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May 13, 2021

Get Started with Team Topologies in 8 Steps

By IT Revolution

Every organization begins their Team Topologies journey from a different place. While there are myriad ways to apply the practices and principles in Team Topologies, it can be useful to have a simple guide you or your managers can refer to as you begin mapping out your transformation.

The authors of Team Topologies have created one possible path below, allowing you to easily share and communicate the process with members of your team and the wider company. 

(Also, if you haven’t read the book yet, check out the Team Topologies in a Nutshell infographic here.)

1) Identify What Kind of Teams You Currently Have 

Map your teams to common industry types and identify which team types to avoid or change.

2) Fit Technology Teams to the Fundamental Team Types

  • Stream-aligned team: a team aligned to a single, valuable stream of work. This might be a single product or service, a single set of features, a single user journey, or a single user persona.
  • Enabling team: a team composed of specialists in a given technical (or product) domain. They help bridge the capability gap and cross-cut the stream-aligned team. 
  • Complicated-subsystem team: a team responsible for build and maintaining a part of the system that depends heavily on specialist knowledge, to the extent that most team members must be specialists in that area of knowledge in order to understand and make changes in the subsystem.
  • Platform team: a team responsible for enabling stream-aligned teams to delivery work with substantial autonomy by providing internal services to reduce the cognitive load that would be required from stream-aligned teams to develop these underlying services.

3) Limit the Cognitive Load for Each Team

To limit a teams cognitive load, first keep the team stable or engender a high trust culture. Then align the team to one or more areas on an ongoing basis. Limit the size of the subsystem the team works on. Provide an underlying platform for the team to build upon. And finally, break apart monoliths using natural fracture planes (see Team Topologies book for more on fracture planes).

4) Use the Reverse Conway Maneuver

Use the reverse Conway maneuver to drive software systems that align to the flow of business change pressure. Produce software systems architectures that are sustainable by the organization. Constrain (and align) the search space for technical solutions.

5) Identify As-Is and To-Be Team Interaction Modes

There are three essential team interaction modes in which teams can and should interact, taking into account team-first dynamics and Conway’s Law.

  • Collaboration: in this interaction mode teams work closely together.
  • X-as-a-Service: in this interaction mode teams consume or provide something to other teams with minimum collaboration, acting similar to third-party vendors.
  • Facilitating: finally, in the facilitating interaction mode team help or are being help by another team to clear away impediments.

6) Explicitly Guide (and Limit) Inter-Team Collaboration To…

  • Drive rapid discovery and learning at points of technological, organizational, or situational learning
  • Inform and guide the development of internal platforms of complicated subsystem components

7) Evolve Team Structures Explicitly Over Time

When using Team Topologies, it is important to remember that the work is never done. You should continue to evaluate and evolve your team structures as you adopt new technology, improve ways of working, and to avoid certain architectures.

8) Use Team Interactions for Organizational Sensing

Finally, use cybernetic control principles to course-correct early and often. And use front-line IT support as a high-skill activity that provides rapid course correction.

Now that you have your starter plan, use this handy infographic to outline and get buy-in from your teammates and managers.




Getting started with Team Topologies – v1 by Richard Allen
- About The Authors
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IT Revolution

Trusted by technology leaders worldwide. Since publishing The Phoenix Project in 2013, and launching DevOps Enterprise Summit in 2014, we’ve been assembling guidance from industry experts and top practitioners.

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