How to Managing a Remote Development Team with Scrum
Scrum is a popular Agile software development framework that assists teams in project management. This framework can also be useful for remote workers, but some practices must be modified for a dispersed team to be successful. This guide has been put together to help you manage your distributed Scrum team more effectively. We also review how to handle Scrum events to highlight priorities and capture any problems or new ideas as they arise.
How to Organize and Manage a Distributed Scrum Team
A distributed Scrum team can be completely or partially remote. The main difference between the remote Scrum team and the in-house team is that the remote Scrum team uses online collaboration tools to track issues, send messages, and hold ceremonies and brainstorming sessions. Furthermore, many of Scrum’s defined rituals and roles, including Scrum ceremonies, can be adapted to a remote work environment.
The distributed Scrum team is clear about where it stands thanks to regular and well-planned meetings, and the product owner receives prompt feedback from each member. This primarily refers to daily standups, where you can learn if anyone on the team is experiencing difficulties or roadblocks to meeting deadlines.
When Manage a Distributed Scrum Team, keep the following in mind:
1) Daily standups are only 15 minutes long.
The Scrum Master should ensure that the daily standup meetings are brief. If a team member is providing status, no one should interfere. If any issue requires additional discussion, the team members should schedule a call outside the daily standup. The Scrum Master should also ensure that such discussions occur after the fact.
2) Asynchronous standups may be an option for teams working in different time zones.
If a team is spread across multiple time zones, they can hold asynchronous meetings, post them on a dedicated Slack channel, and collect feedback from other participants. This will also help with Zoom fatigue.
Optionally, each team member completes and sends the status update template before the daily standup.
3) Tracking sprint progress on online Scrum boards ensures transparency.
The team should use a tool like Trello or Jira to manage sprint tasks. The Scrum Master keeps the board up to date, ensuring that tasks and cards are updated as they are completed. The task list should be organized so anyone can see the team’s progress throughout each sprint. This ensures transparency and informs everyone about the steps that must be taken before a deliverable is complete (and when it will be ready).
4) Agree on communication channels to ensure that everyone on the team and the product owner understands how to use each communication tool.
The Scrum Master should explain what situations each channel is used for in the Slack workspace, which usually has several channels. Additionally, before sending a chat message, the team should consider less distracting methods such as emails or issue trackers. Interrupting others less frequently increases your chances of getting attention when needed.
In every other way, manage a distributed Scrum team is the same as managing an in-house team. The Scrum Master organizes sprints, works with the product owner to ensure a more transparent product backlog, and protects the team from outside stakeholders who may want to broaden the project’s scope.
Scrum events and how to handle them remotely
Regular Scrum events can capture any problems or new ideas on the fly, adapt work to new conditions, and improve communication and teamwork.
The Scrum framework is not about burdening engineers with massive amounts of documentation but rather about addressing more issues through regular conversations and highlighting short-term priorities. Let’s look at the most important Scrum team meetings and how to manage them.
Sprint planning is an event that ensures the team understands the sprint goal and where to focus their efforts in the coming weeks. It encourages the team to regularly review, identify, and possibly undertake the most strategically valuable developmental work.
Typically, the sprint planning meeting is divided into two sections to discuss:
- What should be built during the sprint?
- How the team will build it ?
A Scrum Master can ensure that all participants adhere to Agile methodology and allow developers to choose which user stories to prioritize to meet the sprint goal. Let’s look at the challenges in each section and who is to blame for them.
What should be built during the sprint?
Typically, the product owner provides story summaries. They are responsible for explaining the sprint goal.
Typically, the team commits to the scope they bring into the sprint. The team members question the product owner to get a clear picture of what should be created and decide which items should be moved from the product backlog to the sprint backlog until the developers believe it is feasible. Before the sprint planning meeting, the team can also assist the product owner in refining and prioritizing the product backlog.
How the team will build it ?
The team discusses in greater detail how they will deliver the selected product backlog items during this phase, mostly handled by developers. User stories are divided into tasks that must be completed, such as design, coding/implementation, research, or quality assurance.
The sprint-planning meeting produces the actual sprint plan, which can be viewed in the daily Scrum.
