Managing Communication Barriers in Geographically Dispersed Teams

Few week ago I had an amazing time to share my thoughts on how to manage communication barriers in agile teams which are not co-located. In agile development we usually recommend to go with co-located teams as in the most situations it can help to build better cohesion. From economical perspective, co-located teams are cheaper to maintain as they learn faster from each other, performance growth is amplified by better self-accountability. Given all the benefits of the co-location there are still many cases when co-location is impossible. Dispersed team usually consists of engineers from different locations and time zones which cause several inconveniences and communication barriers if we want to adopt Scrum framework and create Scrum Team. On the webinar we were exploring how agile technologies can help us to overcome communication barriers. What are the bad practices we should avoid? How to setup Scrum in geographically dispersed teams? 

You can review it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy_j5c_vnaw

Slides can be taken from: http://www.slideshare.net/LuxoftAgilePractice/managing-communication-barriers-in-geographically-dispersed-teams

After the webinar I had some time to answer couple of questions. Let me remind that:

Q: “What is the best setup for daily standups in case of dev team in 2 locations? i.e. big screen + camera + whiteboard (how to make the whiteboard interactive for both locations?)”

A: “Setup can be different. Last time I did it with a Scrum Team from one invetment bank was:

  1. Audio conference bridge with video option (Lync)
  2. Lync screen sharing
  3. JIRA Agile plugin
  4. Lync collaborative boards (similar to https://awwapp.com)
    1. One board Scrum Master is using to capture impediment list
    2. Second board is used to capture general meeting notes
  5. Lync messenger for Planning Pocker
  6. Scrum Master ensure 15 minutes timebox and focuses completely on facilitation
  7. All impediments, new items and tasks are captured to JIRA Sprint Backlog immediately after Daily Scrum
  8. Scrum Master is sharing him MoMs to entire Scrum Team, with updated Burn-down chart, impediments and updated plan for remaining Sprint

In other teams instead of Lync I used WebEx (it has almost the same set of features we needed)

Interactive whiteboards is a nice tool for cross-location design workshops just before the start of the new Sprint”

Q: “If I have BAs, DEVs and QAs, but can colloctace only 2 teams – who is better to sit together”

A: “Who is more connected to produce releasable Increment at the end of the Sprint? Usually, development team memebers with QA and DEV shift have more tasks in the Sprint Backlog,  thus they need more time to communicate and coordinate between each other. Therefore it sounds more reasonable if QA and DEV sit together, shoulder-to-shoulder. BA spends more time on requirements elicitation and usually works up-front to refine Product Backlog. DEV and QA in this case just need an effective tools and good working agreements to communicate to BA”.

 

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