21 Apr 2016
Today, Scrum is one of the most demanded Agile development methods. The popularity of Scrum is due to a relatively simple approach to the software development process. Scrum methodology sets forth clearly established criteria for assigning work and time resources. It enables the project team to self-organize and helps to sign off the development in stages.
Simply put, Scrum shows perfect results as a methodology for project management. However, business representatives frequently avoid this approach because they question its compatibility when using remote developers.
However, a project in Scrum can be successful with a remote development team. Above all, you should follow specific principles of work. We talked to our Scrum team and nailed down 5 key recommendations based on their feedback. These tips will help you succeed in implementing a Scrum project while using outsourced developers.
Implementing Scrum in offshore software development
We already told you how to implement Agile in software projects with a remote development team. Scrum is associated with Agile, and therefore it uses the basics of Agile.
One of our recent projects was the app Chefkoch Academy, which we developed using Scrum methodology. For this task our team was hired to create an app and test it with a Scrum Master and Product Owner from the client company side.
The work was very intensive with daily 15-minute video conferences of the project team. Every sprint was 2 weeks. The team distributed requirements into separate tasks, scheduled the current work and did the tasks planned for the sprint at that time.
It was mainly difficult to follow the schedule of sprints. We handled this problem via everyday interaction of all the team members with the purpose to present and overcome all known obstacles. We adhered to a range of principles within the project to keep the pace and work in accordance with Scrum.
Providing success in Scrum with remote developers
1. Team self-organization under Scrum Master control
Teamwork is the most important aspect of Scrum; the entire process relies on it. The team has to be self-organized and act in concert to avoid misunderstanding and prevent mistakes during a sprint.
The work begins with specification of requirements. The Product Owner specifies requirements and prioritizes them in a Product Backlog as well as accepts or rejects each product increment. The Product Owner is a representative of stakeholder interests in a project whereas the Scrum Master shields the team.
It is important to be aware that the role of Scrum Master is not as a simple observer but a process moderator. In other words, the Scrum Master participates in daily meetings, makes points of the questions and problems, creates an atmosphere conducive to open communication among team members, and tracks upcoming deadlines.
Moreover, the Scrum Master does not set goals for a development team (because project participants create a Sprint Backlog together) and does not determine the task priority as Product Owner. The Scrum Master is one of the main consultants for all project questions. They are responsible for the whole process and the outcome.
If your Scrum Master is far away from the development team, it is essential to constantly track the team's progress.
2. Limited number of team members
The team in Scrum has to be multifunctional. That means there have to be specialists with various skills – developers, testers, analysts and designers. And still there are no preliminarily defined functions for Scrum, as they can narrow the participants’ contribution. Frankly speaking, a team has a free hand in Scrum.
However, when your development team is outsourced, it is better to limit the number of team members according to specific tasks. This helps to keep the team from the wandering among different activities.
Based on our experience we think that the optimal number is between 3 and 5 team members excluding the Scrum Master and Product Owner.
This number contains 1-2 front-end or mobile developers (depending on the project), 1 back-end developer, and 1-2 testers. With a team of this size, all the project participants have time to explain their reasoning and listen to others, and daily meetings are not long and drawn out.
3. Careful planning
All the participants of the Chefkoch Academy project agree that a key to success in Scrum is detailed sprint planning. You should set goals and define the planned functionality in a Sprint Backlog. Ideally, this is done when a current sprint is coming to an end and before the next one begins. However, it’s not always possible in practice and for this reason the planning is usually done during the first two meetings. During this time it is very important to take into consideration every requirement. If something is unclear to at least one of the team members, it is necessary to clarify this now.
Sprint planning can lead to a flight of customer fancy. Therefore, you need to ensure that the Product Owner’s requests do not conflict with the previous sprints and the general project idea. The team should set the pull of goals for the sprint and require that goals are not changed during the sprint.
If you do not have a clear view of the task in the very beginning of the sprint, then you should ask the Scrum Master some additional questions. You can also delay the task and forward the requirement to the Product Owner for an update.
More importantly, every team member should understand that making a change in a Sprint Backlog pretty much contradicts the idea of Scrum. In particular, it can cause the uncontrolled growth of the goal list, the delivery risks, and, as the consequence, a shift in development priorities.
4. Handling regular communication
Another key component of a Scrum project that helps to provide high efficiency of an outsourced development team is regular communication. It is necessary to provide the development team with all the means and opportunities for communication to finish a sprint on time and accomplish the planned tasks. This means not only daily meetings but also regular messages sent between team members. Frequent communication allows problems that can slow down the process to be quickly solved. A popular tool for these daily messages is Slack.
5. Meeting Sprint Deadlines: Do Not Move Up The Timetable
When the project participants are set apart from each other by distance, it seems that they can neglect some of the issues. For example, if you cannot make a video conference, you decide to shift a sprint deadline to 1 or 2 days later.
It is critical to stand firm against circumstances and finish a sprint in time.
If personal communication is impossible, try to use alternative means of communication such as a telephone, email or even messengers. Besides, do not forget about the Scrum Master. They are ready to help team members with solving both communication as well as other project issues.
The principal point is to report about achieved results and handle problems at the right time. Completing a sprint within deadlines allows to work with mistakes thoroughly and determine steps for the next sprint to handle the problem.
Finally, the success of Scrum projects depends on teamwork. If you’d like to create all the conditions for effective work with a remote team, you need to adopt these principles:
- Careful Planning
- Regular Communication
- Time Management
- Controlling the number of team members
Implementing these simple rules provides a reliable base for your Scrum project with a remote development team. You can see in practice that it’s not difficult to adhere to these principles, and you can correct them using your personal observations for the best project outcome.
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