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Agile in Distributed Team Setups

  1. Sample to Insight Agile in Distributed Team Setups Source:
  2. Sample to Insight Source: 2 Some years ago I was offered a project There were options for staffing… a. throw more money than you have at the problem -> $  b. grow reasonably but miss the deadline ->   c. mix-in nearshore developers -> Agility? • Requirements: unclear – but HUGE • Prescribed technology: unknown & special • Developers: none • Deadline: ambitious • Budget: ◦ fix ◦ calculated based on “normal” rates
  3. Sample to Insight Source: 3 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Agile when the team is not co-located? => Don’t do it!
  4. Sample to Insight Source: 4 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet What if people want to make you do it? 1. Push back 2. Fight hard 3. Don’t do it!
  5. Sample to Insight 5 THANKS! Questions? Andreas Czakaj
  6. Sample to Insight Source:, 6 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Saying “no” is always an option. But without trying something first it’s the risk-free & lazy option. #inspect #adapt Simply put: it’s the non-agile option.
  7. Sample to Insight Source: 7 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet Also, work has changed, people have changed.
  8. Sample to Insight Source: 8 Work has changed As a result… • People want • … Home Office / flexible work locations • … flexible work schedules • … options for part time work => Mandatory for hiring & retention today, imho • Meetings need to include remote staffers • ditto bilateral alignments, brain storming, pair programming, … • Work time scheduling needs planning => Distributed teams are already part of “New Work”
  9. Sample to Insight Source:, Thomas 9 #1 problem: sourcing
  10. Sample to Insight Source:, Rachel Samanyi 10 Reality: • There’s only a limited supply of specialists in your area. • Hiring takes time & is expensive • Opportunity costs pile up
  11. Sample to Insight Source:, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center 11 Facts: • There are more specialists outside your area. • Not all of them are willing to relocate, • … or are intended to be relocated, e.g. offshore contractors, service provider teams, …
  12. Sample to Insight Source:, Alan Levine 12 Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet So, how agile can working with distributed teams be? Let’s “ask” the Agile Manifesto.
  13. Sample to Insight Source:, Lauren Proffitt 13 Relevant parts in the Agile Manifesto • P. #4: “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” • P. #5: “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.” • P. #12: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. • VP #1: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” • VP #3:“Customer collaboration over contract negotiation” => It’s all about human interaction
  14. Sample to Insight Source:, Robert McGoldrick 14 Human interaction Sourcing may be problem #1 … … but the way people work with each other is max #2
  15. Sample to Insight 15 Word exchange Email Video Conference Chat Personal, Face-to- Face Personal contact, Empathy Responsiveness Asynchronous Real Time High Low Phone call Human Interaction Shortest path to „performing“ phase * * See Tuckman's stages of group development Forever stuck in „storming“ phase *
  16. Sample to Insight 16 The better you know each other… Responsiveness Asynchronous Real Time High Low Human Interaction People tend to respond faster when they know and respect each other. Shift Word exchange Email Chat Personal contact, Empathy
  17. Sample to Insight 17 The better you know each other… Responsiveness Asynchronous Real Time High Low Human Interaction People tend to understand each other better in non-personal communication when they know each other well. Shift Word exchange Email Chat Phone call Video Conf. Personal contact, Empathy
  18. Sample to Insight Source:, Juhan Sonin 18 Human interaction Goal: Make sure people get to know and respect each other
  19. Sample to Insight Source:, Meg H 19 Some things that have proven to work As a result you need to… • Before working remotely: 3-4 weeks onsite work required • Repeat onsite work 1-3 times per year, round-robin for efficiency • Team building measures (lunch, dinner, pub, go to stadium, bowling, …) • Inclusive, open culture • Switch to English (docs, culture, …) • Create internal “travel office” (visas, tickets, airport pick-up, …) • Provide good accommodation (apartments, cleaning service, key hand- over, …) Some proven recipes
  20. Sample to Insight Source:, Paul Chiorean 20 Some caveats: • Keep the additional cost in mind. This is not about optimizing for cost figures in XLS! • This is a change and some people don’t like it or get scared, e.g. for bad English language skills. (tip: offer training) • Inclusive, open & non- discriminating: Some people are insensitive, borderline racist Leadership needed! • Inclusive culture vs. ANÜ/AÜG: Keep the (German) “Arbeitnehmer- Überlassungsgesetz” in mind.
