Although face-to-face communication is promoted in Agile literature, to be competitive in today's world, teams...
need to be effective at communicating and collaborating regardless of physical location. Luckily, with the help of modern-day technologies and application lifestyle management (ALM) tools, organizations are finding that setting up their infrastructure so that employees can work anytime from anywhere provides the flexibility that both employees and employers seek. Let's look at the advantages of distributed Agile teams and how tools and technologies are providing features that allow team members to work effectively from anywhere.
Employees greatly appreciate the option of being able to work from anywhere. Working from home saves commute time and allows employees to take care of contractors or appointments close to home without cutting so heavily into their PTO time. When they have a cold, working from home allows employees to avoid taking PTO or bringing their germs into the office. Bad weather days, caring for a sick child or traveling -- all are occasions many employees would prefer to work, rather than having to take PTO.
The flexibility to work from anywhere also helps employees have a better work-life balance -- a huge benefit for them. If they are measured on the work they produce, rather than the time they are in the office, most employees will feel empowered to work longer hours to produce the high quality results they know their employers expect. This reinforces a feeling of mutual trust and respect team members will also appreciate. By setting up employees' expectations using communication tools, managers will be aware of each employee's availability and, as a result, can plan for both focus time and team time.
Providing flexibility for employers
Employers also benefit from allowing employees to work from anywhere. Without the constraints of having to hire locally, employers aren't limited to whom they may consider. They can instead hire based on skill, rather than proximity. And if they allow for fully remote employees, they will save considerably on office expenses.
For large, global companies, having employees in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific countries allows for a "follow-the-sun" business model providing 24-hour coverage. This can be particularly useful for organizations providing production software support. Rather than waking someone in the middle of the night, incidents can be managed by the team currently within business hours.
The opportunity to work from anywhere also helps establish trusting relationships and company loyalty. Employees don't feel micro-managed and, as a result, will be more productive.
Tools and ALM provide collaborative features
Whether organizations offer employees an occasional work-from-home day or hire fully distributed Agile teams, they would benefit from setting up an infrastructure and tooling that will help a team member's physical location become inconsequential.
Even collocated teams will benefit from collaborative features and the ability to house artifacts in an ALM tool. These tools allow for a single source of truth for data. This is important for many reasons: if clarification is needed on requirements; traceability when there are defects; and metrics allowing the team to continuously improve.
We can't do without process and tools
Although Agile stresses the importance of "individuals and interactions over process and tools" in its Manifesto, we can't do without process and tools. The key is to identify a particular process and tools both fast and user-friendly enough that development teams will want to use them -- especially if by doing so they will have the flexibility to work from anywhere.
Guides are available providing a variety of tips showing how ALM tools take advantage of collaborative and social features, thereby allowing teams to enjoy many of the benefits of strong teamwork without the restraints of having to always be in the same location physically.
Although there are advantages to face-to-face communication and collocated teams, these same advantages also exist with distributed Agile teams. Both employers and employees welcome flexibility and with modern-day ALM tools, software teams can take advantage of features that allow them to work from anywhere and still enjoy many of the social benefits they would get from an office environment.
How distributed Agile teams communicate
Learn about ALM methodology
Pros and cons of distributed Agile teams