Distributed Agile Teams: What Are They & How to Make Them Work in 2024

Distributed Agile Teams: What Are They

& How to Make Them Work

in 2024

By Ronald Tuch

By Ronald Tuch

Distributed Agile Teams

According to the State of Agile Report, over 70% of surveyed software development companies reported using agile principles last year in one form or another.

Combine this with the increasing number of employees who prefer remote work over working from an office, and it will come as no surprise that distributed agile teams are the new normal.

By hiring across the globe, businesses have access to a larger talent pool than when searching for employees in a single location. The flexible work hours also empower teams and improve their work-life balance.

However, managing agile distributed teams also brings some challenges. Lack of effective communication, time zone differences, and cultural diversity often hinder building a strong bond between team members, which can lead to isolation for some employees.

To help you understand how distributed agile teams work, how to overcome their challenges, and how to build your own successful agile team, we’ve created this comprehensive guide. We’ve used our extensive experience in distributed software development and gathered all of our wisdom to help you implement the best agile practices within your distributed team in 2024.

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What Are Distributed Agile Teams?

What are distributed agile teams? Let's define it.

Distributed agile teams consist of software specialists from different physical locations and time zones who work together using agile methodologies. Team members use different tools and platforms to communicate and collaborate during feedback cycles to build the best possible software product.

This decentralized approach lets companies hire highly trained individuals from across the globe. In this way, businesses can scale up faster and easier. It also allows them to get access to a larger talent pool and hire the best employees for the project.

Some members of the agile distributed teams usually work remotely. They collaborate with their coworkers constantly to ensure the whole team is up-to-date on all aspects of the project. For this reason, using the right agile project management tools is extremely important.

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How Do Remote Work and Agile Teams Work Together?

The traditional agile approach includes in-person communication between the teams. However, with the rise of remote work, online communication is a huge part of the job of a software developer or a project manager.

Since managing distributed teams has so many benefits, in-person meetings can be sacrificed for increased productivity and better qualifications of team members.

Let’s have a look at how agile teams can profit from remote working:

Flexibility in Work Hours

Managing distributed agile teams in different time zones is challenging. Team members need freedom and flexibility while still delivering their part of the project on time.

Empowered Teams

Agile distributed teams are often self-organized. This increases performance and trust and empowers employees to take ownership of their workload. Members of distributed teams tend to solve problems more innovatively.

Improved Work-Life Balance

One of the top benefits of managing remote teams is a healthier work-life balance. By eliminating commutes, distributed agile team members free up additional time for leisure activities and recreation.

This lowers stress and prevents software engineer burnout. In turn, it leads to better productivity, greater work satisfaction, and employee retention.

Access to Global Talent

Since distributed teams work in different locations, companies can hire highly trained professionals from almost anywhere in the world. This gives managers access to a much larger talent pool than if they were to hire locally.

Cost Savings

By hiring internationally, companies can lower their costs. Salaries in many other countries are lower than in the US. On top of that, remote team members cost companies less because they don’t need an office, a parking space, or even a desk.

What Are the Core Ideas for Distributed Agile Teams?

The core principles of agile teams consists of many components.

The Agile Manifesto, which outlines the core principles of agile software development, prioritizes the following:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.

Distributed agile teams embrace these principles into their core ideas and develop them further. Here’s what they’ve evolved into so far:

Customer First

Agile methodologies are a customer-centered approach to software development. This means that customer support teams work closely with agile development teams to create a high-quality product that best serves customers.

Customer satisfaction requires quick deliveries and frequent updates. Feedback from users is crucial to implementing necessary changes and improving software products.

By placing customers’ needs first, companies ensure the final version of their product lives up to the users’ expectations and is tailored to the target audience.

Embrace Change

Software development using the agile approach enables quick adaptation to changes. It helps distributed team members react to customer desires and requirement changes at any stage of the project.

Traditional project management usually follows a strict plan, where changes are rarely made once the project development begins.

Building a software product using agile methods is more flexible. The agile principles encourage iterative development. This means that deliveries are done often and in small increments. This approach makes agile teams more flexible and better at adapting to change.

