Distributed Teams are nothing new. Globalization has been great for technology companies, who have adopted remote workforces with enthusiasm. Fortunately, we have a continuous stream of new tools that make distance a non-issue, allowing teams to work together despite the geographical divide that separates them.
During my time with this company, I have been working from a different city than where the majority of my team members are located and this is what I have learnt about distributed teams:
1. Communication Platforms are Key
Communication tools are essential to our survival. In fact, over time, we keep adopting more tools that allow effective communication among all the verticals of a project development team, both on the client side and with our team.
2. Distributed Agile Methodology
Developing software using an Agile methodology from a single location is a limiting factor for competitiveness, growth, and profitability. It’s also not the most efficient way to develop localized solutions. As a result, when organizations expand into new markets, distributed development becomes the preferred way to work.
That’s why working with Agile methodologies is a plus. As many of us are not located in the same place, we tend to work with Distributed Agile. This is a model in which projects are executed using an Agile methodology with teams that are distributed across multiple geographies.
A Distributed Agile methodology will often be used in scenarios where large software organizations are developing a complex software solution. Such a project consists of several different components which are being built separately at different locations, making Distributed Agile the ideal methodology for the project.
3. It Takes More than Methodology to Work Remotely
Working with a team composed of people from different countries or cities is extremely fruitful and offers plenty of advantages. Here are three “musts” that I’ve learned while working on a distributed team:
1. Communication skills are key. This is one of the major factors for successful project implementation. Solutions and requirements are understood and elicited based on how they are transmitted and by who communicates them.
In pure Agile, where teams are located in the same place, the Business Analyst might have minimal or less challenges regarding communication (requirements and any other information) because work is performed face-to-face with the development team.
But in the Distributed Agile scenario, the Business Analyst is not able to establish face-to-face communication with the development team, so other means of communication such as video conferencing, phone calls, emails, etc are needed for communication.
It is essential to understand the importance of this and as Business Analysts we should ensure that the best possible means of communication are used efficiently and effectively to ensure that requirements are understood by everyone in a clear and concise manner.
2. Trust is the basis. We have to trust that the work will get done. Results are what matters and the job should be accomplished on time.
3. Talent is distributed all over the country/world. If you offer remote work, you’ll be able to attract higher quality employees.
4. There are Still Challenges to Face
As a BA, I have learned how to overcome the following challenges:
Time Zone Differences. The time difference may have an impact on the requirements-gathering process. BAs have to take into account these time differences before committing anything to the client regarding requirements implementation, scheduling a team or client meetings, etc. This is crucial to ensure customer satisfaction, responsiveness to customer needs, and extensive coordination.
Remote coordination among geographically distributed stakeholders. Another important responsibility of the BA is to create documentation regarding the elicited requirements, taking into account the diverse perspectives of all stakeholders. This becomes much more challenging when stakeholders are geographically dispersed, so building a consensus is a difficult task.
BAs have to ensure that the viewpoints of all stakeholders are documented clearly and concisely. Whenever in doubt, a video or voice conference among all stakeholders needs to be scheduled to discuss and clarify any doubt. The documentation should be concise and precise (lengthy documents only add confusion). This delicate balance has to be maintained by the Business Analyst.
As you can see, there are challenges that we have to face when working with remote teams, but fortunately they are easy to overcome using the Distributed Agile methodology and the key factors I’ve outlined above.
At Making Sense we maintain a significant percentage of remote workers and the results benefit both company and client. In my opinion, the most important thing here is to bear in mind the objectives, good procedural practices, and a good communication system and habits. This makes all the difference in the world with remote teams.