates a promising environment for IT experts.
Benefits of transition to Feature Teams
- Scaling up Agile development
- Reduced waste of handoffs
- Better code quality
- Highly effective communication
- End-to-end delivery of customer features
- Increased learning
- Balanced workloads
- Higher motivation
- Simplified planning
- Accelerated time-to-market.
Challenges involved in Feature Teams
- Change resistance
- Difficulty in acquiring skills
- Maintenance services
- Long learning curve
- Non-engineering functions
- Common tools and practices
- Organizational structure.
There is no standard solution to the debate on the one to choose between Feature teams and Component teams’. The most successful and largest Scrum organizations prefer to have a blended model composed mostly of Feature Teams and Component Teams occasionally when there is an advantage of having the component team as a centralized resource. Simultaneously, many organizations tend to have the opposite, occasional feature teams and mostly component teams. These organizations are often found to pay a fatal price in the form of delays resulting from a frequently disrupted flow.