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How to Manage Distributed Agile Teams: 7 Key Strategies

Distributed Agile Team Management

Today, distributed and agile software development is widely used in the world of software development. Even though their meanings are precise when used separately, the combination of these terms often confuse even the most technical managers.

The concept of “Distributed Agile Teams” is new for many organizations today. In contrast to agile development approaches emphasizing teamwork and collaboration from a physical location, distributed teams work from their respective locations. Agile principles, thus are applied in a distributed environment, however challenging the management of such a process be.

The use of suitable approaches and a defined methodology can, however, enable distributed teams to overcome these challenges.

As Netsmartz’s agile processes have evolved, we have delivered high-quality work remotely for thousands of clients worldwide. Therefore, this article will discuss how remote teams can use the agile approach to its full potential.

What is Agile Development? An Overview

Agile means discovering requirements, developing robust solutions, and ensuring continuous delivery through collaboration and communication during software development. It emphasizes individuals & interactions over processes and tools, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, responding to change rather than making plans, & working software over detailed documentation.

The Advantages of Agile

The following are some benefits of using agile in software development:

  • Improved Quality: By using agile, the team focuses on high-quality development, breaking the project up into small sprints. Agile development teams produce continuous builds and tests during each iteration.
  • Predictable Delivery: Agile allows for product features to be delivered frequently, allowing teams to beta-test everything before the first release. It improves both product quality and business value.
  • Transparency: Agile methodology allows clients to stay involved in product development. They control everything, from prioritizing features to reviewing sessions and sprint planning. This means no surprises at launch.

What is a Distributed Team? An Overview

Distributed development refers to planning, developing, and testing software with multiple teams located in different physical locations throughout a city, a region, or even the world at large. Software developers can work on distributed software projects using internet-based communication and collaboration tools from any location.

The Advantages of Distributed Teams for Enterprises

The concept and application of Distributed teams seems to ring the most for Enterprise software development – ie larger firms looking to diversify their development operations. That means, possibly tinkering with Dedicated software development teams, or staff augmentation services. Either way, the following are the benefits of building distributed teams:

  • Access to Talent Pool: A distributed software development team allows you to hire talent across physical boundaries. Bringing diverse talent together can be accomplished by hiring talent from anywhere in the world.
  • Cost-Effective: Developer salaries and rates differ by region. In countries such as the USA and UK, the average salary for a software developer is $100,000. While it is possible to hire competent developers for less than $30,000 in many other countries around the world.
  • Increased Productivity: For several reasons, the chances of losing a valuable team member are significantly reduced in a distributed working environment. Studies illustrate that people who work in distributed settings perform better, need fewer sick days, and complete tasks more quickly, which benefits everyone.

Can Distributed Teams and Agile Work Together?

Agile and distributed teams don’t mix well in theory, as can be observed.

Agile claims that development teams must collaborate every day throughout the software development process, yet in a dispersed setting, this is not possible.

Members of a dispersed team may never meet, despite the fact that agile encourages face-to-face meetings (for scrums, sprint planning, and backlog grooming).

How do they now coexist?

The renowned agile approach enables remote teams to implement certain concepts.

The only secret is to focus on efficiently limiting the negative effects of working remotely rather than strictly adhering to every item of the agile manifesto.

Now let’s look at how teams can apply agile in a distributed setting:

7 Ways to Make Distributed Agile Teams Successful

Businesses need to be prepared to manage their remote teams in an agile manner for increased productivity and time management – or risk losing out on potential revenue.

You may effectively manage distributed agile teams using the following strategies:

1. Ensure the Project Status is Visible

Before beginning a new sprint cycle, you must make sure your project status reports are uploaded and clear in the agile world. 

The lack of project progress visibility is one of the greatest problems faced by distributed teams using the agile methodology. In an agile environment, you cannot compromise on the visibility of the project state.

It is the only way to document all of a sprint’s work and determine where the project is right now. PMs experience problems when fetching out the correct status of a project, this is because they are working in a distributed environment.  

To track project progress and guarantee improved status visibility, distributed agile teams can use agile project management technologies like JIRA.

2. Evaluate the Output of Your Team

In the end, productivity is what counts. One can check who is working on what task and what needs to be altered to make the processes more effective by tracking the productivity of your dispersed agile team.

