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Agile Development the Squads Way
10 agile principles we apply to deliver maximum customer value every weekly sprint
@squadshq | www.squads.com
• Challenges in Software Development 3
• Agile Development 4
• Agile Manifesto 5
• Beneﬁts of Agile 6
• Agile at Squads 7
1 Stable Teams 8
2 KanBan Boards 9
3 Pair Programming 10
4 Weekly Sprints 11
5 Remote Work 12
6 Real-time Communication 13
7 Retrospectives 14
8 Performance Ratings 15
9 Guns, Guardians & Guilds 16
10 Lean Startup 17
Challenges in Software Development
Designing and developing new software products is
challenging. The business context is extremely
dynamic, making it hard to plan ahead.
New products need to be adaptable and nimble.
This renders the traditional waterfall model for product
development practically obsolete. Approaches like
agile development, extreme programming and lean
startup help innovators remain ﬂexible and customer-
focused. At Squads we specialize in designing and
developing innovative digital products.
To do this successfully, we rely on a mix of approaches
which we’ll discuss in this short guide.
Agile refers to a ﬂexible approach to developing
new products & services in a highly uncertain
context. It’s all about quickly building a basic
version of the product and then improving it in
multiple iterations. The product is reﬁned based
on user feedback. The work is broken down into
‘sprints’ (1 to 4 weeks). A new version of the
product is delivered at the end of every sprint.
There is a wide range of approaches available
that vary strongly in how strict and
comprehensive they are. The guiding principles
for all of these approaches are written down in
the Agile Manifesto, which was written by a
group of software developers back in 2001.
The Agile Manifesto consists of four core values and twelve principles. These principles have proven
very useful for software development:
1. Satisfy customers through early and continuous delivery of valuable software
2. Welcome changing requirements, even in late development
3. Deliver working software frequently
4. Business people and developers work together daily
5. Build projects around motivated individuals
6. Convey information via face-to-face conversation
7. Working software is the primary measure of progress
8. Maintain a constant pace indeﬁnitely
9. Give continuous attention to technical excellence
10. Simplify: maximizing the amount of work not done
11. Teams self-organize
12. Teams retrospect and tune behavior
Beneﬁts of Agile
A good amount of research has been done into the beneﬁts of Agile over traditional product development
methods. Most research concludes that there are four core beneﬁts of the Agile approach:
Agile projects see a 20-50% increase in productivity. More projects are delivered on time and within
budget. This results in a huge cost reduction overall.
Project teams and initiative owners are happier with the project. They report better collaboration and
communication. Project visibility & transparency improve as well.
The software produced is better. 30-50% less product defects are reported and products are easier to
maintain. This leads to an increase in customer satisfaction and signiﬁcant risk reduction.
Product delivery cycles are reduced and delivery frequency increased by 20-50%. Projects are more
responsive to changes in market and customer demands.
Agile at Squads
At Squads, we embraced Agile in everything
we do. Our platform and community of 45+
development teams is built on Agile
principles. We had a good look at Spotify
and how they scaled Agile with their tribes of
multiple Squads. But we have given it a slight
twist for it to work in our context and for our
clients. This results in a unique development
approach for digital products.
Check it out on Squads.com
Read on to ﬁnd out more about our way of
Building a high-performance team is
a challenge. It costs 4-6 months to get
a team through the stages forming-
norming-storming to performing. Most
organizations create a team for each
project. At Squads, we like to work with
stable, high-performance teams and feed
them projects. They can run 2-3 in parallel
and remain hyper-productive. Research
has shown that working with stable teams
increases productivity and customer
satisfaction by 60%.
The approach has worked for us and we
hear the same from our customers.
Work planning and management
needs to be simple, yet clear. KanBan
boards are great for this purpose and a
crucial part of our agile toolset. We love
them at Squads, especially when they
are available online. We like to work
with tools like Trello to keep things
going. These tools foster (remote)
cooperation between our teams and
the product owner on the client side.
All team members can pick-up and
track their tasks online. Everyone can
It’s a great way to build things together!
At Squads, we embrace pair programming. This is
an agile software development technique where
two developers collaborate on one screen.
