Distributed agile / distributed teams

I often hear people say “offshore doesn’t work I need my people together”.

This is simply not true. Perhaps they are embarrassed to say they haven’t been able to make it work. I don’t think that is true either. I think it is just a case of they haven’t tried it but they probably have and haven’t even realised it.

Staff often work from home because they are not very well, waiting for plumbers, etc. Whilst at home they dial into meetings and/or conduct conversations with other people using telephone, Skype, Google Hangout, GotoMeeting, etc.

I know a company where their team lead is in Sofia and he manages a distributed development team across Sofia (Bulgaria), London (UK) and Newcastle (UK). I also know a company with developers in San Francisco (USA), Bath (UK), Kiev (Ukraine) and St Petersburg (Russia). They and many others find it works very well.

My personal preference is to divide projects into small self contained teams, e.g. < 5 people, so the communication overhead between people is reduced which results a small amount of team to team communication.

For example an eCommerce project could be split into 5 small teams UI designers (London), www UI developers (London), admin UI developers (Sofia), web services developers (Sofia), import / export developers (Sofia), etc. Should the import / export developers sit in a scrum meeting and listen to the UI developers whittle on about things effecting them and vice versa. No. It’s not a good use of their time.

Here is an example of what not to do

conference-call

A meeting for 16 people regardless of whether face to face or distributed is going be long and energy sapping. Just look at their faces!

If you operate multiple locations it makes sense to invest a few hundred dollars in a large TV and a conference camera like this Logitech BCC950 Conference Camera in each location.

conference-call2

Offshore teams and distributed teams work and there is a new generation of people for whom this is the norm.

You should embrace talent no matter where it is in the world.

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