“We Work Remotely”: How to Run Agile in Remote and Distributed Teams
The world is going remote at a quick pace, and there’s plenty of reasons and justification for such a tendency. Companies want to shorten their expenses by hiring offshore workers and seeking agile offshore development that is, in fact, not as easy to achieve as it might seem at first glance.
In many cases implementing the distributed agile work is challenging for the companies. But how to build effective cooperation with the distributed agile development teams? We are trying to find the answer in this article.
The distributed agile development team is a group of members, working on a common software development project. They can be located in different countries and time zones, and represent different cultures. Work with such a team is a possibility to pick specialized talents for the project, choose cost-effective decisions, be present on the global market and create virtual organizations.
Agile teams include such members as:
- A business analyst or Proxy customer
- Database administrator
- Build master
- Interaction manager
- Quality analyst
- Iteration manager
- Project manager
Among the most important principles of agile development is a satisfaction of the customer and constant delivery of high-quality software. For the distributed agile development teams changing of the requirements is not a problem, even in the late stages of the development. The model of work is for those who prefer shorter timescales and needs software to be ready in several weeks to several months.
Interesting Facts about Going Remote
Remote work percentage has grown by 115% in only years (2005-2015) and continues to increase. US job market has started to change back then and became the third in the world with over 53.7 million freelancers being nearly one-third of the US labor force. The rates of an average remote developer salary make remote jobs even more popular among the global tech community.
77% of remote workers report that they are more productive than when they work onsite. Regarding the industry statistics of remote jobs, these markets tend to hire remote developers in the biggest amount:
- Real estate and mortgage
- Recruiting and human resources
- Finance and accounting
- Training and education
- Information technologies and software development
Modern companies are adopting flexible schedules today. Which is more, job seekers report that workplace flexibility outranks salary as the criteria of first importance when considering a job. More and more people are in demand for a flexible job option, so the market has to adjust to this new condition.
Companies like Amazon, Aetna, Dell, American Express and much more allow their workers to have flexible schedules, and this option is advantageous to all sides. Naturally, the market reacts to such demand and provides more remote working software development jobs for seekers.
Companies that go remote outline some interesting facts about what it means to work as a remote agent or remote services user:
An investor of Help Scout David Cancel believes that the CEO has to choose either remote or office culture and closely follow it because there is no middle option.
Meanwhile, founder of Lullabot Jeff Robbins said that if you don’t communicate well at a distributed company, you don’t exist.
What Is a Remote Team/Remote Developer?
In terms of Mobilunity’s services, a remote team is a group of remote software developers who work together on a task or project in a challenging and changing environment able to scale work and maintain agile software development. A remote software developer is self-organized, able to work in a team and as an individual employer. He has high communication skills, implements the best remote desktop manager, does his best in terms of coordination and is able to meet the deadline. He is open to receiving and providing sustainable feedback about the tasks fulfilled and is seeking continuous improvement.
The remote team is a team of experts in the desired field trained to work together and coordinate with the company’s manager. Finding the right talent in your local area to work in the office is a tough challenge, and you can avoid it if you hire remote developers.
It implies no hidden fees and no hassle, only the talent pool you require. What is more, outstaffing solutions in Ukraine not only provide companies with access to an enormous talent pool but also cost 60% cheaper than the same quality services in other Western countries.
It isn’t a simple task to find and onboard it, but a good team enables you to control every aspect of the development process. When you hire remote developers, you expect to achieve:
- Improvement of the firm’s focus
- Scaling of in-house development
- Increase in productivity
- Operating costs reduction and control
The Distributed Agile Team Structure: How It Can Look Like
The distributed software development team can be described as a team of teams. Each unit, in this case, is responsible for the particular piece of work and produces own feature or component of the product. The units usually consist of the team lead, architecture owner, team members, specialists, and a product owner. The separate part of the crew is a supporting cast. Here you will find the technical experts, domain experts, and independent testers, who helps to validate the work of each unit.