Deliver Frequently

One of the biggest benefits of agile practices is incremental development. It allows distributed teams to work on different parts of the project and deliver them independently.

It also enables the frequent and fast delivery of small iterations rather than the whole software product at once, making regular feedback possible and keeping the team more focused.

This approach allows the software development process to be more flexible and robust. It helps create software products that are much more reliable and adapted to the customer’s requirements. Not only that but updating products with new features or implementing bug fixes is much easier for distributed agile teams than it is in traditional project management.

Work Together

Agile teams communicate and work together with stakeholders and customers seamlessly. This keeps everyone on the same page. It also makes sure the final product meets both the company’s and the client’s expectations and needs.

To make the most out of this, collaborators must have clear roles. Otherwise, the constant communication might lead to a lack of focus for the agile development teams. Regular reports, updates, and meetings should be planned and attended only when needed.

Support Your Team

To achieve the best results from your distributed teams, agile project managers should encourage the most motivated employees. They should offer the most committed developers extra support, encouragement, and the necessary tools to help them deliver the best possible results.

By showing support to your team, you’ll encourage them to work even more cohesively to produce faster and better deliverables.

Communicate Clearly

clear communication is an essential part of distributed agile teams.

The disadvantage of distributed teams is the lack of in-person meetings. To overcome this, regular video conferencing and virtual meetings can replace them.

Face-to-face interactions, even when they’re online, build trust and help get the message through more clearly. This builds a sense of belonging to the team and makes collaborating easier.

Additionally, roles should be clearly defined. Distributed team members should know where they stand in the company’s hierarchy. It should be clear to them what their responsibilities are, both within the company and in the ongoing projects.

Measure Progress with Products

The best way to measure your team’s progress is the delivery of working software products. This means products that are fully integrated, tested, and ready to be delivered or deployed.

The number of functional iterations to the product your company develops is the best indicator of success. New releases help developers focus their energy in the right direction and achieve better results.

Make sure your team celebrates every milestone to keep spirits high. This is especially important in distributed software development with remote teams whose members might feel isolated.

Sustainable Pace

Agile development encourages keeping a sustainable pace. Everyone involved in the process should be able to maintain a constant pace long term and without burning out.

This requires properly balancing workloads, setting realistic goals, and prioritizing employee well-being over profit.

Asking team members to work overtime will not help the company deliver its product faster. However, utilizing agile distributed teams that operate in different time zones results in more work being done in the same amount of time.

Strive for Excellence

The goal of distributed software development is to create innovative technology that not only serves its purpose but also makes the user’s life easier. This includes a user-friendly design, functionality that doesn’t break, and features that adhere to requirements.

To achieve this, distributed teams should keep track of the project status, perform regular code reviews, and follow the best practices in software development, among others.

All this will reduce the risk of technical debt and prevent the building up of unnecessary code and useless features. Additionally, it’ll be easier to enhance the software product with new features and adapt it to changes in the requirements.

Keep It Simple

Keeping things simple allows a distributed team to focus on what matters most. By not spending time on overly complicated tasks, a team member can focus on developing the product’s most crucial functionality.

The fast-paced agile cycles push software developers to keep only the features that serve the user best. There’s no point in implementing unnecessary functions.

This core idea for agile teams can be used to reduce the workload and increase efficiency.

Self-Organize

One of the best ways for a distributed team to enhance its performance is to self-organize. The autonomy of self-organizing teams empowers members to search for the optimal solution and to be as creative as possible.

Maintaining independence increases productivity, especially when teams work in different time zones and locations. Instead of waiting for approval from the project manager, agile team members can implement their best ideas right away to achieve the product’s goal faster.

This sense of ownership leads to a more efficient decision-making process and yields better overall results.

Reflect and Adjust

Constant improvement is essential for a distributed agile team. Regular reflections on past and current sprints and software projects are important for identifying problematic areas.

Knowing where things don’t work or cause friction is the first step to dealing with issues and refining processes. Constant collaboration leads to better productivity and less time and effort wasted in areas of little significance.

