From Souq to Agile Marketplace: 5 tips

I – Saloua – remember being a child and joining my mother to the market place – souq – in Rabat, Morocco. Holding her hand tightly, I can still hear, smell and feel the buzzing of that central square at sunset. The noise – mostly actual shouting – of the the bargaining, the striking smell from the spices and the bright colors of the many stands. Such a special sensory experience and such a dear childhood memory to me!

So you can imagine the smile on my face when I heard the term “market place” being introduced within my company! This market place is meant as enabler for our agile way of working. Yes, completely different than the marketplace at Rabat, but it’s still creating a new sort of positive memory every week 😉 . At the market place product owners of squads with a common purpose and a high level of collaboration or dependency meet each other. Here they share information about their backlogs. At the market place epics and stories are prioritized across squads. In case of conflict, the tribe lead can decide on priority, taking into account the tribes purpose. We started market places within my company to provide a platform for the PO’s and the tribe lead to make the right priority calls on epics across the tribe. Not for the glory of a squad but for the greater good of the tribe.

I have been experiencing the market place for the last few months and will share my leanings, joys and tears in a series of posts. This is the first one! Let’s then start at the beginning, what does one needs to setup a market place?

How to set up a market place: 5 tips

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  1. Shared purpose. For a market place to make any sense and have any added value, you need squads that work toward the same purpose and need each other to get there. That way there’s something to bargain. When there’s no shared purpose or no dependency, a market place is a nice opportunity to meet new people but nothing more than that (and you can do that better in a bar…).
  2. A value calculation method. A common way to identify the value of the epics across the squads. This enables you to decide on what goes first (prioritize). Otherwise you’ll end up in a never ending cycle of PO’s claiming their epic to be most essential for world peace (recognizable? 🙂 ) Prioritizing is a crucial aspect of the agile model that deserves a dedicated post which will follow shortly!
  3. Clearly defined priorities. Resulting from the value calculation is a clear set of priorities for the market place. Based on these priorities, decisions are made. For example when you have scarce UX capacity and all your squads need it, the epic which is the lowest in the priority list needs to take the hit (delay, stop, you name it) for the better of the market place purpose.
  4. Wall to make it all real. It always helps to make things tangible. We use a big beautiful white board with a colorful legend. Ours is 8 meters by 5! We use the blue strings to indicate dependencies between epics and squads. Go creative, go wild!
  5. Stakeholder involvement! A list of stakeholders that have a say on the epics you handle in the market place. This enables you to keep them involved and informed. Involve your stakeholders in the process, it will help all parties involved as it creates awareness and understanding and keeps them from forming a secret league against you 🙂

Whether it’s bargaining for a colorful rug or identifying priority for a new epic for my squad. The colors of the spices stands or the bright post-its on our wall. I always enjoy being at the market place! It must be in my genes 🙂

Want to know more about my market place experience? How to identify and quatify value in a market place? How to setup a market place across more than 20 squads? How to manage dependencies across a market place? Stay tuned!

Cheers, Saloua

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4 thoughts on “From Souq to Agile Marketplace: 5 tips

  1. Hi, Saloua, nice the way you described the experiences around the marketplace. As a product owner and also as product owners together we agreed in our part of the organization to prioritize on strategic level once in 2 or 3 months. This also to hold focus for the squads on their delivery process. This beside the more frequently prioritization during the marketplaces itself.

    1. Gio,

      Thanks for the feedback. Can you maybe excplain me and our readers what is meant by prioritising on strategic level and how it compares to the one at the market place?

      Thanks
      Saloua

      1. Hi, with this prioritization on higher level once in the 2-3 months we try to optimize the agile goal of realizing/finishing epics and changing focus if necessary or valuable. We learned that it is suboptimal to have this discussion every 2 weeks because changing focus every 2 weeks makes the squads mad. But it is definitely useful to re-check. With this this high level prioritization the squads can prioritize their own epics and features.
        Regards. Gio

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