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Transitioning to Remote and Agile — Together

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Transitioning to Remote and Agile — Together

How does a team transition to remote agile development smoothly without breaking anything? Read on to find out!

· Agile Zone ·
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Software development is undergoing a massive change. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced teams to adapt and find new ways of delivering products to customers. 

For many teams, this purely means a transition to remote working. For others, it brings in bigger changes. Large teams are harder to manage remotely, lines of communication break more often and people, in general, are out of their comfort zones. Teams are being forced to adopt agile development practices as the old way of doing things just doesn’t work anymore.

This calls for a transition to a system where product development is compartmentalized and smaller teams have an end to end responsibilities of building and shipping products. 

How does a team transition to remote agile development smoothly without breaking anything?

Secure Buy-In From Management

It doesn’t matter where the quest to pursue agile development starts. It is essential to have the entire team on board with the idea of moving faster and shipping software in increments. The best place to start is the top management of any company. The intent from the very top of the company will serve well to formalize the agile transformation effort.

While most agile transformation initiatives fall flat due to natural inertia to change - both at the top and bottom, leadership teams all over the world are now understanding the new reality that software teams face. They must find solutions that help teams become more nimble and allow them to take ownership of end to end feature development and delivery.

The fact that the remote working change seems to be happening could be a blessing in disguise for teams contemplating implementing agile workflows. 

Educate Team Members and Set up a Collaborative Agile Environment

Most agile transformation efforts struggle to take off during the implementation phase despite long hours spent on planning. This is largely due to a lack of a clear implementation plan concerning getting development teams familiar with agile methodologies. 

Remote working environments being set up in response to the pandemic could be the best opportunity project managers have to educate their teams and clear the way to the successful implementation of agile practices. 

Some of the most important aspects of an airtight remote agile implementation plan include:

  1. Choosing the right agile framework. Kanban is easy to get started with, Scrum works well for cross-functional teams. Many other options are available as well.
  2. Setting up workflows and ensuring that the team is on the same page. This could be creating Kanban boards, sprint boards and other dashboards to track project progress.
  3. Setup roles for team members who wish to take responsibility for overseeing the first few weeks of the transition. It is important to familiarise the team with any new terminology or processes they are likely to encounter. 
  4. Ensure that every team member is aware of the new way of working, what is expected of them, and has a chance to raise any questions to bring forward any reservations they might have. 

Put a System in Place to Maximise Remote Team Productivity

Once the team is comfortable with the new, agile way of working - it is essential to ensure that the new workflows actually result in improved team productivity and ultimately lead to faster release of new software. 

This is especially challenging when combined with the fact that many members of the team might be first-time remote workers. 

Once workflows for teams are set up, the next step is to ensure that the team has a system in place to be productive. This is traditionally the most challenging aspect of implementing a new system while transitioning to remote working simultaneously. 

Here are some best practices when it comes to staying productive while working from home. 

  1. Limit meetings and time spent on them. Ensure that daily stand-ups have a time limit. If more detailed conversations are required, move them to a later time. Avoid meetings that have more than 6-7 members at a time. 
  2. Have fixed work timings. Ensure that your team signs out at a specific time.  Ensure that everyone on the team knows when each will be available online. Unless unavoidable, try to ensure that squads work together at the same time.
  3. Set up communication channels and protocols. 
  4. Assign leaders to manage different parts of the agile transformation process. 
  5. Make sure your entire process is documented somewhere, so the team has a point of reference at all times. This can ideally be done in an internal Wiki.

Choose the Right Tools

Your remote agile team must have all the tools it needs to work successfully. While having multiple tools is a necessity, it is important to make sure that company-wide tools are recommended for essential purposes only. 

Some essential tools that most remote teams require include: 

  1. Communication tools like Slack - in addition to asynchronous communication via email.
  2. Web conference tools for external communication (like Zoom). Most internal communication tools like Slack have their own inbuilt web conference capabilities.
  3. Project Management tools to plan and track progress.
  4. Customer support tools for replying to tickets that customers may face.

Some companies like Zapier have been working remotely for years now and have refined their best practices over time. 

Maximize Visibility and Track the Right Metrics

Your agile team must identify a set of KPIs to monitor and know what needs to be improved. Some of the most common charts that agile teams use to stay on top of their metrics include: 

  1. Kanban or sprint boards that make the progress of user stories visible.
  2. A product roadmap for teams to keep track of the overall direction of the product.
  3. A product backlog (of some form) to understand what user-stories are currently being worked on and what might be arriving next. 
  4. Burndown charts for scrum teams to keep track of sprints. 
  5. Teams following Kanban can use a Cumulative Flow Diagram

Learn and Improve With Every Iteration

True agility is not following a prescribed process but rather having the ability to learn, tweak processes, and improve with every cycle. Retrospectives have traditionally been an area that many agile teams tend to skip. This is not the case with remote agile. 

The learnings from every sprint or release are going to be twofold - simply because your team is learning to be more agile while also learning remote working. There are simply too many roadblocks that can be identified and cleared by simply talking to team members and understanding what works and what needs to be improved. 

Conclusion

Remote working has been a topic that teams have been talking about for a few years. Some famous teams have already built successful products and companies but it has still to pick up any steam in more mainstream companies. 

With companies all over the world being forced to adopt remote working practices, this brings opportunities to test more customer-centric development models and allow products to be broken down and built-in smaller components. 

Having a well thought out plan in place to transition your team from a centralized model to agile squads of self-sufficient teams could help your transformation into a modern remote-agile company. 

Topics:
agile, agile adoption, agile business management, agile development process, covid 19, remote work, remote worker

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