Agile in a distributed environment

Is Agile possible in a distributed environment? Yes, if you do not think about it as a blocker. Not if you do not want that.

Of course, Agile is much easier in a collocated environment where all team members are in the same room. But even here, Agile is simple, but not easy.

Distributed environment makes Agile hard just because of one very important aspect. Agile is about people and interactions. It is in the DNA of Agile. Once people are not thinking about others in the team, once they do not actively work on collaboration and communication, Agile will not help to improve things.

Today’s world offers us a lot of technologies that can overcome problems with distance. But it is still necessary to want to talk, explain, understand, listen and provide feedback even with those tools.

Tools for distributed Agile teams

In ScrumDesk we do sprint planning over Microsoft Teams. We have our work tracked in the ScrumDesk Kanban boards itself, but that doesn’t mean we do not need to talk.

ScrumDesk notification messages in Microsoft Teams

ScrumDesk integration into Microsoft Teams chat rooms

We use Slack for chat and integration with other tools (Microsoft Teams, GitLab)  to stay informed. But we also discuss problems, ideas, and solutions in chat rooms. Our team is a very distributed one, but that doesn’t stop us in pair programming over MS Teams, or code review with Git pull-request capability.

Travelling is a key

For important sessions, we try to meet in person. Because brainstorming is much more efficient in person.

Backlog refinement or release planning sessions are better to be done in person. Invest a few bucks into travelling. It is once per 2-3 months.

Travel to all locations. Rotate locations so everybody feels the pain of travelling. Let yourself be equal. You can understand the culture, habits, and environment of your team members this way much deeper.

Later, with all those tools, life will be much easier. Because you already will understand the language, mimics, and limits of your colleagues.

We observed many teams working great in an agile environment. The limit is not the distance, the limit is the willingness to support each other, understanding of the vision, being sticky to promises were given, being disciplined, transparent and responsible person.