Remote teams should share their experiences and discuss what changes need to be made. This effort also brings coworkers together and strengthens their relations, which in turn makes distributed teams work more effectively in the long run.

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How to Build Your Dream Distributed Agile Team?

Teamwork makes the dream work, here's how to build your perfect distributed agile team.

Now that you’ve learned the core ideas for distributed agile teams, it’s time to build your own dream team. To build a successful team, you need to:

  • Concentrate on the right people
  • Set common goals
  • Establish clear communication
  • Use the right tools
  • Stimulate open and honest feedback; and
  • Promote a healthy work-life balance.

This way, you’ll make sure your team achieves its goals while feeling appreciated, motivated, and productive.

Let’s take a look at the individual steps you need to take to build your dream Agile distributed team in 2024.

Step 1: Pick the Right People

Selecting the right people for your distributed Agile team is the first step to building a successful product. Choose professionals who are skilled in their respective roles and share your company’s values and goals.

In addition to technical skills, the right employees for your distributed agile team should have strong soft skills, such as excellent communication, problem-solving, and collaboration abilities.

Look for team members who are motivated, proactive, flexible, and adaptive to change. It’s also essential to find people who can work independently and deliver tasks on time.

Choosing the people to best fit your development team will help create a healthy tech company culture in the long run.

Step 2: Set Clear Goals

Setting clear goals provides direction and purpose for your distributed agile team. Define objectives to keep team members focused and working towards the same outcome.

To set the right objectives for your distributed teams, one of the best ways is to use the SMART principles. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Here’s how each one helps in setting clear goals:

  • Specific: The goal should target a specific area or answer a specific need.
  • Measurable: It must be possible to measure progress.
  • Achievable: Based on available resources and existing limitations, the goal should be realistic.
  • Relevant: It should align with the company’s vision.
  • Time-bound: There must be a deadline for completing the goal.

Follow the SMART principles, and you’ll be able to set clear goals for your distributed teams, which they’ll be happy to achieve.

Step 3: Celebrate Differences Across Time Zones

Distributed teams often work from different time zones and countries. The diverse cultures and backgrounds bring unique perspectives and experiences to the table. Your company should encourage team members to share them during meetings and brainstorming sessions.

To overcome the challenges of scheduling events in different time zones, use a project management tool. Pick one that lets you share tasks, track progress, and allow easy team collaboration.

Another way to address time zone differences is to establish core working times. This way, team members’ schedules will overlap when they’re all available for meetings and discussions. That’s typically where nearshoring comes into play.

To strengthen the connections in a culturally diverse team, organize virtual team-building activities. This will create a collaborative and inclusive distributed environment.

Step 4: Establish Strong Communication

Strong communication is an important ingredient for team work.

Effective communication is crucial. Your company can use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous channels to ease the team collaboration.

To keep everyone on the same page, use video conferencing, instant messages, project management tools, and email threads.

To further facilitate collaboration, inspire open discussions, active listening, and transparency. This will aid in problem-solving and motivate your team, as everyone can feel a valued part of the company. Every team member should be comfortable sharing problems, ideas, and updates.

Establishing strong communication in your distributed Agile team will help you address any misunderstandings early on, enhance productivity, and build trust.

Step 5: Implement Regular Check-Ins

Regular check-ins allow distributed team members to share their progress, discuss any challenges they might be facing, ask for help, and provide support. Daily stand-up meetings and weekly sync-ups give opportunities to review tasks, address roadblocks, and set priorities.

The best way to implement these check-ins in your day-to-day work plan is to keep the meetings short and action-oriented. Focus on project progress, discuss current tasks, and deal with any problems your team might experience.

During check-ins, you can also encourage your remote teams to share small wins and obstacles. This will help create a productive environment and promote accountability. Use the information from the meetings to adjust deadlines, allocate resources, and reassign tasks.

In addition, you can engage in one-on-one check-ins to receive personal feedback and address individual concerns.

Step 6: Encourage Open and Honest Feedback

By encouraging open and honest feedback, you’ll create a culture of constant improvement. Aim to promote a thriving environment that gives team members a sense of belonging. They should feel comfortable sharing thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fearing judgment.

