Pros and Cons of Geographically Distributed Agile Teams

Pros and Cons of Geographically Distributed Agile Teams
31 Aug 2020

The iterative approach on software development has been around since the late 1950s, but it wasn’t until the elaboration of the “Agile Manifesto”, that the core agile principles were clearly set out. Written in 2001, the Manifesto states that “the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team, is face-to-face conversation”. So then how can a geographically distributed team integrate agile methodologies?

Clearly at that time, there weren’t as many available communication tools as there are now, but despite video calls, online meetings, and instant messaging being at one’s fingertips, communication gaps can still arise. A trustful working relationship between geographically distributed team members is harder to build, as there is less informal dialogue, that otherwise could have occurred over lunch breaks or water dispensers.

Pros and Cons of Geographically Distributed Agile Teams

Moreover, cultural differences and contrasting values can make establishing healthy business relations even more difficult, if these issues are not caught and resolved early on. A sense of isolation is also common among geographically spread out employees, who can feel that they don’t fit in, or they aren’t a part of the team, and have to deal with everything on their own.

Another challenge that an agile geographically distributed team has to face, is that related to time-zone discrepancies. Because of the agile method consisting of delivering working software at the end of each iteration, professionals might feel more pressure and need to organize their time more efficiently, in order to deliver on time. Dealing with time-zone differences means that employees will find it harder to synchronize, and work simultaneously, so managing time and responsibilities needs to be flawless.

This brings us to the next con of geographically distributed agile teams, regarding project management. Team members need to have clearly drawn out roles and their priorities in order. With an iteration lasting from a couple of weeks to a few months, employees need to be able to deliver functional high quality products within a specific timeframe. But overviewing the project’s status and monitoring progress is complicated without extra work in the management sector.

Notwithstanding what has just been said, geographically distributed agile teams have their advantages. Team members can be more productive, working in their chosen environment, and more motivated. The later also makes retaining employees easier, so companies have less to worry about.

Although interaction is mostly virtual in the case of distributed agile teams, sharing screens, presentations, or documents, can prove to be more efficient than using the traditional white board. Issues can be pointed out more easily, and having everything written down is always better than having to remember what your colleague said to you last week, on a Thursday afternoon.

Agile practices also promote adaptability and an open attitude towards change and adjustments. Employees will learn to deal with last minute requests and work effectively during crunch time. Therefore, distributed agile teams have an improved time-to-market, compared to other types of development teams.

Other benefits of hiring a geographically distributed team that uses agile methodologies, include access to a larger pool of talent, entering new markets, learning from cultural diversity, saving up on costs, access to high end technology, and scalability.

Conclusion

Geographically distributed agile teams may encounter more challenges than collocated ones, due to the fact that agile principles are based on face-to-face interaction. But this shouldn’t discourage companies that consider hiring such teams, as they can benefit from cost-efficiency, an improved time-to-market, having more time to focus on core activities, and a productive team of highly adaptable professionals.

Arnia’s approach on Agile

Here at Arnia, we embrace Agile methodologies in most of our projects. Usually, it is our customers and partners who ask us to use Agile methodologies – Scrum and Kanban – from the inception of the project. When the choice is left to our engineers, we carefully analyse the project specifics, and we propose a project management methodology based on Scrum or Kanban, which best fits the specific project needs and context.

With hundreds of successfully completed projects for clients ranging from Fortune 500 to Forbes 50, spanning on 3 continents and more than 10 countries, we can offer excellent software development opportunities for any business. Our services cover web and mobile applications, web design, big data solutions, database management systems, e-commerce solutions, cloud-enabled solutions, content management solutions, business intelligence, and R&D.