Project Management

Distributed PM: Backlog Refinement

Bart has been in ecommerce for over 20 years, and can't imagine a better job to have. He is interested in all things agile, or anything new to learn.

Many of the activities that comprise an agile project are meant to be done together as a team, with everyone in the same place. In fact, in the Agile Manifesto, one of the principles states that face-to-face interactions are the most efficient and effective way to communicate. This presents a problem to a project manager running a project where the team is distributed, in whole or in part. While having everyone in the same room may be ideal, it isn’t realistic if people work miles or countries apart, or if everyone is forced to work from their homes. And while technology can help bring us closer, and mimic face-to-face interaction, there are other logistics such as time zones and connectivity to overcome.

In practice, most everything that can be done in Agile can be done in a distributed manner, from the daily scrum through demos and retrospectives. It just takes extra care to make them effective. One key agile activity that distributed teams can accomplish without much loss is backlog refinement.

It is important for a project manager who finds themselves managing a distributed team to not attempt to replace existing processes with the same exact one using technology. It’s not “the same, just on video.” The goal of the project manager is to find a way to get equal value out of an activity without necessarily doing it exactly the same as the team has in the past. The same …

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