The work of the subteams is coordinated on the daily meetings. The interaction and communication between them are important for the project success: one subteam can be dependant on another or need some help. In the case of the remote subteams, it is important to have several channels of connection and keep in touch every day. For this purpose, you can organize a leadership team to support the testers and integration team, create the coordination structure for the large project.
The approximate scheme of the distributed agile team structure:
Produce features or components of the product
Helps to control and validate the work of the subteams
supports and coordinates all the subteams
|Common consumable solution|
5 Hacks How to Make the Distributed Software Engineering Work Remotely
Many companies today are trying to go remote because it is an easy way to find partners with the proper qualification and for the affordable price. However, one and the same issue appears in this case: how to make the work of the distributed software engineering team efficient if your people are working from different places, having different time zones or even dates.
Being Agile, the teams easily solve these problems and deliver the software of outstanding quality. We have 5 hacks, which will help you to organize the distributed team’s work in the best way:
- Optimize communication. Daily communication among the workers is not only about Skype. There are also useful project management tools like Git, Jira, Slack, Trello, Dropbox, Drive or similar services. Everyday meetings are a must. To ensure the effectiveness of the conversation ask team members to summarise what had been said, identify key moments and tasks.
- Establish common standards and control. To be effective the team should follow a single concept, agree on the common practices and standards they should adopt. Discuss the code standards, development procedures, styles, and patterns: it will help to create a complete picture of the future product. The team should know well quality standards and criteria.
- Clarify the agile concept. Hiring the remote performers, you cannot be 100% sure they are really agile. So, choosing the programmers for your project, clarify that it is agile. Introduce the methodology to the crew. Agree on the time of the daily meetings, a number of sprints, automation tests, and other important working issues.
- Spread the work equally. To make your agile team efficient, make sure everyone understands his role and tasks in the project. Try to distribute the workloads evenly and never treat team members as “helpers” of the “main players”.
- Choose a leader for each subteam. Every working site of three and more people should have one leader who works as a coordinator and communicates with the other subteams. In fact, it is a single point of contact, which represents the needs and achievements of the team, supports it and makes the workflow more comfortable for all the sides of cooperation.
Distributed software engineering is a complex process, where each component is important. If you will manage to organize it in a way, comfortable for all the members of your team, you will get high-motivated people and quality product as a result.
The Types of the Remote Teams’ Geographical Distribution
Most remote agile development teams are more or less geographically distributed. According to the statistics, there are 3 types of distribution:
- 39% – colocated teams;
- 23% – near located teams;
- 38% – far located teams.
Collocated Development Teams
In this case, all the team is located in a single room, working beside one another. Such working space is often called “war room”, “tiger team room” or simply “pod”. Collocation is good to solve the communication problems, organize normal cooperation and comprehension. It is also useful for daily meetings and discussions.
You can find such positive and negative features of this type of team:
|Easy communication – daily face-to-face meetings improve cooperation and comprehension.||Difficult to build and maintain – you need a comfortable working space for a crew.|
|Space for training – it is easy to work with the new employees and improve the qualification of the “old” ones.||Inflexibility – some of the team members can work remotely, while others have to be present every day.|
|Close cooperation – collocation is comfortable when common meetings and discussions are needed.||Reduced hiring pool – you can hire people who can visit your office every day.|
|Easy control – managers can constantly control the work of the developers, coordinate them and support as quickly as needed.||Crowded office – most developers prefer working in a place, where no one is interrupting them so it is easy to focus.|
Near Located Development Teams
The remote agile development teams working at one project are located on a reasonable distance, but it is easy to reach office in a couple of hours. For example, you can reach Kyiv in 2-3 hours of flight from most European cities.
