Primary roles on agile delivery teams are expected to be fully dedicated to the one project or product that they are supporting.
Depending on the scope and context of a project, certain specialized roles such as database administrators might support delivery activities during specific iterations, the core analysts, developers, designers and testers need to focus on that one project or product to avoid incurring the velocity and quality-impacting fruits of multitasking.
Easier said than done.
Project portfolio management excellence is realized not just by prioritizing funding to just those projects which we can afford within a given time period but by ensuring that the concurrent number of projects matches available resource capacity.
Through the economic vicissitudes of the past decade, organizations have got better at ensuring their portfolio spend fits enterprise budgets for project work, but most companies still haven’t solved the problem of how many projects should they have active at any given time.
Managers wish to ensure that their team members are being fully utilized to avoid attracting the attention of zealous cost cutters. Waterfall or traditional delivery encourages unproductive multitasking by forcing managers to have to allocate their staff to multiple concurrent projects so that their utilization will not be challenged.
Total utilization does not result in total productivity.
The greater the number of distinct initiatives someone works on, the greater the percentage of context-switching waste and quality impacts which will arise.
So when the organization embraces agile delivery, if there is no corresponding balancing of the number of concurrent projects to available capacity, the impacts of multitasking will become apparent very quickly.
This can be challenging for organizations that are commencing the transformation of their delivery approaches. For some period of time, potentially very long, there will be teams delivering in a traditional manner and others delivering in an agile manner. Calculating effective concurrent project throughput in a hybrid state can be mind-numbing but this effort is necessary if the organization wishes to reap the full benefits of the transformation.
We have to learn to cut our coats according to our cloth (and not just how much we can afford to spend)!