LIke other bloggers here, I got a chance to download and read the excellent white paper titled "Distributed Agile Teams", which was based on an extensive survey and research done by Elizabeth Herrin on the Projects At Work site. Its a timely report given the increased global nature of projects being launched by multinational companies around the world. Though Agile is a strong advocate of having co-located teams, the reality is that you will most likely have development and testing teams in part of the world, while the product design and development in another with you as project manager coordinating it all from yet another location.
The first third of the paper went over the eye-opening statistics that resulted from the survey, while the rest of the paper discussed the results and further evaluations. I really liked the break down of the perceived benefits of distributed Agile teams to the eight categories of:
This list is ordered by the ranking of benefits with the first, flexibility, being the highest. I’m not surprised at these results and that quality would be last.
In my experience with managing dispersed teams, quality and especially the validation of quality was always the hardest in both traditional and Agile project management, but especially in Agile. The most popular and project management centric of the Agile methods, namely Scrum, advocates using a rigorous form of empirical process control to visually validate and inspect the quality of the output during iterations that get reviewed at least daily by the team and customer to allow adaptations to the backlog of items a particular Sprint is supposed to deliver on.
This process of “inspect and adapt” is a continuous one requiring all members from Team, to Product Owner, and Customer to be involved with to facilitate the flexibility and agility that lies at the heart of Agile methods. I agree completely with the recommended tips of having a central repository of code, with tools that automate and streamline rather than impede and hinder, as well as ensuring you have a project manager or ScrumMaster who excels at managing co-located teams first before moving to a distributed team.
I highly recommend downloading and reading this white paper. In addition, there was the announcement of a Scrum survey on this site that I hope as many people as possible participate in so we can all see how Scrum is used by Gantthead members!