Today, many scrum teams and Agile organizations have incorporated some forms of remote work. This article presents the challenges of managing a distributed scrum team and provides actionable tips for success.
Scrum is a fast-paced Agile development methodology that incorporates teamwork, organization, and a clear set of roles. In 2022, nearly all scrum teams have incorporated remote work. Yet, very few managers have experience in dealing with distributed teams. This article will present the challenges of managing a distributed scrum team and provide actionable tips for success.
The challenge of distributed scrum teams
While the positives of distributed teams usually outweigh the negatives, it would be helpful to know some of the challenges you might face.
The biggest challenge when managing a remote team is communication. It’s much easier to relay information in person. Remote teams have to dedicate a significant amount of time to Zoom calls, and they’re hardly as efficient as in-person communication.
At the same time, online meetings miss the social aspect of work communication, making it harder to develop a sense of unity.
Communication may be even more challenging if teams are scattered across different time zones. It will be difficult to set up meetings that work for everyone. Additionally, project knowledge may be spread, halting development speed.
What are the positives?
Distributed scrum teams aren’t bound to a single geographical location for recruiting talent. This gives the team access to a global talent pool that will ultimately raise the quality level.
Distributed teams are also not bound to a single time zone. This may boost development speed even more, as the team will be working around the clock.
And let’s not forget how beneficial it is to be working from the comfort of your own home without having to commute to work every morning.
Tips for managing a remote scrum team:
Communication in remote teams is challenging, but that doesn’t mean effective communication is impossible.
The key to effective communication in scrum teams is to incorporate collaboration tools. These tools will provide visibility for team members into everything involving the project. Team members can update the tool with the newest information, so everyone is up-to-date with progress and goals.
Daily team meetings are another must in communicating effectively. Daily meetings will allow team members to share what they’re working on. These meetings should be short and to the point.
Provide cybersecurity tools
Cybersecurity is one thing you shouldn’t underestimate in distributed teams. Cybercrime attack rates have been skyrocketing in recent years. Scrum teams are working on complex and expensive projects, so it’s essential to equip your team with the adequate tools to improve their cybersecurity posture.
Some security tools you can provide to team members are:
- A virtual private network (ideally, one with additional threat protection like NordVPN – encrypts communication and allows team members to use public Wi-Fi securely.
- A password manager – generates strong passwords and stores them in one place.
- An authentication app – adds an extra layer of protection after the password.
Look out for signs of burnout
Scrum is a fast-paced methodology that leaves little room for slowing down. Some team members inevitably become overwhelmed after a while.
It may be difficult to spot signs of burnout when teams are working remotely. Yet, there are some subtle signs you can identify just from video conferencing or chatting with team members.
Always be on the lookout for common signs of burnout, such as:
- Bad mood;
- Low productivity;
- Low motivation.
Encourage everyone to be open about their struggles and to let you know if they feel overwhelmed. If people start to get burned out, you should probably hire an extra set of hands and let your team relax a bit.
Providing a mental health app or free counseling to all scrum team members is also a great way to boost morale and improve mental health. Many remote-first companies are taking this approach.
Teamwork is essential for success in scrum development. However, team members should take responsibility for their work and how they contribute to the team.
Set clear expectations for all team members, and hold them accountable for delivering. That doesn’t mean team members shouldn’t ask for support when they need it. Problems will eventually arise, and there needs to be a support system to work through them.
Ironically, a major key to self-reliance is collaboration. Everyone should communicate their tasks and state their limits.
Distributed scrum teams are often better than in-person teams for many reasons. Team members can work from the comfort of their homes and you can hire people from all over the world. There are also various problems that may arise, such as communication issues, lack of security, or burnout. But, with the right tools and mindset, you can prevent many issues from escalating and ensure your remote scrum team is just as effective as an in-person team.