In traditional cases they sit behind one physical
screen. At Squads, we do pair programming
online. We use video chat & screen sharing.
One developer, aka the driver, shares the screen
whilst writing code and ‘working out loud’ -
which basically means he’s explaining his/her
thinking. The other, the observer, reviews the
code as it is typed and gives feedback. These roles
switch during the process. We strongly believe in
the power of pairing. Not only for writing better
code, but also to stimulate critical reasoning and
learning in teams.
Agile is all about developing in sprints.
At Squads, we typically do weekly sprints.
We cut out most of the overhead to make
this possible. Of course we do a call for sprint
planning, but we don’t do the daily scrum.
Team members can continuously
communicate through our online channels.
Work completed and pending tasks can be
tracked on Trello and via our Slack rooms,
which we keep per project. We present the
results to the customer in a weekly demo
(sprint review) and we host retrospectives as
a team to evaluate the way we work in general
and in speciﬁc projects.
Squads teams work remotely 95% of the
time. We hate losing time commuting and
are not convinced that ofﬁces and meetings
work well for software development.
Yet, one agile principle is: convey information
via face-to-face conversation. We do so, but in
an online setting. We use video conferencing
tools like Skype, Hangouts and Zoom.
With good equipment this works really well.
It’s still great to meet in person every now
and then. That’s why we have a bi-yearly
get-together. The digital nomads in our
community meet in person as they travel
around the world too.
When working remotely, communication
tools are critical. Our Slack platform is
At the heart of everything we do.
It’s where we have our project rooms, team
rooms, guild rooms and private chats.
The heartbeat of the Squads community
is visible and transparent for everyone.
We have connections to Squads.com here
and project owners can check all the
Github software commits. Besides a-
synchronous communication, we have
synchronous communication via tools like
Skype and Hangouts. We are in sync 24*7
with the community of team members,
customers and even company fans.
Retrospectives are done at team level.
So not per project, just per team.
Members get together to evaluate their
performance across projects. The
retrospectives are normally a group video
call with a shared notepad. One person is
facilitating the meeting. These meetings
are always structured around three
questions: what went well? What can be
improved? What actions should we take?
Every improvement task gets an owner
responsible for picking it up. This way,
teams reﬂect on and tune their behavior.
Swarm IT team retrospective with team members from 5 different
countries working together on client projects via Squads.com
At Squads, every team is rated by clients based
on their deliveries each sprint. Performance is
rated according to the following criteria:
predictability, transparency and sprint results.
Performance ratings are visible for all clients on
the platform. This puts the pressure on teams
to deliver value in every sprint. It also ensures
that teams are actively managing team health.
Non-performing members are a threat to
the overall rating. That is why teams are invite-
only. It’s great that one of the agile principles:
‘teams self-organize’ really works well within
Guns, Guardians & Guilds
The model of squads and tribes works really well
even at scale. Spotify is probably the most well
known case to prove this. But at Squads, teams
don’t work on a single Project. They work for multiple
clients. So we introduced some add-ons:
• Hired Guns: are people with a speciﬁc
skill not represented in a team. Teams can
decide to pull in a hired gun for projects.
We have hired guns for design, testing and
• Guardians: our customers want to have one point
of contact in teams. That’s why we work with guardians - a team member that is responsible for
• Guilds: we took the guild idea from Spotify and built it into our community. Everyone can join
guilds to share knowledge about front-end, UX/UI and growth hacking for instance.
Besides agile, we love lean startup.
We think it’s a great ﬁt for the work we
do. Together with clients, we aim to
go through build, measure, and learn
loops as fast and intensively as possible.
By delivering working software in weekly
sprints, we can learn quickly.
This prevents customers from building
stuff that doesn’t work. It helps them
get to a minimum viable product (MVP)
as soon as possible. And it reduces the
amount time spent on features that are
not valued by users. All of our teams are ﬂuent in Lean Startup and what this means for software
development. That’s how we deliver the best value for money.
Get in touch!
B E R L I N – L O N D O N - N E W Y O R K - S A N F R A N C I S C O