Context diagram

Context diagram2017-10-12T22:05:27+00:00

Agile is a lightweight delivery methodology. Most organisations, unfortunately, aren’t very lightweight.

In fact they include many groups who may be stakeholders in your work. That is, they will be affected by your work, or they can help (or hinder) you to do it. A Context Diagram is a chart of those groups, and an invaluable tool for managing relationships. If you work in a small, simple organisation, you probably don’t need a Context Diagram – just a list of useful email addresses and phone numbers. Anywhere else, you probably should create one.

What is a Context Diagram?

The purpose of a Context Diagram (also called Level 0 diagram) is to lay out the interfaces between your Agile team (the Core Team, to be precise) and the Extended Team. That is, it maps out the relationships between your Agile team and the rest of your organisation. It tells you which parts of the wider organisation you need to be aware of (and why), and where you should be trying to identify stakeholders.

A Context Diagram shows the parts of the organisation as a whole. (These ‘parts’ may be organisational units, key systems, shared functions, or anything else on which your team rely.)

More precisely, your Context Diagram may need to show:

  • The parts of your organisation that lie ‘above’ your team.
    • E.g., the executive teams to which your Agile team ultimately report.
  • The before-and-after management systems.
    • If you are a developer, there is probably a portfolio management system or pipeline from which you obtain your work, where epics, features and perhaps even stories are defined.
      • The interface between these areas and your team should be defined in the Context Diagram.
    • Similarly, your Context Diagram should show how completed solutions are handed over to the operational area.
      • Again, this interface should be visible on the context diagram.
  • Any child or support systems and functions.

What does a Context Diagram look like?

The following is a generic Context Diagram. A real Context Diagram begins with something like this model and populates it with the details needed to manage your relationships with each area.

Context Diagram

The key thing about this diagram is that it shows the types of relationship that may possibly affect your work:

  • Who, ultimately, runs the organisation (Corporate).
  • Who, ultimately, you are working for (Business).
  • Who defines the overall approach to work (Strategy).
  • The high-level content of your work (Portfolio).
  • Who helps you with your work (Support).
  • Who you hand your working software over to (Operations).

Most Agile teams are somewhere in the Release box in the middle. Increasingly Agile is being adopted in other areas, however, so you’ll have to find yourself in this diagram.

How to create a Context Diagram

For details of how to create a Context Diagram, click here.

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