You need to utilize the following metrics to gauge how productive your remote agile teams are:

  • Velocity: The average story points a team produced across the most recent sprint cycles are measured by velocity. You may gauge how much work your team can complete in forthcoming sprints using a velocity report.
  • Sprint Burndown: It gives you a real-time update on how many story points your team has finished in a particular sprint. The easiest method to stay informed about the progress of your project is to use sprint burndowns.
  • Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD): With CFD, you can keep track of changes to user stories and project progress across a range of status including- in progress, review, and completed. A jagged curve in CFD implies inefficient resources and bottlenecks, hence the curve should be smooth.

3. Invest in Communication & Collaboration Tools

Effective communication and collaboration are two of the most fundamental distributed agile principles. It is impossible to develop shared ownership and a unified goal without properly cultivating agile values among teams, especially when they work in multiple time zones.

Agile was designed to enable teams to react fast to change, which is only made feasible by regular and efficient communication. Teams maintain communication and collaboration through many means, such as daily stand-ups, planning meetings, and sprints.

Project owners must maintain team collaboration by setting up daily scrums, planning meetings, and virtual discussion to make distant teams function agilely.

4. Distributing Work

Based on your location model, you should assign work to different teams. If your teams are located in one office, you are already doing what you must do. However, if you are partially or fully remote, you need to allocate work according to the local and in-house expertise found within those teams.

Assume that you are outsourcing all your design and development work to a remote agency. However, you have in-house scrum masters and product owners. Using this scenario, you can plan and strategize closely with your in-house team while allowing the remote team members to execute.

Scrum masters, product owners, and other resources are responsible for handling the strategy, planning, and execution. The other option is to hire a remote agency for end-to-end digital transformation services. Furthermore, you should distribute the workload evenly among your distributed agile teams.

Also Read, A SCRUM Team Model: Does It Work for Product Companies?

5. Keep a Check on Code Quality

When working in distributed environments, agile team leaders may find it difficult to assess the quality of code and project health. The team may not reveal the status of unit test cases, build stability, coverage rates, etc. until they communicate them over a call or message.

In such situations, the product’s quality suffers the most. Occasionally, if teams failed to ensure build stability, the entire team might stop working.

Therefore, you must monitor project health and code stability when working in a distributed environment.

The following are three distributed agile best practices you can utilize to bridge this gap:

  • Use continuous integration tools that offer build automation & continuous monitoring of project quality.
  • Pair programming can assist developers in improving code quality and accelerating the development process.
  • You should ensure your quality assurance team is active and reporting unit testing bugs immediately.

6. Enhancing your Agility

Agility is an attitude that must be cultivated continuously within your team and yourself.

A new product can pose a new set of problems that cannot be addressed in the same manner over and over again. Agile has to be baked into their core for teams to adapt to such a frequency of changes. That’s one reason companies hire and work with experienced agile coaches.

Another method of nurturing your team’s agile processes is collaborating with remote teams outside your organization. This will allow your team to learn how other distributed agile teams work remotely, which is an excellent learning opportunity.

The concept of collaborative work is not unique to agile development; it also extends to design.

7. The Outsourcing of Agile Teams

We know how important it is to follow an Agile approach when outsourcing software development projects. 

Agile transformation cannot be undertaken without an experienced agile team. It is necessary to spend a considerable amount of money on hiring, inductions, and training to build an agile team. Even then, you cannot be certain you will have the perfect team.

Large skill gaps can be bridged by outsourcing, and costs that would otherwise rise can be managed. You can focus more on improving what you are building when you have fewer people to do so. In addition, an experienced agile remote team adds tremendous value to your team due to their extensive prior experience.

Conclusion

The agile methodology can be used to accelerate the delivery of quality software by distributed teams. Nevertheless, if remote teams’ projects are not handled appropriately, it can result in delays, poor performance, and a reduced return on investment. 

As a result of the best practices and tools mentioned above, project managers will not only be able to manage distributed agile models efficiently but will also be able to control product development as per the roadmap.

Summary

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How to Manage Distributed Agile Teams: 7 Key Strategies
Description

Today, distributed and agile software development is widely used in the world of software development. Even though their meanings are precise when used separately, the combination of these terms often confuse even the most technical managers. The concept of “Distributed Agile Teams” is new for many organizations today. In contrast to agile development approaches emphasizing… Continue reading How to Manage Distributed Agile Teams: 7 Key Strategies

Author
John Ogden, General Manager

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