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Maintaining Agility While Working Remote

November 4, 2021 / by Frederid Palacios

Agile capabilities quickly took the IT industry by storm, urging companies to adopt agile software development teams. This surge has only increased amid the pandemic as businesses continue to search for ways to think outside the box and combat market and economy challenges. But, while scaling agile is highly beneficial, especially now, agile teams must learn how to operate with the same efficiency and success in a remote environment. 

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What Makes a Team Agile?

As of late, “agile” has been a big buzzword in the tech industry. The word itself means the ability to move quickly and easily. While this is true of agile teams, the true definition of an agile software development team is a bit more thorough. An agile team, specifically in software development, is a mindset or approach to project management and software development. 

An agile team carries that mindset of using the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams to help deliver value to customers more efficiently than via traditional efforts. 

Essentially, agile software development is an umbrella term for a set of frameworks and practices based on the values and principles of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. This manifesto is based upon 12 defining principles which guide software development teams to agility. The most crucial aspects of an agile approach include quick response to change, collaboration, and interactions between team members. 

As agile teams thrive on these values, cultivating an agile environment was fairly straightforward when all team members were located in the same office. Today, when most businesses are working in a remote or hybrid model, managing an agile team can be a bit more challenging. Fortunately, in focusing on the core values of an agile team and adapting them to suit a remote work environment, maintaining an agile software development team is still possible. 

Create a Channel of Communication

A significant challenge that most remote teams face, especially agile teams, is maintaining the same level of communication that they had in the office. In the past, all team members worked in the same office, meaning they worked the same hours and were accessible at almost exactly the same times. Team members could discuss projects face-to-face, whether in a meeting or in passing in the office. Today, things are a bit different as team members work from different locations.

For any team to be truly cohesive, it is beneficial to have a level of both personal and professional communication. It can be challenging to cultivate a sense of personal communication while working remotely, but there are some ways to do so. Adding time for small talk at the beginning or end of meetings can be highly beneficial in developing a sense of familiarity and friendship between team members. The more familiar that team members are, the more inclined they will be to trust and rely on one another. 

While casual communication is definitely helpful in the workplace, professional communication is a necessity. It is crucial that team members can communicate well with one another, clearly discussing the project at hand, including progress, expectations, and timelines. An excellent way to cultivate this is by setting an ongoing meeting for team members, ensuring that they connect with one another at the same time every week or month. 

It is also helpful to create an open feedback loop, encouraging team members to share their thoughts and advice with one another. After all, they are working as a team, so all individual tasks must come together for the project to succeed. Once communication is flowing and productive, team members will be more inclined to find success in their individual and group projects, ensuring success for the whole team. Furthermore, strong communication gets the ball rolling to develop the remaining principles of an agile team. 


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Cultivate Collaboration

With strong communication comes enhanced collaboration - another defining quality of an agile software development team. With any remote team, learning how to collaborate without being physically together can take some time. Still, for your team to maintain the agility they had in the office, it is crucial that they can work together on a project even when in different locations. 

An excellent way that management can help cultivate this collaboration is by ensuring that all tools and platforms are remotely accessible to team members and can be accessed by multiple people simultaneously. Particularly for software developers, it is essential that they can access the software from any location, working separately or together without compromising another team member's work. 

Collaboration is also essential in the sense that team members understand their individual responsibilities and the responsibilities of their colleagues. In software development, each task contributes to the software as a whole, and developers must be aware of how their actions will not only impact others, but also the software as a whole. For this reason, team members must be able to trust one another to contribute to the project and work together cohesively. 

Adapt to Change

Another challenging aspect of maintaining agility is maintaining your agile team's momentum while in the office. For employees worldwide, switching to remote work involved a bit of an adjustment period, which is true for agile teams as well. One report showed that 92% of agile teams are writing more code since working remotely, although 63% of teams are releasing less frequently. Prior to working remotely, developers were outputting frequent and small releases, but now are releasing infrequently and large releases, which are substantially riskier. 

As agile teams are defined by their speed and ability to operate quickly, these are not ideal circumstances. For this reason, agile teams must continue to efficiently deliver value while working remotely. Fortunately, this is possible with a strong foundation of trust and communication. 

Once agile teams become more familiar with remote work, it is predicted that their outcomes will once again reach the pace they were at before the pandemic. If agile software development teams continue to focus on cultivating strong communication and collaboration, the rest will fall into place. From a management perspective, it is crucial to supply your agile teams with the resources they need to work together cohesively while remote. As long as software development teams can work together - no matter their time zone or location, they can remain agile while working remotely. 

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Tags: Remote Work, Software Development, Agile

Frederid Palacios

Written by Frederid Palacios

Fred Palacios is a seasoned software architect with more than 20 years of experience participating in the entire software development cycle across a host of different industries--from automotive and services to petroleum, financial, and supply chain. In that time, his experience working closely with high-level stakeholders has provided him with a strategic vision for developing the right solutions to flexibly meet critical business needs. As CTO of Intertec, he's continuing to focus on the creation of business-critical applications for large enterprise projects, particularly those that handle high concurrency and large datasets. He is passionate about using technology as a tool to solve real-world problems and also mentoring technical teams to achieve their maximum potential and deliver quality software.

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