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Agile Distributed Teams

Devesh Maheshwari
Devesh Maheshwari
Test Lead, NBN, Australia
Devesh, is passionate about software testing having worked close to 6 years in various softw... more>>
I have been working in distributed teams for close to 5 years now, here are few things about distributed teams:

Distributed Team

A distributed team (also known as a geographically dispersed team) is a group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries.

Working with distributed teams gives companies access to talent that they may have otherwise not have access locally. Additionally, companies gains experience in working with different global markets. Moreover, a project can be completed in a faster manner if people in different time zones are continuously working on a particular project. That's not all, companies can obtain significant cost savings if they work in distributed team environment.

Advantages of Distributed teams

• Talent
• Productivity
• Diversity
• Minimal infrastructure
• Cost Savings
• Ecological
• Work - life balance
• Individual control

Forming the Fully Distributed Team

• Shared ownership from the start
• Decide architecture together
• Get to know the client and domain
• Form personal relationship
• Communication is the key

Distributed Team Meetings

• Video Conferencing is must for all the meetings like Daily standups, Planning and Retrospective
• Same rule applies for all teams
• Planning poker over video or digital tool
• Digital wall, it should be kept updated all the time.
• Get extended day when you work in distributed teams, project can be completed in a faster manner if people in different time zones are continuously working on a particular project

How to start with Distributed Teams

• Start with one location and bring few people onshore and then those people go back ad set up a distributed team.
• Onshore team can measure velocity across few iterations and then almost same velocity should continue.
• Quality is still the same as you still write Unit test, Acceptance tests and get stories tested within iteration.

Understand that not everything can be distributed

• Enterprise architecture often does not.
• Software architecture distributes easily enough.

Difficulties Faced

• Initial reluctance to communicate extra
• Culture makes it hard to get aligned, misunderstandings about priority and value
• Local team taking aggressive ownership
• Not enough context information offsite
• Both sides need to adjust
• Trust

When to start with distribution


• Get your local organization capable of running Agile projects
• Get quality up with XP practices
• Stop thrashing, focus people (Stop trying to do too much)
• Think of scaling distributed team

Summary

•Working successfully in a distributed way is all about handling the 'distance' between people
• Classical approach is with more detailed instructions and control, not suited for knowledge workers
• Agile can tie people together across distances
• Agile benefits (Time to market, performance, quality ) mixed with off-shoring benefits is a killer combo
• Introducing Agile and distribution at the same time is often too much to take in

Conclusion

A fully distributed team has more value then localized agile teams.

Tools used

• Skype for continuous video conferencing
• Swapping people onshore & offshore - share context
• Mingle for digital wall
• Go for Continuous Integration
• Showcases on join.me
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