In today’s globalized world, distributed software development has become quite popular. This approach allows organizations to leverage talent from around the globe and gets them to work together on a project to make it the best it can be. However, managing distributed development teams can be a little challenging, especially when you implement agile methodologies.
Agile development allows for frequent communication, collaboration, and continuous integration, which can be a little difficult to achieve when team members are countries and, sometimes, even continents away from each other.
So finding the best ways to promote Agile development in distributed developer teams is essential for creating the best websites, applications, software, and more. So we have tried to explore some of the key strategies and best practices for achieving distributed agile software development.
Main Challenges Behind The Distributed Software Agile Development Model
Nowadays, distributed web development has become a highly popular strategy, and there are several reasons (or benefits) behind that. With this model, you can access a wider talent pool and the ability to work simultaneously and around the clock. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. This model poses some significant challenges that can make it difficult for teams to collaborate through agile methodologies effectively.
When it comes to experts working from around the globe, one of the significant and more obvious challenges is the need for face-to-face interaction. In a traditional working environment, team members can have frequent discussions and solve problems then and there. However, in distributed teams, communication is usually through call, email, chat, or video conferencing, which makes it more challenging to ensure trust and establish strong working relationships.
Then there’s the challenge of coordinating with the team members across different time zones. When the team is scattered in different parts of the world, it becomes challenging to schedule meetings and ensure everyone is working on the same tasks as well as they possibly can. It can lead to delays, miscommunications, and frustration among team members.
Another challenge in distributed software development is effective project management. With the whole team distributed worldwide, it can be more challenging to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and there is constant progress. In this type of work environment, project managers find it a little difficult to communicate effectively, track progress, and identify and address any issues that arise.
Overcoming these challenges requires effective communication, strong project management skills, and a willingness to come up with new ways to adapt and collaborate with remote teams. By addressing these challenges head-on, teams can maximize the benefits of distributed software development in favor of an efficient working environment while minimizing the drawbacks.
Strategies For Assembling Distributed Teams
Assembling distributed teams can be a complex process that requires careful planning and consideration. While it offers many benefits, such as access to a wider talent pool and the ability to collaborate effectively and work around the clock, there are also some significant challenges to overcome.
So to assemble a successful distributed team, organizations need to consider some strategies based on the unique needs and requirements of this model, and here are a few of them.
- Set Clear Expectations
A distributed software development team basically works remotely from their preferred locations. The team members may either be experienced at remote working or be completely new to it. Either way, you may encounter challenges like the ones mentioned above, including efficient communication, time zone-related challenges, effective project management, etc. To solve that, one of the first things you can do is make every member of your team clear on what you expect from the project and its development process.
- Implement Virtual Tools
Virtual tools can help to bridge the communication gap and enable team members to collaborate more effectively, regardless of their physical location. Examples of virtual tools that can be used include project management software (like Asana, Slack, Trillo, etc.), video conferencing tools (Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.), and instant messaging platforms (Skype, Slack, Telegram, etc.). These tools can facilitate easy communication, provide a platform for sharing information, and ensure everyone works towards the same goals with the same energy and passion.
- Foster a Culture of Collaboration
Since they are located in different parts of the world, it can be easy for the team members to feel distant and disconnected from each other. However, by fostering a culture of collaboration, organizations can build a sense of community amongst the employees and promote teamwork. That can be achieved through regular check-ins, virtual team-building activities, and regular opportunities for team members to collaborate on projects.
- Use a Mixture of Skills
It is essential to consider the project’s specific needs and identify team members with unique skills and experience that are beneficial for a successful outcome. That may involve recruiting team members from different locations and backgrounds to ensure the team has the necessary diversity and expertise.
These are just a few crucial strategies that could help implement agile methodologies while working with distributed software development teams. So you can assemble a team of professionals from around the globe with the necessary skills to execute a project in the best way possible.
- Case Study of a Successful Distributed Team
Even highly skilled professionals with years of experience sometimes wonder if their project would work efficiently with a distributed team. So let’s check out a real-life case study on a company that started and still works efficiently with the distributed team model.
Automattic, the name behind WordPress, WooCommerce, and several other popular platforms is one of the biggest software development companies worldwide. This massive multinational corporation has a workforce of over 2000 employees located in just under 100 countries around the world.
But despite the employees being scattered around the world, this company is efficiently powering WordPress, the biggest website development platform, and is known for its strong employee culture and excellent customer satisfaction rates.
To ensure the operations are not affected due to distributed team strategy, Automattic got 4 things right:
- Efficient Communication
Communication is the key to success for any project, especially when it’s being carried out by a distributed team. Automattic uses a varied range of tools for effective communication, including chat apps (like Slack, Telegram, etc.), internal blogs, and video conferencing platforms (like Skype, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc.). Other than the tools and software, every employee, regardless of their cadre in the company, is encouraged to ask questions regularly, which ensures everyone, from the project manager to the intern, is on the same page.
- Follow a Goal-Oriented Approach
Rather than tracking the working hours, Automattic focuses on what kind of results the employees are able to produce. That helps build a sense of trust amongst the employees. So they can work with their own unique approaches and complete their assigned tasks. Employee feedback is highly valued at Automattic, as it plays a vital role in shaping the work environment. By actively soliciting and listening to feedback, the company encourages open and constructive communication between management and employees. Surveys are a great way to gather that feedback and gain insight on your employees.
- Build an Active Community
Even though the employees don’t share an office space, Automattic tries to ensure there is a sense of community among them. The company regularly tries to create opportunities for remote team members to connect with each other through meetups and annual events.
- Commitment to Flexibility
Another great way of showing the employees the company cares about them is by recognizing they have an active life (with different priorities) after work and trying to accommodate these needs in the best ways possible. For example, Automattic offers flexible work schedules and even paid time off in hours of need.
This case study on Automattic might be enough to show it’s possible to effectively execute almost any kind of project with a distributed software development team.
So try to incorporate a distributed team in your company by committing to the four implementations listed above. That way, you would be able to hire talented employees with unique skills from across the world and execute any web or software development project with ease.
Executing a project through a distributed software development team is not easy, with employees located on different continents altogether. That becomes especially challenging when implementing agile methodologies like frequent communication, collaboration, and continuous integration.
But as evident from the case study of Automattic, it’s evident that you can even run the world’s most popular website development platform WordPress, with just over 2000 employees working remotely from just under 100 countries around the world.
So if you are keen on implementing distributed software development in your company, focus on efficient communication, a goal-oriented approach, active community building, and a flexible working environment.