Additionally, it helps remote team members give constructive feedback to their peers. Instead of viewing feedback as criticism, address it as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

Last but not least, support transparent communication where team members can also review management performance and leadership style as well.

Your company can gather input from their employees by using, for example, surveys or feedback sessions. They should be held regularly and cover different aspects of the project development and team dynamics.

Step 7: Promote Work-Life Balance

promoting work-life balance is key to creating a productive workplace.

If a healthy work-life balance is part of your company culture, your distributed agile team members will increase their well-being and productivity.

Support your employees in setting clear boundaries between their work and personal lives. Promote flexible working hours to accommodate different needs and lifestyles. Understand the importance of downtime and encourage team members to disconnect and recharge when needed.

It’s important to assist your remote teams in creating dedicated workspaces if they work from home. Respect individual preferences and allow flexible schedules to accommodate personal responsibilities and time zone differences.

Encourage members of your team to take regular breaks, engage in self-care activities, and disconnect from work outside of working hours. Set a good example by showing healthy work habits and setting boundaries as a leader.

Step 8: Utilize Tools for Collaboration

Invest in agile project management tools that help your entire team plan, collaborate, track tasks, and view the whole project.

Effective collaboration tools help communication, coordination, and task planning within distributed teams. Choose tools that simplify remote work and offer features such as Kanban boards, sprint planning, and real-time collaborations. Popular agile project management tools include:

  • Jira
  • Confluence
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Monday

Use them to track tasks, manage workflows, and view real-time progress.

Add virtual whiteboarding and brainstorming tools to your planning phase. Miro and MURAL are widely used for creative ideation and problem-solving sessions.

Additionally, use messaging and video conferencing tools to communicate effectively with your team. Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams are excellent choices for virtual meetings.

Lastly, remember to incorporate document sharing and version control tools. Google Drive and GitHub are some of the most popular choices for enabling shared editing and file management.

Choose All-Wins Solutions as Your Next Partner for Distributed Agile Teams

Now that you understand the benefits and challenges of distributed agile development, you might want to start building your team.

All-Win Solutions can help you with that. We follow Agile principles and can provide you with highly trained developers to work on your distributed team. You can hire them temporarily or on a long-term basis.

Still unsure if we’re the best agile partner? Read the excellent testimonials of our valued customers or explore our case studies.

When you’re ready to start building your distributed team, contact us for our free two-week trial. Schedule a call and learn how our developers can enhance your projects while simplifying the hiring process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Distributed Agile Teams

What are the challenges of a distributed agile team?

One of the top agile principles is to prioritize personal communication. This is extremely difficult to achieve when your employees don’t work from the same location as other team members.

Distributed agile teams often face challenges in effective communication and collaboration, dealing with time zone differences and cultural diversity, and creating a strong team bond.

To overcome these challenges, companies should create effective communication channels, promote a culture of transparency and trust, address timezone differences, and use robust project management tools.

What is a distributed team model?

A distributed team model is a work arrangement with members in different locations. The employees often work remotely or in different office branches.

A distributed team collaborates virtually to achieve common goals. It uses software tools to coordinate its efforts, track project status, and deliver products on time.

What is the difference between distributed and dispersed teams?

Both distributed and dispersed teams have remote work arrangements. The key difference is in their organizational structure and communication dynamics.

Distributed teams are organized across various locations but work together as a unified team. Dispersed teams operate independently in different locations with minimal interaction or coordination.

What is a distributed Scrum team?

A distributed Scrum team works remotely with members spread across different locations. It follows the Scrum framework for agile project management.

Distributed Scrum teams collaborate closely to deliver iterative increments of work. They follow Scrum ceremonies such as Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-ups, Sprint Reviews, and Retrospectives. A Scrum master makes sure the team follows the Scrum framework and helps the members improve their workflow.

How do you manage distributed teams?

Managing distributed teams requires a combination of effective communication, robust collaboration tools, clear goal-setting, and strong leadership.

Implementing regular check-ins, promoting a culture of accountability, providing adequate training and support, and leveraging virtual collaboration tools are essential for successfully managing distributed teams in an agile environment.

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