Jun 30

I currently act as scrum master for two teams, one remote and one co-located. I have found that the conversations around expected functionality and business requirements happen on both teams but the information seems to get lost and confused on the remote team.

This perplexed me for a while. I thought I was doing the same things with both teams. The same basic planning and discussion was taking place but the remote team just seemed to always wind up with more confusion. More of their work had to be reworked to get acceptance from our product owner.

Eventually we began writing down all of our decisions and business expectations instead of just relying on the discussion. We started having our business analyst do more documentation of the features in the beginning of the sprint and reviewing what the team was planning to build.

After doing this for a while I could see it was working. The confusion had been cleared. About that time I realized that this is exactly the same thing my local team was doing all along. The only difference was that the remote team took longer to figure out the need so it was staring me in the face as something that was harder for my remote team.

After thinking about this I realize that remote teams take longer to identify and solve issues with how they are doing things. That is really the root cause of this issue. I suspect a lot of my remote ream rules will be incorporating items identified this way. If I can just find a way to fix that root cause the other rules wouldn't be as necessary.

Eventually technology might solve it and eliminate the difference between remote and co-located teams. In the meantime figuring out this set of rules for handling remote teams is my best answer.

Remote Team Rule 2: Team decisions need to be written down and shared.

Jun 21

I had a situation where one of my teams had some local members and other members who were remote.

At first I tried having the remote team members participate in their daily status meetings via a conference line. That worked, but just not as well as I would like. It was difficult for the remote folks to keep up with what was going on and often there would be discussions that they would not seem to know happened.

After struggling with this for some time I decided to try holding the status meeting over the phone for the whole team. It worked very well.

In fact I have one team that currently is in this situation and I find that having all team members reporting via phone puts everyone on a level playing field. The status meetings run quickly, everyone lets the person reporting talk without interrupting, and the meeting gets handled quickly- just like a daily status meeting should.

From this I have formed what I will call Remote Team Rule 1.

Remote Team Rule 1: When a team has remote and local members, daily status meetings should be held as though all team members are remote.

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Jun 14

I agree with the premise that communicating and team building is easier face-to-face than doing it remotely. That however, is irrelevant. We live in a world where remote working is a reality and will continue to be so. It is high time for software professionals and companies to recognize this reality and do what it takes to be good at handling things remotely.

If you question the reality of remote working being here to stay please take a look around. You will see more and more people working remotely. Just look at things like Facebook. People all over are connecting remotely and maintaining relationship at a distance. The kids going through college right now have vast remote networks of people they have never met. Plenty of people will embrace doing things remotely.

I am utterly convinced that over the next decade our profession will embrace remote teams and in a big way. I’m talking about remote working in ways that we have only begun to imagine now. The concept of needing office space for a software development team will be antiquated. Just wait until some 20 year old kid drops out of Harvard and starts up a massive software company using his network of remote developer friends located around the world to build a product line. Think that’s impossible? I think not. Even if that doesn’t happen lots of companies are embracing the concept of remote working. If the rest of us in the software business are not ready to deal with that kind of challenge we will find ourselves obsolete and out of work.

The end game is a matter of survival. Being good at doing things remotely is a necessary skill for survival in the future of software. Acknowledge reality and get good at doing things remotely.

So Going Forward…

In this topic I will continue discussing ideas on working remotely. This will include building remote teams, managing remote people, conducting remote meetings and anything else that come to my mind regarding dealing with remote work.


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