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Agile Teams vs. Squads: What's the Best Approach for Your Next Project?

Software development has become a complex process involving many moving parts. As technology projects grow larger and more complex, engineers need to work together across multiple disciplines and locations.

Distributed software development requires effective communication and collaboration tools to keep everyone informed and aligned. In this case, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to manage software projects effectively. When it comes to proven and well-established ones – nothing is more firmly rooted in software product development than the Agile methodology that "preaches" a Team as the key driver of project success.

In Agile, the key is to build a strong team culture. The way the software development team works together will determine project success. In fact, the Agile Manifesto talks about the importance of teamwork several times. It also reaffirms the value of highly motivated, self-organizing teams that continuously communicate and continuously strive to improve. 
On the other hand, a Spotify Squad model is gaining a lot of traction nowadays as a highly effective way of scaling Agile teams and as an alternative to organising and managing them.

So, what’s the best approach for your next software development project? Agile Teams or Squads? 

Before we dive into the key differences, let’s define them.


What is an Agile Software Team?

An Agile team is a cross-functional group of people that have everything they need to create a working, well-tested product.

Agile teams are usually co-located and are often fully dedicated to a project during its duration, with no commitment to other projects.

The team is typically cross-functional, and the roles will vary depending on project needs and the type of Agile framework chosen.

For example, when using Scrum, an Agile team should have a Scrum Master, Product Owner, and other required team members (e.g., front-end developers, back-end developers, UX/UI designers, testers and QA engineers, etc.). The Scrum Master (can be a team lead or project manager) oversees the project, facilitates collaboration, and organizes daily meetings. The product owner ensures that the final product meets customer requirements. Domain experts and other stakeholders can contribute to the project as needed, but they are not usually considered part of the Agile team.

Each team member contributes their unique skill set to the success of the project and is held accountable for their work. 

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Agile Teams?

Agile teams offer many advantages. They allow for:

  • greater collaboration between members,
  • better communication,
  • increased productivity, and
  • improved morale.


There are some disadvantages, but the primary drawback is scaling. Software teams may not always scale well, especially if the size of the team grows beyond 15-20 members. Whenever this happens, efficiently managing the software development project can quickly become challenging.

However, some teams have also run into issues when using Agile. These Agile flaws can derail a project and jeopardize its success, so it’s important to recognize and address them before they get worse.

Some of the disadvantages are:

  • Lack of documentation


Agile teams aggregate large amounts of data into small user stories that don’t contain a lot of detail. This can make it difficult for the developer to understand the exact customer requirements. Without a well-documented plan or formal process, team members can easily get confused as they go through project stages.

  • Scope creep


Customer needs are constantly changing, which inevitably leads to the project scope expansion. Deliverables increase rapidly, and new features are often added to the workload. Some requirements may need to be completely rewritten or replaced with updated ones. Teams can get overwhelmed and lose control of these requirements, not knowing which ones to prioritize.

agile team
How Agile Team Works

What are Agile Squads?

In contrast to software teams, software squads are smaller groups of people who are responsible for specific tasks. Created by the streaming giant Spotify, squads are similar to cross-functional teams but operate independently.

Squad members are assigned tasks and report directly to the squad leader. The squad leader plays the role of an Agile coach or anchor developer for the squad. These squads usually have three or four development pairs engaging in “pair programming.”

what is squad in software development
How Squads Are Organized

What is the Spotify Model?

Spotify is a popular music streaming platform that allows users to listen to millions of songs online. To build their business, Spotify created a new organizational structure called the Spotify model.

This new organizational structure was designed to solve the problem of having hundreds of employees working on a single project. First introduced in a white paper a decade ago, the Spotify Model was the first to introduce squads into the software development environment.

The Spotify model uses four fundamental principles:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Focus
  3. Accountability
  4. Transparency



In autonomous software development teams, each individual has complete freedom to choose their own path. They can use whatever software development methodology or framework they are most comfortable using to get the job done.


