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Choose the best tools for Agile virtual collaboration

Colocation is getting harder to achieve. Our expert, Yvette Francino, talked about what distributed Agile teams can do to collaborate from a distance.

The Agile Manifesto makes it clear teams must be "physically together," but what if they're not? In this podcast, SearchSoftwareQuality spoke with regular TechTarget contributor and Agile coach Yvette Francino in Boulder, Colo., about different ways to communicate and foster virtual collaboration.

The first step, Francino said, is to stop taking the Manifesto so literally. "Face to face is an efficient way to communicate, but I don't like the fact that people interpret the idea of colocation as a mandate and insist on it," she said. "That's a really big disadvantage and it puts people in the wrong mind-set. It becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy."

And also, it's just plain unrealistic to assume you can actually have a collocated team in any but the smallest companies, she explained. "We all are on a distributed team. People do not need to feel they cannot communicate well with someone because they are not physically present. There are definitely advantages of being a distributed team," she added. The secret is in learning how to take advantage of what she calls Agile virtual collaboration.

Thanks to social media, the cloud and mobile devices, it's easier than it has ever been for people to communicate -- and collaborate -- virtually. One example is Skype, on which you can have virtual face-to-face collaboration. "There are a lot of great tools available now, but some of them are complex, and most people want simplicity and speed." Her advice: Try everything and keep looking for creative ways to communicate no matter where your team members are located.

It is important to remember that even the best tools for distributed collaboration are going to require work and commitment, Francino said. Some don't allow team members to see each other's body language; others make it way too easy to multitask, and thus, are not fully engaged. "You do need to focus on the relationship over the tool and make sure that that's strong. You need an engaged mind-set to be there for the team."

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