The Secret to Agile Remote Teams

Harish Thyagarajan

25 Jul 2018

Agile Remote Teams

It all started when software development teams were physically present in the same office and interacting with each other face to face. At that time, this was thought to be the best way to get work done. Not many employees worked remotely. But, that era is long gone. By comparison, most of the organizations today have distributed teams. They ease the burden on project infrastructure and improve the employee’s comfort level.

A good infrastructure cannot have the dependency on only one system or person. Infrastructure needs to be distributed to avoid SPOF (Single Point of Failure). Similarly, it makes more sense to have distributed teams. This helps in a DR (Disaster Recovery) situation and also in hiring talented people without the time or location constraints.

The latest figure shows that 63% of departments have someone on their team who works the significant portion of time remotely. That said, is it easy to handle agile remote teams for an organization?
It’s definitely not a piece of cake. Here are the secrets to working smoothly as an agile remote team:

  1. Structure global teams by timezone
  2. Nurture trust between teams
  3. Uniform software development culture
  4. Regular scrums take place when all teams are online at the same time

Structure Global Teams by Timezone

In a modern business, software development is structured in a way whereby every sub-team works on a specific technology. Dependency would be less if the team is self-sufficient to manage and develop the project. This minimizes the collaboration of teams in different time zone.
Distributed teams in different time zone can easily manage production issues. It can be solved by the team that is online in that specific time zone if the other team in different time zone is offline during the time of issue.

Nurture Trust

To run a successful agile software team, trust is crucial. You can pass work between teams only when there is a good rapport between employees. Personal connections build trust and minimize misconceptions. To build a great culture and increase  employee morale, encourage employees to interact with each other.  Learn more about your teammates in your office and do the same thing with the people who are in remote teams. Wherever possible, build personal connections with your coworkers. This improves productivity, collaboration and makes it easy to work remotely.

 

For remote locations, a video conference is a key to build trust between teams. Encourage team members to conduct a weekly 1:1 video chat session. This can be less formal. Employees can use this opportunity to build trust between them and work better together.

Build a Uniform Software Development Culture

There are four simple ways to unite software development culture for a distributed team:

1. Communication

When you move from local office team to a distributed remote team, share every decision with all the team members. Communicate all big decisions on time to the team. Use a content management system or a channel like slack to allow every employee to share updates.

2. Consistent development environments across the team

Adopt a consistent development environment across the team to make it easier to work together and track down issues.

3. Complete the Action

Have a complete action plan that includes Code written, pull request created, code reviewed, tested, and merged into the appropriate branch.

4. Have clear guidelines for bug reports and troubleshooting

It is very unlikely that everyone is online when some problem occurs. Maintain proper guidelines for the bug reports and troubleshooting with steps on how-tos; etc stored in a local repository. Make this accessible to everyone. Consequently, anyone on the team can narrow down an issue. Conduct code review and automation tests about the code base. This will help the affected team to ensure that the change/deployment doesn’t create unwanted side effects.

Run Daily Scrums

Scrum is a good instance for agile development teams, who share work between different time zones. Video conference for scrum is a great platform for Q&A and also to discuss any upcoming agenda. For an agile development team, working remotely, having a daily scrum can be a good instance. A video conference to discuss goals and set agendas could be a simple yet effective way of ensuring the entire team is in sync with the agenda. Moreover, one of the things you could do to ensure everyone’s happy, no matter what the timezone they work in is to rotate the meeting between time zones.

In a distributed organization almost every team is a remote team. They need to adjust among themselves and understand how to share the roles and responsibilities between different workplaces. Good communication and great company culture is the key to the success of remote agile teams.


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