Agile development was originally designed for teams that are co-located in the same office. The agile methodology recognizes face-to-face communication as being the most effective way to share ideas and collaborate with colleagues. The benefits of in-person communication include having the ability to sketch on a whiteboard or on post-it notes, so you can clarify your ideas and minimize the amount of time it takes to get a message across.
But these days, many businesses have distributed teams that work on agile projects across time zones. If you strictly adhere to the agile methodology, it’s hard to follow a lot of its practices without being face-to-face with your colleagues. Some of the unique challenges facing agile teams include the following:
In any workplace, it’s important to build rapport among teams, but this is especially true in agile teams. Having a personal connection with your team builds trust, boosts morale, and improves self-organization. Take the time to get to know everyone on your team on a personal level.
Forging personal connections between on-site and remote colleagues helps teams see their remote counterparts as any other. So, when new people join your team, introduce them both professionally and personally. The better you know each other as people, the stronger you will be as a team.
While face-to-face communication is ideal, the next best thing is videoconferencing. To build better relationships with remote teams, visit remote offices as much as possible and also use videoconferencing frequently.
Videoconferencing is often scheduled meeting time, so it only opens up communication for a short window of time. Encourage the use of video chat for spontaneous and casual conversation, though this habit might take some time to instill into your culture. You should also require team members to have a weekly 1:1 videoconference with remote colleagues to help them build rapport and work better together.
Provide your team with a meeting room booking system that supports videoconferencing, as well as meeting rooms that are equipped with collaborative technology, such as an interactive whiteboard.
In many agile teams, documentation is minimal and teams strive to write “just enough” documentation. In distributed agile teams, however, documentation is really important because you don’t always have the ability to sketch out and work through complex concepts together on a whiteboard. And you can’t just tap your colleague on the shoulder to get clarification when you need it.
While instant messaging is an option, it isn’t always the most effective way to communicate because it is much easier for miscommunication to take place. Don’t leave your remote teams guessing what the requirements are. Write detailed user stories and acceptance criteria to set your team up for success.
Instant messaging is a powerful tool for managing remote teams, especially those with non-native English speakers, because it allows them to take the time to craft written responses without the pressure of responding on the spot.
While instant messaging is highly beneficial for remote teams, having the ability to observe body language, facial expressions, and physical reactions in conversations is also important, especially when discussing challenges. Written communication can also be misrepresented or misconstrued, which is why it’s critical to keep other channels of communication open with remote teams.
Each employee on your team likely attends a variety of meetings or has different appointments and travel plans. Keeping track of everyone’s schedules to successfully plan and execute projects can be a challenge if you don’t have access to a team calendar.
Personal calendars aren’t effective for this purpose because teammates would have to follow multiple calendars, can’t subscribe to a team calendar, and don’t have the ability to easily add team events. With team calendar software, you can create a single calendar that includes common schedules and events for your team, in order to align people, projects, and events.
If you’re separated by distance and time zones, it can be a challenge to maintain effective communication between agile teams. With the right tools and approach, however, the agile methodology can be adapted significantly to improve collaboration among agile teams.