How to Handle Part-time Team Members in a Scrum Team
Agile frameworks have come across as the go-to guide to designing and carrying out projects to meet project planning goals and exceed customer expectations. This is both with reference to structuring the required work into an optimized work flow as well as selecting the appropriate team for the project.
However, there may be scenarios when exceptions need to be made due to project requirements or unforeseen scenarios. Scrum helps design the project work flow beforehand and for each stage the team members are predefined for the relevant assignments. However, there may be times when part-time team members are required and accommodated into the team.
Part-time employment has been seen on the rise in the past few years. According to research, approximately one-third (31.4 %) of women aged 20-64 in the EU worked part-time. This is much higher than that for men in the same region (8.2 %).
According to James Hobson, there can be many reasons why some projects are not able to have a full-time scrum team. In such a case, the options include either using another framework altogether, redesigning the project to accommodate a full-time team or using partially allocated resources.
The option of reshaping an entire project is least feasible in most cases. The recruitment of part-time team members may be due to specialist skills that may not be required full-time on a project e.g. security specialists or systems administrators.
Another reason might be that the resources are not available full-time due to their own reasons. In any case, these can be treated as part-time members or as an external resource the project uses.
Here are a few tips from the experts to better deal with part-time resources in a scrum team in order to maximize their input and value to the project in its entirety.
1. Compare Part-time vs Full-time work value
According to research, there is a 40% of productivity loss by task switching. If a part-time resource is supposed to switch tasks, this should be considered.
Nicole Chaves is a Full stack software engineer. She recommends calculating the Focus Factor for full-time team members and part-time team members separately. This is because of reduced efficiency from splitting projects.
She recommends using her project focus factor of 50% and multiplying it by a personal allocation of 50% for 25%, or 2.5 days projected velocity. However, this highly depends on how well you know in advance the time a shared resource will spend on each project.
2. Combine work into one Backlog
Ian Mitchell is a Chief Scientist at proAgile Ltd. Agile transformation and has had extensive experience in Agile through the roles of Scrum Master and Agile Coach. Mitchell recommends combining the work into one backlog for team members that are divided across the same projects.
This can be implemented in areas such as maintenance and support, where a single team does not have to be dedicated to one application area. By combining part-time work into one backlog can help focus on the progress and ensure that completion of other backlogs do not get affected.
3. Ensure transparency
According to Mitchell, in case the team members are more dispersed as in some team members are part-time and work on miscellaneous projects, the process should be made transparent with all the problems highlighted and process defined.
This is because, with non-devoted resources, the allocation is usually based on requirement and not definite across a time period. This creates inconsistency and it is difficult to track their efforts and assess the budget.
Tim Brizard is a Senior Software Engineer, Software Architect, and Scrum Master with over 20 years of experience. Brizard recommends using burndown charts to be honest and transparent about the team performance in a given Sprint. A burndown chart reflects how the team or team member is performing. Some teams also use a burnup chart for the same purpose.
4. Allot days instead of hours
Allocating and calculating work hours can be difficult and ineffective. A team member can only build up so much momentum for a given time period before switching on to other tasks. For effective team management it is important to set SMART goals, however the estimated time for for each task needs to be achievable.
Esther Derby is the president of Esther Derby, Inc., and has co-authored 2 books on Agile. According to Derby, it is more effective to define a day or two of a week for the part-time members to work with the team than to have the resources spend an hour here and an hour there.
This can be achieved by more clarity and coordination from the full-time team. However, in the long run, this proves to make better use of everyone’s time in the long run.
Have you worked as a part-team scrum team member or have worked with part-time resources? Share your story and give us your recommendations in the comments below.