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Making Remote Teams Successful With Agile

Posted on December 5th, 2012

Agile Remote Team SuccessElance recently celebrated its two millionth freelancer. What does this mean for the software development industry? Remote development and design teams are sticking around for the long haul. With access to lower cost talent worldwide at their fingertips, businesses will start incorporating the practice into their long-term strategy.

The recent rise of agile software development raises some questions about implementing it with remote teams. Communication, cultural challenges, and time zone differences all combine to make it sound like it’s more work than it’s worth.

But those who made it work have reaped some major benefits. Projects can be delivered faster while still maintaining high quality. Costs can be cut dramatically. The key to making this combination successful? Efficient teamwork driven by communication.

Good communication just doesn’t happen overnight with remote project teams. Several things in the Agile approach contribute to making the communication platform more effective, resulting in better teamwork. It’s sort of a chain reaction – maintain good scrum practices to ensure quality communication that improves teamwork.

Below are some tips that help a remote agile team be more effective. It may take some sweat and tears, but making it work will benefit project stakeholders at every level.

Teamwork Depends on the Agile Team

The abundance of low cost talent available remotely doesn’t mean you should just pick the lowest cost team with the best resumes. Pick people who fit your organization. Sure, you still must consider experience and education but also see that they fit the company culture and there aren’t huge language barriers.

Also, take into account the team members enthusiasm and readiness to collaborate. Good spirits and open conversations during daily scrums can motivate team members tremendously. It may also help relieve some of the pressure to contribute for those that are a little quieter.

In the end, the team members selected should always respect the project goals and do everything they can to reach those goals.

Consider Culture

Always consider the culture of your fellow team members dispersed around the world. Work hours and days, holidays, and religion can all play a major part in a team member’s schedule and availability. Be prepared ahead of time with this knowledge and communicate extensively to minimize the culture gap. This can save you a lot time and confusion.

If you know ahead of time the some cultural challenges are too difficult to overcome, try to work with countries that have traditions close to yours. Difficulties can also arise with already assembled teams. If this is the case, it may be worth it to find a person who better understands the culture and not go through the next few months trying to figure it out.

Keep the Daily Scrum (and other open discussions)

Just because your team isn’t in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful scrum. Our company does it all the time via Skype and Go To Meeting. Keep the same format with everyone speaking on the tasks they did yesterday, the tasks for today, and the problems they have encountered. But just remember, being remote makes open communication that much more important since facial expressions cannot be seen.

Besides the daily scrum, encourage open communication and discussions throughout the entire day. This can often generate new ideas or find a solution to a bug. After all, open communication is the cornerstone of a successful project.

Divide and Conquer

Divide your project into even smaller iterations and require regular software integration. This will give you more control of the real project progress and help identify where issues may arise.

Working in remote teams does come with an increased chance of misunderstandings. But by breaking the project down into smaller iterations, misunderstandings and problems can be detected much earlier. With clarification of requirements and immediate code fixing, the project can move forward in a timely manner.

Clean and Crisp

Clean, well-shaped source code can prevent headaches down the project road. Part of the agile framework includes constant updating and revising of existing code. Ensuring the code is clean, crisp, and commented can minimize the response time tremendously for requirement changes.

At the end of all agile software development projects, the code has to be handed off to the client in some manner. Well prepared documentation makes this knowledge transfer easy and cost effective. Because at some point, the client will be calling back for help.

The agile method with remote teams can indeed work and work well. There may just be a little more prep work ahead of time to ensure the project goes smoothly. Maintain proper agile practices throughout with wide open communication and you’ll be on the way to success. Borders no longer limit who we can work with so it’s best to get prepared now by embracing the trend.

For more information on SerpicoDEV’s software development services, please contact us.