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7 Best Practices for Distributed Agile Team

No one can deny the fact that software development projects these days are impeded by the distance between team members. Thanks to the collaboration and technologically advanced tools available these days!  Some years ago, businesses thought about offshore software development solutions. They did this mainly for saving costs. The reason is that companies had limited IT budgets. Using off-shore services, they were able to build applications for less.  They did this by outsourcing to locations with a lower cost of living. In the present situation, they are utilizing technology for assembling teams of experts from anywhere in the world.

What Is Distributed Development?

It is a project delivery model. In this model, work is done across many worksites. It is turning out to be a common approach in the software development domain. With this model, teams operating from different locations work in collaboration with each other. The locations can be countries, cities, buildings, and even continents. They do this intending to complete project deliverables. By following the right approach, it will be possible for a distributed development team to overcome common challenges. They can avoid some challenges. In turn, the team can turn out to be high-performing to deliver value to the business. When talking about distributed development, distributed Agile is gaining immense popularity. 

What is Distributed Agile?

Are you wondering what is distributed Agile? It is nothing but an Agile global delivery framework that pays attention to multi-shore project delivery. The good thing about this framework is that it enables both distributed and dispersed teams. The framework helps them ensure successful business value delivery.

Understanding the Agile Advantage:

In the software development domain, Global Software Development, shortly called GSD has turned out to be a common practice. It brings several benefits like solving the local shortage of IT skills when offering a cost-saving advantage. Nevertheless, GSD turns to challenge. Do you know why? Teams will have to handle socio-cultural, topographical, and time-based distances. In turn, they face infrastructure, process, and project management issues. The other issues they face include knowledge management problems and scarce communication. They can even face hardships with work division.

Agile software development has grown considerably.  Over the past decades, this development is visible as per the 10th Annual State of Agile Survey. There is a considerable increase in the number of bigger organizations embracing Agile every year. According to the survey, more than 85% of respondents had some distributed teams that practice Agile.  This number has experienced a considerable and even steep rise in 2021. 

Now, understanding the distributed Agile best practices will help you deal with the challenges that can otherwise come up:

1. Conduct Face-to-Face Meetings:

When you plan for distributed Agile practices, you should plan your budget accordingly. For instance, plan for recurring face-to-face meetings. Not only with local teams, but face-to-face meetings with off-shore teams and between customers are also a must. Also, ensure to have strong communication infrastructures like high bandwidth and video conferencing. It is better to embrace Skype and big screens for facilitating virtual teams. Across the project length, it is better to plan seed visits in regular intervals. Both onshore and offshore teams partying, working, and sitting together are a must. This will help with igniting relations and building strong trust. You can create the highest-performing teams only when a strong trust base develops.

2. Adopt A Hybrid Approach:

Wherever possible, it is better to ensure one thing as suggested by distributed Agile best practices. Yes, the Architect, the Project Manager, and other lead people should be onsite. In other words, these people should be local to the client. When this happens, they can interact straight with key stakeholders. This move will help with bringing down the risk of misunderstanding business and technical needs. Even, it will ensure that the stakeholders and Project Owners get the convenience of local contacts. Further, it will ensure lower cost resources too.

3. Teamwork and Collaboration:

Effective collaboration and communication strategies are the best practices for effectively distributed Scrum. 

Here, the first thing you will have to ensure is the presence of the right tools.  Even, there should be the right practices to use these tools.  For instance, it is better to communicate with the team on when and why to use these tools. Examples of communication tools include video conferencing, instant messaging and email. Across the team, there should be consistency in efficient and effective communication.

Nowadays, everyone need to use social media. They do social interactions. Of course, when you are following distributed Agile practices, you are working from different places. But, each one in the team should get the feeling of working with real people. So, it is better to encourage every member of the team working from different locations to turn on their videos. It is better to ensure that they do this during team meetings. When every member of the team interacts through video conferencing, it will create a more personal connection. Even, it will bring nuanced feedback in your communication.

Wherever appropriate and possible, leave time for the team members to have conversations off-work. They can talk about common things like music, books, pets, etc. This move will ease the stress out. Also, it will help them gain new strength to give their better foot to the project. 

4. Ensure Proper Visibility of Project Status:

Lack of visibility of project status is one of the biggest challenges in distributed Agile projects. Nevertheless, in the Agile world, you should never compromise on project status visibility. The reason is that in this world project requirements change frequently. One of the distributed Agile best practices is to ensure that you upload the project status report then and there. At least, it is better to ensure that the project status is shared with all members of the team before the beginning of a new Sprint cycle. Thanks to the tools that will help Agile teams to keep an eye on the progress of the project! You can get help from one such tool.

5. No Shortcuts to Great Teams:

As compared to co-located Agile development, distributed Agile Development is harder. Among the many different factors, time zone differences make collaborations more challenging. Not only teams located in different countries but even teams located at different buildings in the same location face hardships. The thing to remember here is that being Agile needs transparency. This transparency will exist only when the team members believe each other. This trust development will become reality only when the members get some time together.

As a business owner, you should not make the same mistake that most other entrepreneurs do. Yes, you should not see a team as a group of individuals simply. The reason is that a great team is far more than just a sum of the contributions that members make.

When a person is part of a great team, he can gain the best motivation. It creates a sense of challenge among members to give their best. When individuals in the team cannot accomplish, they still get the reward of being part of a performing team. It takes time to build a great team. But once developed, every step should be taken to protect it. The right support and motivation can also help with the creation of great teams that perform.

6. Provide Shared Project Vision:

One of the best practices for a distributed Agile team to succeed is to visit all locations personally. This visit should be done by the team lead to share the project vision. Also, it is better to ensure that you involve the whole team in this activity to explain the ownership of the project outcomes. Once the vision is rightly shared, it is better to perform daily Scrum meetings for Sprint planning with all members of the team.

7. Sync Work Hours:

It is better to plan a minimum of an hour of overlap between remote and local teams. You can use this hour for syncing. Even, this hour can be used effectively for information flow between teams. Also, during this collaborating hour, you can plan your joint team activities.  Examples include distributed stand-up, joint meetings, reviews, and pair programming. What if the time difference is extreme?

Even if the time difference is 12 hours delta between teams performing from countries, one thing can be done. The remote and local teams can extend their day. This extension can be done alternatively by each team. In turn, the teams can get enough overlap. 

Conclusion:

These best practices for effective distribution Scrum can work wonders. Some critics argue that Agile is contradictory to multi-shore development. The reason they claim for this is that face-to-face communication and inherent reliance are part of Agile. But, these challenges can be effectively handled with the practices listed above. A little Agile thinking by the organizations and the teams can make things easier. Once everything syncs as per plan, best-performing Agile teams will not be a tough thing to achieve. This holds even when they function from different locations.

References:
  1. https://hexaware.com/blogs/distributed-agile-delivery-model-approach/
  2. https://dzone.com/articles/best-practices-for-distributed-agile-teams
  3. https://techbeacon.com/app-dev-testing/distributed-agile-teams-8-hacks-make-them-work

Author

Paula

Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.