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Remote working in an Agile team
Remote working in an Agile team

In This White Paper

September 2016 | Agile Research Network | Agile Projects

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Co-location is the ‘gold standard’ of Agile development, but distribution in one form or another is a necessary reality of today’s development activity for many organisations.

Created by the Agile Research Network

Agile Research Network

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Remote working in an Agile team


Summary

Co-location is the ‘gold standard’ of Agile development, but distribution in one form or another is a necessary reality of today’s development activity for many organisations.

Distribution comes in three main flavours:

  • Distributed teams
  • Dispersed individuals
  • Hybrid teams

A distributed team consists of sub-teams in different locations, i.e. everyone in the sub-team is co-located with others in the sub-team, but the overall team is split between locations; this is commonly used in offshoring and global software development contexts.

A dispersed team describes the situation when each individual in the team is located in a different place so each individual is on their own.

A hybrid team is a combination of co-location and dispersed working, where there is a co-located team and one or two individuals who are located elsewhere and are on their own; these workers are referred to as remote workers.

This white paper focuses on the experience of one organisation that utilises hybrid teams for its software development. It explores the challenges faced by this organisation in using remote working, investigates one team in detail and summarises relevant findings from existing literature that help to address these challenges.

Introduction

Agile software development advocates the use of small co-located teams to help reduce misunderstanding, aid face-to-face communication and improve decisionmaking. The benefits of co-location have been known for many years, and in the early days of agile working, this co-location principle was stubbornly adhered to.

Yet, the business reality for many organisations means the use of outsourced developers, third party external specialists or geographically scattered team members. Co-location cannot be supported in many cases and for various reasons, including cost, and this has led to remote working in one form or another.

One form of remote working is often referred to as distributed teams where subteams are situated in different locations, even different countries. Another is the dispersed team where most or all team members work alone in different locations. A third type of distribution is the hybrid team, with a combination of some co-located members and some working remotely. Organisations typically use remote working to retain talented staff or to gain access to specialist skills. In this case, integrating workers’ capability and retaining expertise and experience are more important than simply cutting costs.

To produce this case study the Agile Research Network (ARN)1 worked with a small software house, Workplace Systems Ltd (WPS). They specifically wanted to know whether remote working is compatible with agile working, and how best to make remote workers’ participation as effective as possible throughout the sprints. The aim of this case study is to:

  1. Seek others’ published experiences of using remote working with agile software development.
  2. Investigate how hybrid teams collaborate: the differences that exist between the colocated team members and the remote worker; and the challenges faced in making collaboration effective.
  3. Identify potential mitigation strategies from research and practitioner literature to overcome the challenges identified.

Download the full whitepaper here

 

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