  21. Sample to Insight Source:, Alan Levine 21 Tools do matter
  22. Sample to Insight Source:, Kev 22 Network: • fast • high-volume • stable • low-latency • (in each location)
  23. Sample to Insight Source: 23 Audio: • Avoid standard conference phones • Good microphones and speakers • Good headsets -> best audio experience • Try (and test!) alternatives, e.g. specialized mic+speaker combos for USB • Try (and test!) high end conferencing solutions • Avoid pure audio interaction…
  24. Sample to Insight Source:, Patrick 24 Video: • Avoid pure audio interaction… (see “personal contact, empathy”) • … always turn on cams as well (look at each other for effective human interaction) • Make sure each participant in on camera • In group situations, use additional cams to capture the situation from different angles • For visualizing ideas, make sure to also capture the whiteboard/flipchart/… • -> requires HD cam • -> requires some practice (write in larger “font” size, don’t block the camera, …) • (or use a digital whiteboard, e.g. Draw IO, Web Whiteboad, Tutorials Point, spice it up by using a drawing tablet)
  25. Sample to Insight Source:, Dylan Foley 25 More tools: • Physical boards may work (e.g. by taking a picture 1x per day) • … but if you want more real-time data, or avoid manual work, there’s a plethora of well-known tools, e.g. JIRA, Trello, TargetProcess, etc. • Retrospectives: try Funretro (or others) • Planning: Estimation Poker, PlanITpoker • Conferencing: try Zoom, Google Hangout, WebEx, Skype, … • Some allow for phone dial-in • Some offer digital whiteboards • Some allow for sharing the mouse
  26. Sample to Insight Source:, Kyle McDonald 26 Caveats: • Technology can a b*tch • -> Make sure your tech is up and running by the start of the meeting • -> Even better, start the tech before the meeting. This way the early participants can just chat, do small talk and bond. • Long video conferences/phone calls can be exhausting • set time boxes, take breaks, shorten sprints • Agile Manifesto, Value Pair #1: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” • Whenever the tools oppose the individuals and their interactions – stop, inspect and adapt
  27. Sample to Insight Source:, Gaby Av 27 Sounds good so far? Hold that thought…
  28. Sample to Insight 28 II Relevant parts in the Agile Manifesto • P. #8: “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.” => Time zone differences can be a real problem Source:
  29. Sample to Insight 29 Time Zones are a real thing… 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 German FT 1 German FT 2 German PT Ukrainian FT +1 Indian FT Summer: +3.5 Indian FT Winter: +4.5 Philippine FT +8 Shared time slot Title only (a) Shared time slot 
  30. Sample to Insight 30 tl;dr: Some setups just don’t work • if we want direct communication • if we want work-life-balance (“… constant pace… motivated individuals…”) Potential solution: • Split up into separate teams • … each of which is fully empowered and self-organized Source:
  31. Sample to Insight 31 Team MEMBER distribution Team Distribution Low High Each one remote All onsite High-level distribution options 1 team, all onsite Remote only n autonomous teams Some Home Office Frequent Home Office / remote work 60-80% remote, round-robin onsite (see slide 24) Challenge: Work scheduling, internal coordination Challenge: governance, scaling agile
  32. Sample to Insight 32 + more problems Success or failure depends on more aspects… Source:
  33. Sample to Insight Source:, Olga/ Олька 33 Known issues • Remote team not dedicated to project • Travel restrictions • Cultural mismatch • … • Distance to needs, domain & feedback (see next slides)
  34. Sample to Insight Standard Scrum team setup 34      Customers Sponsors Users Dev Team Scrum Master Organization  Business People, Users Needs Domain Knowledge, Feedback Distance between a developer and • needs: 0-1 • domain: 0-1 • user feedback: 0-1 Product Owner  
  35. Sample to Insight (Let‘s ignore the Scrum Master for the sake of simplicity) 35     Customers Sponsors Users Product Owner   Dev Team  Business People, Users Needs Domain Knowledge, Feedback Distance between a developer and • needs: 0-1 • domain: 0-1 • user feedback: 0-1
  36. Sample to Insight Common setup when working with Service Providers 36  Product Owner   Dev Team  “Proxy Product Owner” “Proxy Customer, Sponsor, User, Business Person” Customers Sponsors Users Needs   Domain Knowledge, Feedback Distance to… • needs: 1-2 • domain: 1-2 • user feedback: 1-2 0 1 2
  37. Sample to Insight Alternative setup when working with Service Providers 37  Product Owner   Dev Team  Offshore coordinator Onsite coordinator  Customers Sponsors Users Needs   Domain Knowledge, Feedback 0 1 2 3 Distance to… • needs: 2-3 • domain: 2-3 • user feedback: 2-3
  38. Sample to Insight 38 II Relevant parts in the Agile Manifesto • Value Pair #1: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools” • VP #2: “Working software over comprehensive documentation” • P. #9: “Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done- is essential.” • P. #4: “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” => Distance leads to non-personal & low responsive collaboration Source:
  39. Sample to Insight 39 • However, this is DISTANCE in the project setup, not necessarily the PHYSICAL DISTANCE • .. as a larger organization can incorporate multiple levels of accountability & governance - without remote teams • Remote teams “only” add more ◦ challenges for planning ◦ human issues ◦ potential for cultural mismatch ◦ … distance (in both meanings) • i.e. issues with remote teams / remote team members may be symptom of a deeper organizational problem opposing agility Users / Customers Marketing Global Head of … Cost Center Owner System Dev Lead Software Sub- System Lead Product „Owner“  Dev Team 6 1 2 4 0 5 3
  40. Sample to Insight 40 Also, there are so many possible variations, and combinations of options… • Maybe I should write a book about it? • … or maybe someone else already has: • Johanna Rothman: “From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams: Collaborate to Deliver” • Agile Toolkit Podcast with Johanna: rothman-agile2018
  41. Sample to Insight Source:, Jeff Turner 41 Conclusion Agile work IS possible in distributed setups provided… • … a healthy team culture • … good tech • … sufficiently long shared time slots • … experiments, inspection and adapting • … short “distance” between dev team and • needs, • domain and • feedback
  42. Sample to Insight 42 THANKS! Questions? Andreas Czakaj