the secret to successful collaboration in distributed agile teams

Just because agility is not designed for distributed teams doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. In this article we show you how you can help your distributed agile teams to success.

When the Agile Manifesto was published in early 2001, distributed working was not yet widespread. But times are changing – in the meantime it can be found almost without exception in industry. The advantages of distributed teams are obvious and have proven themselves.

But how exactly can a concept based on social components exist?

challenges in the coordination of distributed teams

Working with distributed teams can pose many challenges. Many of these challenges can be traced back to the technologies used.

However, another component, that of communication, is often underestimated. Project managers or product owners must master the following challenges:

  • Coordination of teams in different time zones, especially if there are dependencies in their work
  • Cooperation in different cultures, possibly with language barriers
  • Complex scheduling due to different working times, if these overlap only for a few hours a day
  • Building relationships when not all members are in the same office

All these problems can be solved. There are some strategies to help bridge the gap between team members working separately.

best practices and tools for disributed agile teams

It is important to understand why many agile projects are successful. The most important component of this is the strong relationships between all project participants. This is especially about the trust that is placed in the team. If they are not sitting in an office, it is difficult for the team to build up mutual trust and act as one team.

In agile projects, personal relationships are of extraordinary importance. Nothing is better than the traditional face-to-face meetings. However, if these are not possible, video conferencing should take their place.

We have made very good experiences with the use of Microsoft Teams and would like to give suggestions on how agile projects can be implemented using digital tools.

An elementary tool in agile projects is the Task Board. Here Microsoft offers e.g. Azure DevOps. In DevOps, requirements can be recorded, categorized, prioritized and tracked. Due to the easy integration into Microsoft teams, every team member is always up to date, furthermore it facilitates communication in video conferences or other calls/chats. If it is a software development project, even builds/releases can be started and monitored via this connector. Another possibility is to work with task lists. These can also be directly integrated into teams and thus naturally enjoy the advantages mentioned above.

For project work, Teams also offers a variety of other tools to simplify the work of distributed teams.

  • Use of the whiteboard in video phone calls to enable a common presentation of content. Among other things, we can confirm a great benefit when used in remote workshops!
  • A direct OneNote integration for taking notes (e.g. Meeting Minutes)
  • Through the integration of file sharing on a OneDrive basis, all required documents are stored centrally, sharing and editing in a distributed team and/or a meeting/conversation becomes very easy to handle.

Continue to encourage your team members to facilitate a face-to-face session with each other at least once a week. This is not so much about formal discussions as about the social factor of these discussions.

Remember: a strong cohesion of all participants is the key to successful agile teams!