Pursuing agile can be difficult enough for businesses that have a contained development team simply due to the number of considerations that need to be made in supporting these processes. However, the challenges become more significant for organizations that have distributed, interdependent teams. Even if they are separated geographically, they must still be able to work effectively together, which puts all new pressures on managing these agile teams. Here are a few tips that will help you better oversee your distributed, interdependent agile groups:
1) Ensure That Changes Can Be Enacted Quickly
One of the problematic aspects about a distributed team is that while collaboration is encouraged, changes still must go through approval processes involving individuals who are working in other locations. Agile operations are put in place with the assumption that teams will be able to make adjustments over the lifecycle of a project, but the extensive red tape can be frustrating and may slow progress to a halt. An industry white paper noted that by fostering greater commitment from stakeholders associated with the project and rebuilding trust that developers and quality assurance teams will deliver business value, organizations can revise their approval processes to be more conducive to the agile, distributed environment.
"Many projects failed to deliver because business experts were involved only at the start and did not continue to contribute to the direction of the project," the white paper stated. "Because agile projects depend so heavily on business involvement, the subject matter experts must work with application development to decide mutually on the business value to be delivered, make sure the project stays true to the project charter, and be held jointly accountable for the success or failure of the project."
2) Make Sprints Consistent
Having a set time to focus on the development of one project is critical, but with distributed teams, this must be carefully maintained. Scrum Alliance contributor Abhishek Kumar Srivastava noted that his own organization originally had different sprint lengths for different teams, with no fixed criteria. This, of course, created significant problems for all of those involved, forcing them to shift to a common three-week sprint for all teams. Doing so enabled the company to better control their projects and monitor progress across the various groups involved.
While development for certain projects may inherently call for more time than others, creating a consistent base will give developers and QA employees enough space to ensure that the app lives up to expectations and meets deadlines. It will also ensure that all teams, whether they are distributed or work in the same location, can reliably understand what timeframe they're up against. This will help to better plan production schedules and collaboration sessions.
3) Collaboration Must Become a Habit
Although QA and development teams may traditionally be separated in their responsibilities, they must still work well together, especially in distributed environments. Agile Connection contributors Shane Hastie and Johanna Rothman noted that by reinforcing collaboration habits every day, QA leaders can minimize the distance between members, whether physical or metaphorical. When workers aren't in the same space, they can easily lose sight of their counterparts' needs. However, by scheduling regular conversations and actively fostering distributed relationships, it will help these dispersed teams come together more effectively.
"If you keep trying and your teammates take note, they will keep trying, too," Hastie and Rothman wrote. "Isn't 'inspect and adapt' the name of the game? Perseverance and persistence will result in more engaged teams working together effectively, producing better products and improved outcomes for their customers."
It's All in Using the Right Tools, Processes
Distributed, interdependent teams face numerous challenges, but managing them is not impossible. While some processes and policies may need to be changed to better support this environment, it can lead to significant benefits and a successful transition to agile operations. With the right tools like test management solutions, distributed QA and development teams will be able to keep tabs on projects, no matter where they're working from or who they are collaborating with.
These programs will help teams monitor changes in real time, reducing potential redundancies and creating a system of traceability and accountability. By following these tips and investing in test management, organizations can handle their teams and give them the support they need to perform effectively.