The spread of COVID-19 is adversely affecting almost every level of society in different ways we’ve never seen before. This has made all the organizations to opt for work from home policies amid the widespread of Covid-19. With the global cases reaching the figures in millions, it can be clearly seen that shifting to work from home has become the new standard. But managing remote teams has simultaneously posed a big challenge to the firms which are actually working remotely for the very first time. But no need to panic!! Say a big thanks to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFE). During these unprecedented times of COVID, Agile has acted as a relief tonic to many organizations ranging from small scale companies with a limited team size to large scale companies with a huge employee base. Agile has now become part and parcel for most of the remote teams to follow end to end Agile Development Methodology.

So let’s discuss quickly​​​​ what exactly Agile is and its impact on the productivity of remote teams.

What Is Agile?

Agile is a time-boxed, incremental and iterative approach for a software development where we break up the project into several phases and delivers the project in small bits in terms of functional modules or features called user stories, prioritizing them, and then continuously delivering the working features in a duration of 10 days to two weeks which called iterations or sprints.

Agile Rituals

Agile Rituals also are known as Scrum ceremonies or practices carried out regularly by the Agile teams. The essential meetings are Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-up (daily scrum), Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective. These ceremonies help the teams to get work done in a structured manner, help to set the project expectations and goals, authorize the team to coordinate effectively, and ultimately deliver the quality results. It relies on self-organizing, cross-functional teams coming across and developing a solution using these incremental and iterative processes.

So this was a brief about Agile and it’s related terms. Now let’s have a glance at how Agile is helping and benefiting the remote teams?

Easy Coordination via daily Scrum Meetings and Sprint Meetings

Agile is all about effective communication. We have two main meetings in Agile: Scrum Meeting ( Daily Stand Up Meeting) and Sprint meetings. Sprint meetings are done to plan activities for upcoming sprints. Whereas Scrum meetings are conducted on a daily basis. The remote teams which include Project Manager, product owner, and development team members attend the daily Stand Up meetings through different Web conferencing tools which eliminates the physical presence of all the team members. The daily Scrum meeting is an everyday short meeting, ideally during the start of the working day. It is mandatory for every team member to attend the meeting who works towards the completion of a given sprint. There are various conferencing tools for audio and video — such as Skype, Slack, Webex, Zoom, and many more. Agile communications focus on Task Boards or Big Visible Charts, technically known as “information radiators,” that are easily accessible to all the stakeholders as needed. Whether you call it a scrum, or anything else, daily stand up meetings are an essential tool in allowing the remote teams to unite and prioritize work goals. In just 15 minutes, all team members are equipped with what work is expected from them for the day, as well as how their work is impacting team goals. Isn’t it Awesome!!

Well Defined Development RoadMap (Sprint Planning)

Any work that is to be performed in the Sprint is planned during the Sprint Planning meetings. The Product Owner defines the Sprint Goal to the scrum team ( Scrum Master and Development Team) which is a short description of what functional features the sprint will deliver, clarifies the details on backlog items, and their respective acceptance criteria. The project progress is discussed on a daily basis via scrum meetings. So this process helps the remote team members to remain on the same page of the development work progress. Undertaking the clear sprint delivery plans during the initial stage of the project actually helps the remote team to resolve any sort of complications that may arise while outlining the requirements and deliverables.

Higher Work Productivity with Lower Risks

As discussed above, the development team follows a proactive approach in Sprint Release planning and discusses all the possible issues and risks which they might come across during the development process. Developing in sprints ensures a short time between project investment and proof that the product works which may prevent any financial loss of the stakeholders. The sprint review, the sprint retrospective, and the product owner’s involvement during each sprint provide regular product feedback which helps to eliminate the deviations between product expectations and the completed product. Basically, there are four key Agile approaches for managing risks: WIP (Work In Progress), prioritization, transparency, and batch size. Each of these approaches minimizes one or more risks around cost, time, quality, and value, involved in the software development life cycle. Scrum meetings improve transparency and therefore, the increasing transparency reduces the risk of producing work of poor quality and low value. In a nutshell, we can conclude that Agile teams are able to diminish the risks of failure. The regular feedback poses the conventional processes for the remote teams to progress.

Timely Deliveries

Timely delivery has always been a fundamental aspect of project management. Every Agile project has project vision statements, Sprint release plans, iteration plans, daily standup meetings, Product backlog management, and most significantly the management of the user stories to be completed in a particular sprint. Agile is very focused on delivering high-quality results with built-in features for stakeholders’ reviews and testing. It allows remote teams to deliver the required functional components or modules of the project within the defined time frames. Remote teams can manage their daily tasks using different project management tools like Trello, Asana, and many more. This helps Scrum Master to keep track of WIP- Work In Progress, of each team member even if they are present at different geographical locations.

Distributed Self Sufficient Teams and Flexibility

Distributed Agile Team simply means that the development team using Agile methodologies is not sitting in the same office. Remote teams have the best scope to bring diversity and distinct experiences altogether into the culture of any firm. The main motif of the organizations in embracing the agile methodology is to construct a more responsive, efficient, and effective organization, which improves the overall business performance and increases customer satisfaction. This simultaneously enhances the global reputation of the organization and adds a name and fame in the international business market. On the other side, it does offer the team members the freedom and flexibility to attain a healthy work-life balance. It offers maximum flexibility and minimal constraints that empower workers to choose when, where, and how they want to work to meet individual and organizational goals. As per the recent studies, remote work has been shown to both escalated productivity and lower deterioration. And it has also shown that employees working remotely found it easier to concentrate more on work and were less likely to take sick days or extended breaks.

Use Of Important Agile Tools

For the remote teams, delivering projects is no more confined by the geographical barriers because of the evolution of collaborative tools and software solutions. This bridges the gaps between offices, cultures, and time zones. The agile remote team get-togethers via video conferencing tools, online chatting tools which all are great ways for nurturing a strong team culture. And above all, the remote work would not have been possible without a stack of different tech tools. Here is a list of some important tools which are nowadays most widely used by the remote teams:

Brainstorming Tools: GroupMap, Google Docs, Miro, Stormboard
Task Management Tools: Asana, Trello, Jira, Basecamp
Source Code Management Tools: Github, Bitbucket, SVN
Bug Tracking Tools: Backlog, Jira, Mantis, Bugzilla
Video Calls Tools: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype
Chat Tools: Slack, Skype, Hangout, Microsoft Teams

Conclusion

In my opinion, Agile is the perfect approach for managing the remote teams, because of its prime focus on self-managing teams, sovereignty, and visibility into a prioritized product backlog. And as a result, the notion of Agile teams is continuously amplifying towards business venture agility. So I firmly believe that Agile Methodology is directly or indirectly, helping and benefiting most of the firms to successfully manage their remote teams, deliver the quality work within the defined timeframes to their clients, and help them to maintain client satisfaction without any hindrances.

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