|Talent pool – it is easier to find a high the professionals you need if you can widen the geography of search.||Less trust – people, who have never met face-to-face may not feel like members of one team, especially when people represent different cultures.|
|More work – if your sub-teams are located in the different time zones you, they can work 24 hours a day. It is comfortable, when the work of one team depends on another.||Pure data security – when you pass the information concerning your project through the internet, there is always a risk of a leak.|
Far Located Development Teams
Several members or even subteams are located in different parts of the world, continents and time zones, so it is really difficult to reach the other team for a face-to-face meeting. Physical meetings, in this case, can occur once at the beginning of the project or developers can never meet.
|Flexibility – you can create different subteams until you find the programs suitable for you.||Complicated communication – you should work hard to build the effective communication for proper work.|
|No relocation – you don’t have to move or solve a problem of the relocation of your team members.||Unexpected costs – check all the costs involved in the project on the stage of the budget planning and make sure the additional fees will not appear.|
|Cutting costs – you can find the programmers for a lower price and avoid expenses for the office.||Pure deadlines control – it is easier to control the colocated developers, than people living in another time zone.|
What Should You Know Managing Distributed Agile Teams
According to the statistics, agile development has 91% of adoption in software development worldwide in 2018. And managing the remote agile teams is half of the success.
3 main principles of this methodology are:
- Programmers and businessmen are working daily together throughout the project.
- The most effective way of the information conveying inside of the development team is a face-to-face conversation.
- A team can find ways to become more effective and adjust the behavior according to the plan at the regular intervals.
To achieve the maximum effect, one agile subteam should be of 3 to 9 members with the leader. Organizing the work keep in mind the personal working schedules of the people from different subteams. Team roles should be distributed evenly between the subteams. It is not a good idea to keep the separate crews of developers, designers, testers and so on.
To make the management easier, choose tools, that are comfortable for your team. The choice of the tools depends on the agile technique you use:
- Scrum: eye contact and face-to-face communication are important, so it is necessary to organize it through Skype for Business or Lync, Google Hangouts, Firefox Hello, Skype, Mikogo.
- Planning Poker: for the collocated team managers use a deck of cards, for the far located teams there are online alternatives by Mountain Goat Software, Matt Ruwe and Nearsoft.
- Retrospective: to help team members express their thoughts anonymously, managers use PointingPoker.com – it has the option of the retrospective with entry and review modes.
Managing distributed agile teams can be simpler if you know several useful tips.
3 Tips to Improve Your Distributed Agile Team Management
To successfully guide the team, prevent ambiguity, instability and save the project from turning into chaos, managers are ready to implement different techniques and try new ways of work. Among them there are:
- Everyday checkpoints. Ten-minute checkpoint call at the beginning of the day will help the distributed team to come together, introspect the priorities and synchronize with the other team members.
- Coaching to become agile. The team separated by different locations will probably have professional differences. which will affect the result in the end. Coaching will minimize the conflicts, improve the team dynamics and inclusiveness.
- Freedom of expression. Cultivate the culture of constructive discussions. Perhaps, one subteam will notice something important and help another subteam. All the teams and groups should participate equally in the discussions.
What Is the Difference in Hiring Freelancer and Remote Software Developer
Although hiring remote software developer and freelancer might seem to be the same, these two processes are different and imply diverse approaches towards onboarding, expenses and other job-related issues.
What Is the Difference Between Offshoring to India and China and Remote Software Developer in Eastern Europe
When it comes to outsourcing, Eastern Europe and Asia make up the most common choices for western companies.
As far as Asian countries and outsourcing development are concerned, India is the most popular choice. However, this sphere in India needs a lot of improvement. Cultural difference is the most outstanding option, as a huge number of developers in India have a very different lifestyle from western European developers and even eastern. What is more, the quality of their work is often questionable, since they tend to get a task done quickly rather than to get it done properly. The reason for such a situation is the local education system that enforces memorizing things than actually understanding or learning them.
