What Is a Distributed Agile Team, and How Can You Create One?

What Is a Distributed Agile Team, and How Can You Create One?
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In today's rapidly evolving software development landscape, distributed Agile teams have emerged as an effective way to ensure teams stay nimble and responsive to changing requirements.

A distributed Agile team is a group of software development professionals working together across different geographical locations and time zones, united by a common goal and the Agile methodology.

By embracing the latest practices and research in distributed Agile methodology, software development businesses can create powerful and flexible foundations to build great software products.

Agile Development Methodology

What is a distributed Agile team?

A distributed Agile team is a group of software developers, designers, and project managers working together to build software using the Agile approach. They are spread across different locations and time zones, collaborating and communicating through various tools and platforms.

For example, a software development business might have team members in the United States, India, and Europe, all working together on a project through video conferencing, shared documents, and Agile project management tools like Jira.

12 Agile principles to remember

Effectively build and work with a distributed Agile team by considering the top 12 Agile principles, which provide a strong foundation for the Agile approach.

1. Ensure customer satisfaction through early and continuous software delivery

Putting customer satisfaction first means delivering working software as quickly as possible and regularly updating it to meet evolving customer needs. This enables the team to gather feedback and make necessary adjustments to ensure the final product is tailored to the target audience.

2. Make changing requirements an advantage

Your team’s ability to adapt to change is a cornerstone of Agile development. Distributed Agile teams should be prepared to embrace changing requirements at any project stage. A changing requirement implies the customer has found a new use that may give them a competitive advantage. Agile methodologies can help ensure the final product remains relevant and valuable.

3. Focus on short delivery timescales of working software

Frequent delivery of working software allows for regular feedback and helps keep the entire team aligned and focused. In addition, shorter delivery timescales enable faster iterations and improvements, ultimately leading to a higher-quality product.

4. Collaborate with stakeholders throughout the project

Communication and collaboration between business stakeholders and developers are critical for any project’s success. Continuous collaboration ensures everyone is on the same page and the final product meets the business’s and end users’ needs.

5. Support conscientious, motivated individuals

Identify the conscientious, motivated people on your team—the people with the strongest work ethics and commitment. Provide them with the support, tools, and environment to allow them to perform at their best and deliver exceptional results.

6. Use face-to-face communication when possible

While distributed teams may only sometimes have the luxury of in-person communication, video conferencing, and other virtual face-to-face communication tools can help bridge the gap. Regular face-to-face interactions build trust and rapport among team members, fostering a strong sense of teamwork and collaboration.

7. Hold working software as your measure of progress

The main indicator of progress for a distributed Agile team is the delivery of functional software. Focusing on working software as the primary measure of success lets teams maintain a clear sense of purpose and direction.

8. Maintain sustainable development consistently

Sustainable development means the team can maintain a consistent pace while avoiding burnout and ensuring long-term success. Balancing workloads, setting realistic goals, and prioritizing well-being contribute to a sustainable development environment.

9. Pay continuous attention to excellence

Emphasizing technical excellence and good design ensures the final product is high quality and meets end users’ needs. Regular code reviews, pair programming, and adherence to best practices are all essential for achieving technical excellence.

In a distributed Agile team, focusing on technical excellence helps maintain high standards across different locations and time zones. It also reduces the risk of technical debt, which can hinder your team's ability to respond quickly to changing requirements.

10. Remember—simplicity is essential

Simplicity is the key to delivering value faster in a distributed Agile team. By concentrating on what truly matters, teams can avoid spending time on unnecessary tasks and can instead focus on delivering the most critical features.

Keeping things simple helps minimize misunderstandings in a remote work environment. It also reduces the cognitive load for team members, allowing them to work more effectively.

11. Encourage great products with self-organizing teams

A distributed Agile team must be self-organizing to perform optimally. By giving team members the autonomy to make decisions, you empower them to find the best solutions to problems and encourage innovation.

In a remote work setting, self-organizing teams can adapt to different locations and time zones while maintaining a high level of collaboration.

In addition to fostering a sense of ownership and responsibility, self-organizing teams lead to more efficient decision-making and better outcomes. Trusting your team to take charge of their work results in a more agile and adaptable organization.

12. Regularly reflect and adjust behavior accordingly

Continuous improvement is at the core of the Agile approach.

For distributed Agile teams, regular reflection on teamwork is crucial to identify areas where the team can improve its processes and collaboration. Holding sprint retrospectives helps remote team members share their experiences, discuss what went well, and highlight what needs to change.

In a remote work environment, retrospectives allow team members to come together and strengthen their connections. Adjusting behavior and processes based on these reflections makes the entire team more effective and agile.

How to organize a distributed Agile team

Organizing a distributed Agile team requires thoughtful planning and implementation. You can browse project management freelancers for your next software development project at Upwork and gather the best team possible. And remember the following tips to help you create your distributed Agile team when hiring.

Stay on top of your project

Effective project management is essential for the success of a distributed Agile team. Use project management tools like Jira or Microsoft software to track user stories, tasks, and deadlines. Ensuring everyone on the team is current with the project's progress helps prevent delays and promotes accountability.

