How to Effectively use SCRUM working with a Remote Development Team
Working remotely is the new normal, especially for software developers. Forming and managing remote development teams is a cost-effective way of tapping into the global talent pool to create a focused and flexible group of top-notch professionals. We’ve talked about the advantages of working with a remote development team before in more detail, so we won’t be getting into it again. Instead, the main focus of this article will be – how to effectively shift the agile and scrum values from the office to the remote software development team environment. Let’s get started!
Building remote SCRUM teams
SCRUM is a project development model which falls under the umbrella of the agile methodology. It is an iterative model with a high degree of flexibility and adaptability (check out one of our previous articles to read in detail about the SCRUM methodology). While the methodology has produced excellent results when implemented by on-location groups, it does not rule out off-location distributed development teams either! However, a bit more preparation and effort are required to successfully transfer and adapt the scrum techniques to the remote environment. Hence, first of all, we need to know what are the biggest challenges that a remote development team faces, and then we can suggest ways to overcome them.
Challenges for remote development teams
While many are under the impression that remote team members are not as productive as their co-located counterparts, numerous studies have shown that the opposite is often true. Then, what are the most significant challenges that a remote SCRUM team will face?
Developing a software project can easily become a chaotic affair, even in the best of circumstances. Throw in the fact that the team is scattered all around the world, and the scrum master has a problem on their hands. It’s extremely important that the project scope is well defined, and the roles and tasks are clearly outlined for everyone. Establishing a structured workflow is one of the key parts of the SCRUM framework. To overcome these productivity and organizational issues, effective remote scrum tools are needed.
For each step of the SCRUM development process, there exist a variety of online tools which can help teams successfully collaborate and coordinate. A great tool for outlining and tracking progress are office whiteboards and task boards. Popular tools like Trello, Confluence, JIRA, and others, allow teams to create virtual whiteboards/task boards in which all the relevant information is gathered in one place and each team member is able to view and edit as necessary. Organizing and visualizing team input and ideas can also be accomplished through virtual mind-mapping tools such as Canva, MindMup, Coggle, etc. Information sharing is vital, and is also easily achieved with online document sharing tools such as Google Docs.
Good communication practices are the cornerstone of the agile methodology, and even more important for a remote development team. Interpersonal relationships which evolve in an office environment are notably now harder to cultivate. Social interaction outside the sphere of work is important to keep team members from feeling isolated and thus feel more motivated. The team leader should actively encourage and set up activities through which the team can bond – an example would be setting up an informal chat call once a week.
Effective communication builds trust between the team members, as well as between the team and the client. Transparency between the client and team is vital for successfully developing the product. The client must unambiguously present their idea and swiftly react to undesirable outcomes. On the other hand, it’s the team leader’s responsibility to communicate the progress of the project to the client on a regular basis, daily if needed.
Finally, for the project to proceed as planned, team members need to engage in regular and open communication. This means daily meetings for sharing information and planning tasks, but more importantly for being honest about any issues they may be having – whether with the project, management, or whatever else that is related to the realization of the product. Apps like Zoom or Slack are just a few examples of the plethora of online communication tools available.
Agile promotes self-organization and self-reliance – qualities especially significant for members of a remote SCRUM team. Team members need to take responsibility for their work, and team leaders need to keep track of that work. It’s the team leader’s obligation to establish effective work practices and a schedule, and then help the team become independent. While the team will eventually become a self-organized unit, assistance and mutual support should still be encouraged. The team should agree on a certain set of expectations and a way to hold each other accountable. Raising issues as soon as they are observed will help find solutions faster and prevent any development bottlenecks. In the end, mistakes will happen, but a self-reliant team will learn from those and become better.
How can we help?
We here at Redvike already have abundant experience on this topic. Aside from our continuous adoption of agile practices, we have successfully managed to shift those to an off-location setting. We can offer ready-to-go remote software development teams to help you create the product you’ve always envisioned.