Hiring full or part-time software developer remote from Eastern European countries implies dealing with the staff not as quantitative as Asian, but also a high-quality one. Workers from Eastern European countries are more culturally comfortable for cooperation with the U.S. and Western European countries. Moreover, hiring a remote developer team from Eastern Europe will resolve the time zones issue that exists when offshoring to Asian countries. That is why Latvia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and other countries from the region attract so many Western European companies. The outsourcing firms here are more than just third-party executives, it also has a proactive role in the business development of the client. Moreover, developers Eastern European developers tend to be more attentive towards details of the tasks they do and display more initiative in their work.
These are basically the key differences between outsourcing work to Asia and Europe.
How to Implement Agile/Scrum in Your Remote Team
Working with remote teams implies specific operating peculiarities such as maintaining deadlines and meeting all the task requirements, as well as pursuing perfect communication processes. Boosting development capacity and delivery time with remote developers is another challenge firms might face depending on the outsourcing company they use.
- In order to maintain agile in the dedicated remote team of software developers, there are specific guidelines to follow. The Agile Manifesto contains 12 principles of the successful work for the development team, stakeholders and business owners. They make the agile process more clear and simple.
- Customer is at the center of the whole work process and satisfaction of his requirements is the top priority. The development team should do its best to deliver valuable software in the shortest possible time and with minimal changes.
- Changing requirements are welcome, even if they are late. The agile methodology allows making changes in every stage of work to make a product with significant advantages.
- Software delivery should be frequent and on time with a preference to the shorter timescale. The distributed agile development team usually consists of more people, than the ordinary team. Different subteams working at the same time help to complete the product earlier. And on-time delivery is the question of proper management and adequate deadlines.
- Businessmen and software developers cooperate together throughout the project. To make a project successful it is not enough to hire the professional developers. The business owner should work together with the coders, check the results, compare it with the aims and decide on the changes if needed.
- Only motivated people are engaged in the projects, as they receive the best fitting environment and support. A face-to-face conversation is a best and most effective way of delivering information to and within a development team. To keep people motivated, try to cultivate the common corporate culture, organize the communication between the subteams. The communication shouldn’t be limited with the work issues. Making friends the separate specialists become a team.
- Working software of technical excellence and great design is the main measure of progress. If you want to measure the success – pay attention to these features, cause they are the most important for the final user. Sometimes it is better to sacrifice some time in order to get better quality. But never sacrifice the quality to finish the project earlier.
- Sustainable development at a constant pace should be maintained. The software development process can be really long – make sure all the participants (including sponsors, developers, and users) should be ready to maintain a constant pace for an indefinite period.
- Self-organizing teams produce the best architectures, requirements, and designs. You can hire dozens of managers, but the essential skill of the remote development team is the ability to self-organize. The self-organized team provides a quality product in time and always follows the plan. It is easier to work with people, who require less control.
- The team should reflect on becoming more effective regularly. Organize common meetings, where you can discuss what is done and what should be done next. Soon the remote developers will get used to each other. Ask them to comment on their cooperation and the possible ways of its improvement. With every new sprint, the programmers will find a point where it is possible to make their work better.
Can software developers work from home? Yes, they can. The question is how organized they are and how dedicated they will remain to stick up to the company’s requirements.
Benefits of Hiring a Remote Team in Ukraine/Eastern Europe
Onboarding and Recruiting Process at Mobilunity
The processes of onboarding and recruiting at the company require specific attention, as they influence the following work of the team member in a distributed team. The process has a few stages:
- Recruiting is the process of selecting candidates, test task completion and interviewing. After all, details are agreed, Mobilunity makes an offer to the best-fitted candidate.
- Onboarding starts afterward. It implies dealing with the settling the person in the working environment, enrolling the new employee into the team and dealing with various essential daily processes in the team like time tracking, reporting and task management.
- Work process means staff retention and motivation of workers. In such a way, we ensure that all workers at Mobilunity are content with the company’s policy, motivated and make sure all contractual obligations are met.