In the coronavirus pandemic, Agile teams adjusting to asynchronous remote collaboration. CIOs who have the agile development efforts of teams share their advice for success what are the best possible ways to manage Remote Agile Development Teams to work from home (WFH).
Currently, the world is forcing more and more employees to work remotely from home while in this flexible workplace strategies have popular traction of late, for many teams, the pandemic’s push toward full-team remote work in collaboration has presented many challenges. Agile Development Teams often lean on processes undertaken in-person physically, leaving many team leaders anxious about how to approach to teams in remote-only work from home environments.
- #1 Crucial Planning and Communications to Teams
- #2 Communication Tools
- #3 Virtual Scrum Boards for Remote Agile Development Teams
- #4 Right Whiteboarding for Remote Agile Development Teams
- #5 Your standup stand-in: Video conferencing
- #6 Making the most of the remote face-to-face time
- #7 Pair Programming in a Distributed Environment
- #8 How to be productive at home with required space
In an office setting, you can get by showing up early, leaving late, typing furiously at the keyboard, and quite often it’s detrimental to the product.
Remote workforce, settings are deliverables and measuring performance based on how team members meet those deliverables is the biggest difference today in this situations.
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Still, while that may sound clear-cut, managing agile development in distributed work environments to achieve those goals takes considerable finesse — especially when it comes to fostering the level of collaboration necessary for agile to thrive. Here, IT leaders who have spearheaded agile efforts of far-flung teams share their tips for success.
#1 Crucial Planning and Communications to Teams
For distributed agile workforces, especially those in which team members set their own hours, planning and communication are paramount.
Just as managers can’t glance over at a team member to see how they’re doing; developers can’t turn around and ask for immediate clarification if they’re not completely clear on their assigned task.
In an office, you don’t have to give all the information they need to do their job. You can give them the 90 percent that they need to start working, and then they can come up to you to get the other 10 percent.
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You can’t do that remotely unless everyone is hanging out in a Slack channel all the time.
Being remote forces you to do things the way you should be doing them, but earlier and better, planning and communication.
#2 Communication Tools
For distributed workforces, rounding up the right set of collaboration tools is key. Daily standups, and other such in-person agile mainstays, can be challenging to replicate in remote-team environments, especially across disparate time zones. Here, tools that facilitate clear communication in often asynchronous workflows can help.
These days, the go-to communication platform for distributed teams is Slack. Instead of Slack, use Twist, which is a little bit more organized than Slack is. Slack turns into more of a watercooler, which is more distracting than productive.
When it comes to choosing tools, we advise using more standard platforms. “We learned the hard way that the most popular tools are popular for a reason. For our team, that means GitHub for tickets and code management, Zoom for video conferencing, and Google Docs for knowledge sharing and whiteboards. Microsoft Teams is a good collaboration tool now to manage most of the tools in a single hub for teams.
#3 Virtual Scrum Boards for Remote Agile Development Teams
If there is any tool that epitomizes the agile experience, it is the office scrum board — those collaboration space anchor points covered with sticky notes that team members can easily glance at to get an instant view of project progress.
The physical scrum walls are for camaraderie and team building. But we always maintained virtual scrum boards also. So today, have the exact same scrum teams using virtual scrum boards.
To keep its now fully remote team on the same page, We relies exclusively on Jira Scrum Board — no Post-Its necessary.
#4 Right Whiteboarding for Remote Agile Development Teams
For agile teams, whiteboards are essential for mapping out everything from project plans, to sprints and tasks. Our heavy user of whiteboarding for story mapping, which is where agile teams diagram user activities as part of the development process. “And it has usually been done in person.
However, the company’s remote team in Germany has been using the whiteboarding tool built into the Zoom video conferencing system. “It was a lessons-learned from another department that has come in especially useful now. And it’s helping to keep the same touch and feel from our in-person brainstorms.
Other whiteboarding tools popular with agile development teams include Miro, Mural, Trello and Weave.
It’s a really great tool that my team is looking into using more. “For example, you can do a fishbone — it’s like a whiteboard replacement with all the agile coach templates re-created in it. It’s pretty amazing. It lets you do dot voting, which is a huge thing for agile coaches. Microsoft Whiteboard is very good option now.
#5 Your standup stand-in: Video conferencing
Video conferencing platform Zoom has become an all-around valuable player during this shelter-in-place era. It is simple to use, its basic functionality is free, and it includes built-in whiteboards, chat, breakout rooms and easy screen sharing. For agile teams thrust into remote collaboration of late, Zoom has been a go-to solution for meeting times. Microsoft Teams is now growing and it’s free as well.
