How to get away from the in-house suppliers in the project?

Submitted by Yuliya Mijuk on 03/27/2014

"I have no Scrum team yet, but I would like to introduce Scrum on a project I’m currently working on. In our company usually a project has a core team of about 5 people and additionally there are up to 20 so called delegates or suppliers, who fulfill some of the tasks during the project. The competencies are therefore distributed over a very large number of people and the Scrum team would therefore be huge. Working with several Scrum teams would not make sense either, since many of the delegates serve as suppliers on a large number of projects simultaneously. To meet the demand of Scrum that cross-functional teams should have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others not part of the team, one would have to enable the so-called core to trust themselves more respectively to produce more independently and to use the suppliers less. However, this means a mindset change in the core on the one side and immediate political discussions on the other side, as the suppliers often belong to the in-house service centers, which are responsible for a certain production area and don’t want that anything is produced without them.

Therefore, the whole thing is very complex. I see one possible solution in encouraging the core team to produce more themselves (not using the help of the delegates) and at the same time to use the external suppliers, but so that the quality control of outsourced work remains the responsibility of the Scrum team. It means that the Scrum team would not possess all the necessary competencies from the very beginning but would temporarily buy those special skills it lacks."

Kanban (alone or in combination with Scrum) could possibly help you in your current project preparation to bring the project team and the delegates under one roof and to provide a good overview of all the projects and operations: https://www.infoq.com/minibooks/kanban-scrum-minibook

The way you have described is a way for a bottom-up implementation of Scrum. You can start with the core team and together with the team define, how they want to involve the external representatives or in-house suppliers in the first Sprint. After the 1st Sprint they will need a retrospective to discuss, whether they want to work the same way further or want to change something. I would recommend you to talk to the Scrum team before the Planning meeting and let the team decide which external competencies are needed in the first Sprint. The people with these competencies should become provisional team members who work ...% on the Sprint. All Scrum meetings (Planning I and II, Daily Scrum, Review, Retrospective, Backlog Refinement Meeting) should be carried out by the whole team (core + provisional team members).

Speaking of complexity and political discussions: Scrum does not solve the problems in the organisation, it only points the problems out. Scrum can not be used isolated in a team so that the rest of the organisation is not involved, so sooner or later you will unfortunately have to face some unpleasant political discussions in the future...

Here is a link to an earier blog entry which somehow fits the topic „In-House Suppliers“ and might interest you.

Yuliya Mijuk

About the author

Yuliya Mijuk

Yuliya’s professional life started with Scrum. She is a Certified Scrum Professional and received her certification as ScrumMasters in 2006. She studied Computational Linguistics at the LMU in Munich. After the graduation in 2004 she came to WEB.DE where the transition to Scrum was taking place. Later on Yuliya worked as a ScrumMaster and Scrum Coach at SPRiNT iT and billiger.de (solute GmbH).

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