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Making Distributed (Remote) Agile Teams Work

Making Distributed (Remote) Agile Teams Work

Agile is not just a set of rules/instructions you follow for software product development. Agile is a culture.

Based on Agile values and principles, each team decides the conventions, set of practices they will follow while working towards a common goal.

Agile product development puts emphasis on teamwork and creates self-organizing cross-functional teams that utilize resources in the best possible manner. Most importantly, it allows you to respond to change, and deal with ambiguity.

Cockburn on distributed agile teams

Over time, our Agile software development processes have matured, and that has helped us consistently deliver excellent quality work remotely for thousands of customers, globally.

How Can Remote Distributed Agile Teams Work?

Half the world has started working remotely, all thanks to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. While many of us are quickly trying to adapt to this new way of working, a significant number of teams have already been at it for years.

According to Fishbowl Survey, 52.21% of employees stated that their workplace has restricted travel or asked them to work remotely, due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

So how exactly do you work remotely, and stay Agile at the same time? Here are a few points that matter.

1. Business Knowledge

Let’s assume you’ve outsourced some enterprise project development work to a remote distributed Agile team that is sitting thousands of miles away from your HQ. A major concern for you could be the lack of business knowledge at their end.

Business knowledge within the remote team is an added advantage. It empowers teams with industry-specific context and eventually makes it easier to work with agility.

2. Communication & Collaboration

Effective communication is vital while working with location-independent teams. Shared ownership and common purpose cannot be achieved without properly fostering Agile values among teams.

The whole point of Agile is to allow teams to quickly respond to change, all of which is made possible only through consistent, and effective communication.

Daily stand-ups, planning sessions, and sprints are some ways through which teams keep communicating and collaborating.

3. Tools

What kind of tools do you require to run a show like this? Take a look at some of our frequently used tools:

  • Slack (organization-wide communication)
  • Skype
  • Zoom (video conferencing)
  • ClickUp (task & sprint management)
  • JIRA
  • GitHub
  • Google Drive
  • Basecamp
  • Sketch
  • InVision

Tools that can be used by distributed agile teams

4. Distributing Work

There’s a method to this madness. You have to allocate work to different teams based on what your location model is. If your teams sit in one office, you’re already doing what you have to.

But if you’re partially or fully remote, you need to allocate work based on the local and in-house expertise present within those teams.

Let’s assume you hire a remote agency to outsource all your design & development work but have in-house scrum masters and product owners. This scenario can allow you to plan and strategize closely with a small team, and allow a remote team to do all the execution.

It can also be the other way round. You can hire a remote agency for end-to-end digital transformation solutions. The scrum masters, product owners, and every other resource is theirs to handle, including the strategy, planning, and execution.

5. Nurturing Your Agility

Since agility is an attitude that you inculcate within yourself and your teams, it needs to be continuously nurtured.

Every new product can present a new set of problems which cannot be solved the same way over and over again. For teams to be able to adapt to such a frequency of changes, Agile has to be baked into their very core.

That’s one reason you will see companies hiring and working with experienced Agile coaches.

Another method of nurturing your own team’s Agile processes is to collaborate with remote teams outside of your organization. This way, your teams get to learn how other distributed agile teams work remotely, which in itself is a great source of learning.

Collaborative work is not just limited to Agile, it extends to design as well.

Agile and Design and go hand-in-hand

6. Outsourcing Agile Teams and it’s Benefits

Outsourcing is awesome. Really.

You cannot form an experienced Agile team without spending a considerable amount of dollars on hiring, inductions, training and so on. You have to worry about everything.

Even after that, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have your perfect team. That’s one of the pitfalls of running the show yourself. Before you know it, you’re doing everything but creating what you set out to build.

In-House vs Outsourcing Software Development

Outsourcing makes it easier to manage your resources. With fewer people to manage, you can think more about improving what you’re building. On top of that, an experienced agile remote team adds more value to your team because of their extensive prior work.

Outsourcing helps bridge major skill gaps and manage costs that can otherwise skyrocket.

The majority of the companies (59%) surveyed in the Deloitte Global Outsourcing Survey revealed that ‘Cost’ is the most important parameter that pushed them to choose offshore outsourcing.

Who is it For?

Any smart business that is looking to take advantage of Agile software development along with the experience that comes from an external team, can outsource to a remote Agile team.

Working with distributed (remote) agile teams allows you to build a collaborative and self-organizing team. Shared ownership and a common purpose always make teams perform better and get results that you want.

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Arshpreet Kaur

About the Author

Arshpreet is currently working with Net Solutions as a Lead Business Analyst. She plays an indispensable role in providing top-notch analytical and resource management advice to companies of all sizes. Her well-rounded knowledge in engineering concepts and a certification as a Scrum Product Owner helps her to handle multiple projects effectively, defining the product vision, acting as primary liaison with stakeholders and delivering value to customers.

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