Measure your team’s productivity

Regularly monitoring your team's productivity helps you identify areas for improvement and enables you to make informed decisions about resource allocation.

Track metrics like velocity, sprint burndown, and cumulative flow diagrams to gain insights into your team's performance. Measuring productivity ensures your remote team functions effectively and efficiently.

Use tools to improve communication

Effective communication is crucial for a distributed Agile team. Here are four tools that can enhance communication processes:

  1. Monday.com. Monday.com is a versatile, cloud-based platform that empowers distributed Agile teams to build custom applications tailored to their requirements. Features include Gantt charts, Kanban boards, document collaboration, automation, and integrations.
  2. Hive. Streamline project management and boost productivity with Hive. This project management platform offers valuable insights into daily employee productivity and assists your team with seamless scheduling and task coordination.
  3. Around. Around is an innovative virtual meeting platform that helps distributed Agile teams excel in their projects.
  4. Slack. Slack is a popular messaging platform that allows real-time conversations and asynchronous communication within teams.
  5. Zoom. Loved by users worldwide, the Zoom video conferencing tool enables face-to-face meetings and daily scrums with remote team members.
  6. Trello. Trello is an intuitive visual project management tool that helps teams collaborate on tasks and track project progress.

Distribute work

Effectively managing development work in a distributed environment involves breaking tasks into Agile stages, including sprint planning, sprint review, and sprint retrospective.

Coupled with daily stand-ups, these stages address many of the challenges faced by remote workers and development teams operating across different time zones.

1. Sprint planning

Sprint planning sets the foundation for the entire sprint and defines the sprint goal. In a distributed environment, teams can leverage tools like Jira and communication platforms like Skype to plan their sprints remotely.

Conducting sprint planning meetings via video calls allows all team members, including the product owner and the Scrum team, to participate and collaborate. These meetings foster communication and rapport, helping remote workers stay engaged and connected.

Daily stand-ups or scrums are brief recurring meetings that last up to 15 minutes. Team members share their progress from the previous day, their goals for the current day, and any roadblocks they may face. These regular touchpoints help maintain focus and facilitate ongoing communication within the team.

2. Sprint review

During the sprint review, the team evaluates the sprint goal established during planning. All team members participate in this stage, including the product owner and Scrum master.

The sprint review focuses on deliverables, product increments, the software, and the work completed throughout the sprint.

Remote teams can use this opportunity to discuss problems, potential solutions, and any other issues that arose during the sprint. The review meeting is informal, promoting rapport, trust, and collaboration among team members.

3. Sprint retrospective

While the sprint review emphasizes deliverables and software, the sprint retrospective centers on reflection and improvement in the team's Agile processes and collaboration. This stage involves analyzing what went well and what could be improved, covering team dynamics and workflow enhancements.

The sprint retrospective emphasizes continuous improvement in Agile methods and processes, addressing the challenges that may arise due to the lack of physical presence in a distributed environment.

Dividing work into these Agile stages means teams can successfully manage development tasks in a distributed environment. This ensures effective communication and collaboration. Adopting these practices helps remote workers stay focused and engaged, ultimately contributing to the team's success in delivering high-quality software.

Track work quality

Ensuring work quality is critical in distributed Agile development. Implementing quality assurance processes and tools like automated testing and code reviews can help maintain high standards.

The Scrum master should also monitor the team's performance and promptly address any issues to keep the project on track. Tracking work quality allows remote workers and co-located teams to collaborate effectively and deliver high-quality software.

Be mindful of cultural differences

Members of distributed Agile teams often come from different countries and backgrounds, which can lead to cultural differences. Awareness of these differences and fostering a positive workplace culture of inclusion can create a more cohesive team.

Encourage open communication and understanding and provide training on cultural sensitivity, if necessary. Addressing cultural differences improves collaboration and a more productive Agile work environment.

Organize offline activities

While collaboration tools are crucial in distributed software development, organizing offline activities whenever possible can help strengthen team bonds. These activities can include team-building exercises, workshops, or even social gatherings.

Making an effort for face-to-face meetups can help bridge the gap between remote workers and co-located teams, fostering better relationships and improving overall team performance. Taking the time to meet a remote colleague when you travel to their city, or even scheduling team onsite visits or retreats, are great for team building.

You can browse our network of freelancers at Upwork and gather the best team possible for your next software development project.

Learn the ropes from a professional project manager

Creating and organizing a distributed Agile team can be challenging. Following our tips and incorporating Agile practices into your workflow can help you avoid team-building pitfalls and build a high-performing team that delivers excellent results.

Being mindful of cultural differences, tracking the quality of work, and organizing offline activities are crucial elements to consider when managing distributed Agile teams.

Upwork offers a vast network of talented Agile freelancers who can help guide your team through the Agile software development process. By leveraging the Upwork Project Catalog™ you can explore a diverse range of project management services provided by independent Agile professionals.

Engaging these experts on the Upwork platform allows you to access their knowledge and experience in distributed Agile development, helping your team overcome challenges and succeed.

Explore Upwork's network of talented Agile freelancers today, and find the right match for your next software development project.

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What Is a Distributed Agile Team, and How Can You Create One?
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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