Why working remotely can benefit agile software development

When I finish work I often head out on the hills, ride or fly model planes and watch the sunset. I spend time with my children and my wife . I love my job, my life at home and the fact that I don’t have to commute between them. Time is precious.

But doesn’t all this interfere with Agile?

The most important thing in agile is the principles, working remotely has no impact on them.

As for the practices:

Our daily scrum: We start the day more chilled than those who were crammed onto a stinking tube train. Our scrum starts at 9:30 but most of the team join a bit earlier to have a chat. Topics vary from jam making to chicken keeping, rather than delayed trains and rain. We share a screen showing our progress. It doesn’t have the tactility of post-its on a board but you soon get over it.

Pairing: With screen sharing and Skype we can pair all day, its comfortable because we don’t have to stare at the same screen. There are fewer distractions than an office.

Planning & Retrospectives: Ok on this one I concede it’s nice to get together once in a while and retrospectives are a great time to do it. Like the daily scrum they can work remotely too.

What about access to your team and collaboration, Skype can be as instinctive as walking over to another’s desk if you use it correctly. Conversations usually start with a quick message to see if someone can be disturbed. If we want to bring someone else in we just add them to the conversation, its less disruptive than walking off to find them

Learning to work remotely takes a bit of time and thought, there will be impediments, impediments are there to be removed. A cultural shift is required, there will be resistance, but the benefits are worth it.

I don’t need to see my teams face, I know what they look like, but I like working with happy, relaxed, content people rather than commuters dreaming of a better life. I’m convinced the lack of anxiety in our team has contributed to the great collaborations and relationships which in turns means better software. We all value our jobs and this gives us very low staff turnover and a more consistent team. I see so many benefits I struggle to see why remote agile gets such a bad wrap.

2 comments

  1. Good post! I especially like the bit about pair programming 100% of the time with Skype or shared tools and using a quick message just to see if someone can be disturbed. Bottom line, yes it can work, but the players need to play using a rule book created to fit the distributed team, but with the same goals & values used for the colocated team.

    As to games and retrospectives, I had some luck setting up a wiki and shared google docs for data gathering to be used by the team before the conference call retro. Had them do it in pairs. Got a lot more thoughtful input that way, and it had more of a game feel.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Interesting to hear how you do retrospectives. Our team doesn’t really take to games being all english and reserved 😉

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