Managing a distributed team can have many benefits, but there are often obstacles that need to be overcome in order to reach success. Here are some common downfalls and solutions to help you have a successful distributed agile team.
There are many reasons a company may choose to have a distributed agile team:
∙ Lack of a sufficient pool of available employees within your company’s area
∙ Your company’s facilities are too small to add more on-premises staff
∙ Distributed teams are cheaper: Salaries or hourly rates are significantly lower outside the US or even in other areas of the country.
∙ Eliminates travel expenses for employees. Commuting is becoming more and more challenging and takes time and mental capacity away from team members
Whatever your company’s reason for moving to a distributed agile team, there are many ways to be able to take advantage of all the benefits offered with a distributed team without sacrificing quality. The following is a list of hurtles many distributed agile teams are faced with and some potential solutions to make the transition easier.
Time Zone Differences
Distributed teams usually mean different time zones. Although it’s best to have a time zone difference of no more than three hours, for many companies it’s not possible. This means scheduling meetings could be difficult because it is challenging to choose a time that is appropriate for everyone.
Solutions: Take advantage of the golden hours. The golden hours for distributed software teams are when the local and remote teams are both in their respective offices at the same time. When all teams are in the office, this is a great time for stand-ups.
Communicating with team members across the country, or across the world can be a challenge. Most of the time you are dealing with different time zones, different languages, holiday schedules, and different cultures. Each posing its own set of challenges. With limited communication channels, it’s important to listen to the team in order to develop new communication channels that can help your team communicate smoothly.
Solution: Knowing that distributed teams likely have to depend heavily on nonconversational communication it is a good idea to invest in software that can help create more collaboration. Encourage your teams to participate in their scum meetings through video conferencing which allows you to more easily pick up on non-verbal cues and will help with building a rapport with the team.
With distributed teams your opportunity for face to face interactions are limited. Which means knowledge sharing may take a hit. It’s important that all teams have access to the most current information even if they are unable to attend critical decision-making meetings. Without the latest information fully available it is unlikely that you will need rework.
Solution: Invest in a sharing tool such as Jira, Confluence, or Sharepoint as a central repository, easily accessible to all team members. Make sure to keep the information as up to date as possible. This will become your team’s source of truth for all projects, tools, and software. It also allows project managers to monitor the workflow of a project and helps team members identify important blockers that are obstructing the development of a software application.
This should go without saying, there will likely be issues. Without good connectivity, team members will simply not be able to communicate or even code and test effectively. You need to be able to stream at least voice reliably — if not video as well.
Solution: Make sure to set clear guidelines on expectations with your employees to ensure they have the technology needed to complete the work expected of them.
Hopefully, you already have a good idea of what the strength and technical skills your employees possess. In a remote environment, it can be harder to reach out for help if needed. It can also be more difficult to communicate product changes and expectations in a timely manner.
Solution: Code reviews will be your best friend. They are a great way to ensure quality control of the code that is being released. Also, since people are online at different times, distributing knowledge of the code between offices makes support and maintenance much easier. If a production issue emerges when the team is not online, another office can easily step in to support and resolve the issue.
Remote working is only expected to increase. With agile continuing to be the most popular project management methodology it’s important to set your team up with success by addressing potential roadblocks as soon as possible. I trust this list will give you a head start. Excel SoftSources has been participating in distributed agile teams since the beginning and our teams are well versed in the mythologies and the tricks to make it successful. Work with us today!