But video conferencing options abound. Some companies use a combination of Microsoft’s Skype and Teams products. Then there is Google Hangouts. Sococo is another virtual meeting tool that combines video, chat and screen sharing into an office metaphor.
We suggests teams agree ahead of time how video conferencing tools will be used so people will know what is expected of them — and to ensure everyone is engaged on the calls.
With the last team I worked with, we don’t care if your office is messy or your hair is done or your makeup is done, but what we care about is seeing your face. We don’t care if there’s noise in your background from your dog or your kids, but it’s important not to be on mute so you can hear small vocal reactions — like ‘huh’ — that you would hear face to face.
#6 Making the most of the remote face-to-face time
In addition to setting expectations around video conferencing, it’s also important to note that running virtual meetings takes different skills on the part of the Scrum master or facilitator. In an in-person meeting, most people don’t want to be rude and open up their phone or laptop and check emails. “But when you’re talking about virtual meetings, those other things are sitting right there on the same computer. It’s really easy for people to space out.
The first step is getting the right people into the meeting. If someone doesn’t need to be in a meeting, but does need to be informed about decisions made, they can just get an email. “Having purposeful meetings becomes ten times more important.
It helps if you can see everyone’s face all the time and that they don’t go on mute — unless there’s something disruptive nearby, like a lawn mower. “If I make a joke, I can hear the other people laugh. It’s important to have that human connection with the team. It creates trust and all the other things that flow from that.
One company that uses Zoom for its internal scrum meetings is Scalable Path, a recruiting firm that specializes in finding agile developers. The company builds applications to support internal processes, like a job description generator tool and a software project estimator tool.
The idea is that you all get in the same room, standing up, and each person says what they accomplished since the day before, what they plan to do today, and if they have questions or blockers. Doing that in person would be great; you can do it in Zoom.
It’s possible to do the same thing in writing over, say, Slack, and it can be nice to have a documented record. “But I don’t think people should ever give up talking every day. When you talk every day, things come up. You start conversing and then you say, ‘Well, actually, I did have this question.'”
The key is to set definite time limits. Don’t let the meeting be one where everyone gets comfortable and the next thing you know an hour has gone by. It’s tempting to digress into a rabbit hole and talk about a complex issue one developer is having a problem with while everyone else is just sitting around and listening.
Instead, suggests allocating, say, five minutes per person, and if an issue does come up, follow up later, in depth, with the key people who would be involved.
“I think people are getting a lot more used to doing online meetings. I honestly have come to prefer it. But one thing you lose is the human relationships.
He suggests that companies that move permanently to a distributed workforce consider regular offsites or team vacations. But there are things that you can do now, during the pandemic, as well.
Right now, on my team, when we have a little extra time at the end of a call, we talk about how we’re feeling with this whole virus thing. We’re getting to connect on a personal level.
The company also has a book club. On Slack, we select a book, and read it, and chat about it. It’s a watercooler interaction. That’s the hardest part of being remote — you really have to make an effort to establish that kind of culture.
#7 Pair Programming in a Distributed Environment
Another challenge for distributed agile teams is how to do pair programming when the two developers can’t sit next to one another and pass a keyboard back and forth. While not every agile team practice pair programming, some go even further, to mobbing, where several developers work at one computer.
It’s possible to do the same thing remotely. In Visual Studio, which is the most popular code editor, there’s a tool called Live Share that works like a dream with pairing.
It’s worked better for the companies than some of the newer collaboration tools. And sometime really tried them all, and everyone has been frustrated because it turns into one person typing and the other watching via screen share.
#8 How to be productive at home with required space
Developers require many tools to be productive at their home offices. They need high-speed internet access, virtual private networks, and multi-factor authentication, for starters. But there are a lot of little things that can make a big difference that your developers might not think about ahead of time, and it’s worthwhile to have an open conversation among your team to help ensure each member is able to establish a productive space at home.
That’s not always the case for people working from home for the first time — prior to COVID-19, all but about hundreds of developers worked from an office. We’ve had people with various ergonomic situations at home. I’ve been yelling at people working on their couch.
And people miss multiple monitors. We instituted a checkout policy so that people can take their docks and monitors home with them.
But now, all organizations and teams getting the experiences and facing the issues how they can resolved in future to have better collaboration to work from home remotely.
So let me know what you think and what challenges yo have to be resolved while working remotely managing your projects and changes?