Taking Advantage of Virtual Agile Squads During COVID-19

May 21, 2020 by Stefanini

Even before coronavirus hit, teams working remotely was a fast-growing fact as more corporations began to work with teams spaced out all over the world.

 

Even before coronavirus hit, teams working remotely was a fast-growing fact as more and more corporations began to work with teams spaced out all over the world. And this has its benefits – companies can mine the world for the best talent and not be hindered by location or time zone while also delivering the best products or services. But what exactly is a virtual agile squad and why are they important in this moment? Read on for the answer.

What are Virtual Agile Squads?

To put it simply, virtual agile squads are work teams made up of a group of people pursuing the same objective even though they not in the same place or location. They can work from various cities and offices across the globe. The goal of this methodology is to expand the reach of talent, take advantage of the benefits of teamwork and enjoy the conveniences that new technologies provide.

Agile development, as we all know for over a decade now, utilizes traditional IT roles (of Business Analyst, Developer and Tester) to reduce overall IT development lifecycle in an iterative Scrum Model. However, that has changed over the last two to three years with the advent of the Digital Transformation. With Agile now being the delivery vehicle for driving fast-paced Digital Transformation in a dynamic organizational and evolving technological context engaging cross functional teams, the focus has shifted from software development agility to enterprise agility, reducing the overall lead time for an idea-to-implementation life cycle engaging a variety of cross functional skills and competencies. Hence, it is important to recognize that the envisioned 100% virtual Agile model of the future is adept at driving enterprise agility. 

The Importance of Virtual Agile Squads

The COVID-19 phenomenon has redefined almost all aspects of how an enterprise conducts its day-to-day business to deliver value to its customers.  The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a 100% virtual, no-shore model requiring all or most Agile team members to operate remotely from their home offices.  We need to make this transition from current day distributed Agile model to a 100% virtual model because people physically are unable to commute to their physical offices.

Rather than fear these changes, we should embrace them. As mentioned before, thanks to the no-shore model, we can work with the best talent located anywhere. We also aren’t confined to traditional working hours. These benefits will continue long after coronavirus. So, it’s time to implement virtual agile squads now to start reaping the positive aspects as soon as possible.

How Virtual Squads Work

Technology makes virtual agile squads possible. Management and collaboration tools let squads stay up to date on who’s doing what and follow up on the work. This way, the whole team stays in the loop. With video calls and chats, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the same physical office as your team or thousands of miles away; everyone stays connected and is able to maintain adequate and fluid communication. Tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are perfect for these aims as all team members are able to participate, communicating efficiently and successfully with each other. This way, thanks to the Internet and new technologies, distance is no longer a barrier for creating an efficient, coordinated and cohesive team.

virtual teams

Ensure Team Success

According to McKinsey, Agile teams traditionally excel when their members are co-located. Yet, there are ways to ensure these teams are successful:

1)      Revisit the norms and ground rules for interaction: team members should be generous with one another in offering practical support on navigating virtual tools. Teams need to get up to speed quickly on visual management and virtual whiteboarding and tailor established ceremonies into standard virtual routines. New ground rules for communication may be needed to keep people who are interacting virtually from talking over one another. Other team norms may also need to be revisited and restructured. When a member of an agile team, everyone needs to take responsibility for capturing spontaneous ideas and putting up blockers to avoid losing them. Cultivate bonding and morale: typically, bonding would take place over a casual lunch or Happy Hour after work. Today, with the threat of the coronavirus hanging in the air, such interactions aren’t possible. Team members should encourage one another to introduce their pets and family members and to show any meaningful items in their working space. Working remotely, teams need to make a more conscious effort to be social, polite, precise, and tactful—to ensure everyone feels just as safe contributing remotely as they did in person.

2)      Adapt coaching and development: With coaching, agile teams should work to model remotely everything they would have done in person. If you would do one-on-one coaching over coffee, try doing it remotely—while actually having coffee over video. Encourage all team members to turn on their video and actively monitor body language during group meetings. This way, it more so brings to life the experience of working together while being physically apart.

3)      Recalibrating remote agile processes – the challenge for remote agile teams is that they may attempt to try to replicate exactly whatever has worked for them in a physical setting. But what worked in the office setting won’t always work remotely and might not even be necessary. The trick is to work backward—start with the outcomes you were getting in the office and modify your routines as appropriate. It’s all about adapting to the situation rather than sticking to a guide.

4)      Establish a single source of truth – when working remotely, teams may need to consider a different approach to documenting team discussion. This approach results in producing a single source of truth to memorialize agreements. This can then be kept in a single shared workspace. A remote stand-up can be more involved than an in-person one. It all depends on a team’s maturity and cohesiveness. If team members don’t all participate in the event, then it’s important to calibrate the process to the context. This is where being adaptable is key as the right approach is likely to be team specific.  

5)      Keep teams engaged during long ceremonies – a remote-working arrangement creates new challenges to keeping agile teams motivated and avoiding burnout. Working in isolation is hard, but for agile teams accustomed to face-to-face communication, frequent interpersonal engagement can have a severely negative impact.

Virtual Agile Squads with Stefanini

Stefanini is here to provide you with 100% virtual agile squads on a people, processes, and technology front. Our squads display solid commitment to the task at hand, with relevant links between members and targets promoting high-value interactions.

Let us co-create with you. Call us today and remove office barriers.

 

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