In the Spotify model, focus ensures that all members are accountable for a common purpose. For example, complete the overall software development project.


From a macro “focus,” we can narrow it down to personal accountability. Each member of the squad will know precisely what they should do.


Transparency ensures that everything is shared among all members.

We have an available Java Squad for your project!

What Are the Advantages of Using Agile Squads?

Like Agile teams, squads have many advantages. However, the main advantage is that they can quickly respond to changing requirements. 

Other advantages include:

Faster product development and predictable project velocity

Time is one of the most common risks in product development. As products evolve and new challenges arise, teams that are not flexible and adaptable struggle to meet deadlines. Since squads plan together according to their capabilities, share knowledge and communicate frequently, they can remain flexible and adaptable. Thanks to this, they can minimize downtime, quickly overcome difficulties and offer a predictable speed of project implementation.

Squads enable waste reduction and downtime minimization. Each squad member participates in sprint planning, so each person is assigned specific tasks that collectively match the squad’s capabilities. Because squads typically use rolling-wave planning, they can quickly adapt and change to meet changing project requirements. This allows us to avoid typical downtime issues such as waiting, underutilized staff, and over-processing.


Co-location offers several benefits that are often underestimated. It helps 

  • optimize development time, as teams can discuss problems face-to-face and find solutions faster; 
  • reduce unnecessary traffic and travel time; 
  • facilitate knowledge transfer.


Besides this, squads that share the same workspace can learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses and get to know each other better, which helps them develop trust and become more effective as a collective.

Autonomy and alignment

At, each of our squads works towards common goals in the product development process— for example, implementing a certain feature by a certain due date.

Squads are autonomous in  deciding how they are going to achieve their goals within the overall product strategy. While the product owner creates user stories according to the product’s goals, squads determine the best way to accomplish them. We’ve found that this practice makes our squads more efficient and creative, which ultimately leads to better products.

We’ve found that this practice makes our squads more efficient and creative, which ultimately leads to better products.

Risk mitigation

Project teams typically face two major challenges in product development: knowledge and personnel risks.

The former is the result of poor communication and collaboration, leading to a knowledge gap where each person has the knowledge to do their part but does not know what the other members are responsible for. The latter is the risk associated with project team members. For example, if someone is fired or has an emergency and needs time off, there’s no one to replace them.

Squad-based development helps reduce and mitigate these risks by encouraging cross-functional teams able to have a 360-degree view of the project. The easy knowledge transfer within squads allows them to adapt quickly if a staffing problem arises without starting from scratch.

Wrapping up, Agile Squads provide the following benefits:

  • Allow flexibility and collaboration.
  • Eliminate bottlenecks and ensure you solve the most pressing problems first.
  • Develop in-depth functional knowledge.
  • Encourage efficiency and responsibility.
  • Enable faster integration of user and market feedback.
  • Create unparalleled experiences for team members.

What Are the Disadvantages of Using Squads?

Like anything in life, software squads also come with some disadvantages. The main one is that they are challenging to manage since they lack a central point of control. 

Other disadvantages include:

  • Additional frameworks are needed for effective management, such as OKR or KPIs, as well as Scrum or Kanban,
  • As Squads require a completely different approach to work, recruitment and management practices should reflect the required approach.

How to organise Agile squads
Ways to organize Product Squads

Is Agile Squad the Right Approach for Your Next Software Development Project?

If you want to scale the Agile approach at your organization, a Squad could be ideal because of its simplicity. It helps software developers manage a massive project by breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable chunks. For example, a Java squad can just focus on Java-based functions.

If you already have disciplined and organized developers onboard, it will work well because it’s an informal approach that enables innovation and self-management. It also perfectly aligns with agile principal benefits like greater adaptability, improved quality, and customer satisfaction.

Agile squads are highly recommended for projects where innovation is prioritized over predictability. 

Before implementing a Squad model, project managers and product owners must keep in mind that it’s essentially a generic software development model. They can adapt it as needed to suit their specific business needs better.

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