Daily Stand-up (Daily Scrum)
A daily standup creates focus and improves self-management, according to a Scrum Guide. It focuses on progress toward the sprint goal and creates an actionable plan for the following day’s work. In reality, the goal of daily Scrum meetings is to:
- Highlight potential roadblocks
- Discuss difficulties and seek assistance;
- Share useful information
Asynchronous standups can be used by distributed teams with no overlapping work hours. They can share updates as they come online by creating a dedicated Slack channel or commenting on their work board.
If the remote team decides to hold daily video calls, the Scrum Master must ensure they are productive. Rephrasing status updates from the work board are pointless. Additionally, developers may begin delving into technical implementations or bug fixes. Everyone on the team who is not involved in the feature or technical stack zones out after 30 seconds and may not return even if the team moves on to the next topic or developer.
During the sprint review, the product owner discusses the current state of the product, solicits feedback from stakeholders such as product managers, designers, and business analysts, aligns the product backlog with the feedback received, and adapts it to budgets and market changes.
The sprint review can be divided into two stages:
- Examine what is “Done” and “Not Done,” and demonstrate your work. For example, if you’re developing smartphone apps, you should give everyone in the meeting a developer phone. These phones should have the most recent app version installed so stakeholders can experiment with new features.
- Examine and discuss whether the work completed solves the customer’s problem, how the marketplace or potential application of the product has changed, and what needs to be done next.
Listening to feedback from stakeholders is more important than simply showing each team member’s results during refinement.
The sprint retrospective meeting is a problem-solving session attended by scrum team members, whereas the sprint review is primarily concerned with maximizing product value. The team determines what went well, what could have been better, and what they should try to do differently during the next sprint regarding interactions between members, tools, and development practices.
Stakeholders may want to participate in retrospectives or at least see the summary notes to understand better current areas of improvement from the team’s perspective.
The Scrum Master must create an atmosphere of openness and appreciation for this type of meeting. It is not a place to assign blame but rather to draw conclusions, make improvements, and take appropriate actions for the team. It’s intended to be a forum for improving with each sprint.
Scrum Masters typically adhere to the five phases of retrospective meetings outlined in “Agile Retrospectives”:
- Set the stage: Allow time for people to “arrive” and get ready to participate.
- Collect information: Create a shared pool of information to ensure that everyone works from the same facts.
- Generate insight: What caused events to unfold as they did? Recognize patterns to see the big picture.
- Decide what to do: Choose a few issues to work on and develop action plans for dealing with them.
- Finish the Retrospective: Clarify the next steps and express gratitude.
Gathering and processing information is most likely the most difficult part. The Scrum Master may be interested in learning to collect and use data in problem-solving. They can begin with a general set of questions such as:
- Who is concerned about this issue?
- What other effects are there?
- How does the issue affect a specific person or group?
- What effect will it have on our organization?
And then go deeper and, more specifically:
- When does the issue occur?
- How often does it happen?
- What factors could be contributing to the problem?
- What other events could have an impact on the context?
- Is this a common occurrence, or was it an outlier?
If the Scrum Master knows that there are multiple issues to discuss, it is preferable to hold a separate problem-solving session for each issue.
Furthermore, some issues may necessitate additional coaching or in-depth training. Still, the important thing is that retrospective meetings point to a solution and encourage members to reflect and learn.
Backlog refinement may be initiated as a formally scheduled meeting by the product owner and development team. Still, it is usually an ongoing activity to add details, evaluate, and order user stories in the product backlog.
Backlog refinement keeps the team on the same page as the product owner and team. Its primary goals are to:
- Clarify priorities: The team will prioritize what is important and look beyond one or two Sprints.
- Maintain sprint velocity: Even before the team meets for the sprint planning meeting, well-defined tasks should be ready to be moved to the sprint backlog. That way, all of the thinking and planning are done.
- Conduct efficient meetings: Because backlog items have already been prioritized and evaluated, sprint planning is brief and transparent.
Teams can initiate refinements independently if they lack product vision or are unsure about certain functionality details. The Scrum Master should also attend such meetings to get an overview of the current situation with sprint goals and assist the team in defining the most feasible based on the retrospective outcomes.
It’s also a good idea to invite QAs for refinements, even if they’re a separate team with their own set of procedures. It will improve synchronization between the product development and quality assurance teams.
The following are the primary refinement activities:
- Dividing the backlog into short-term and long-term tasks;
- creating new user stories in response to newly discovered requirements
- dividing user stories into smaller, more specific pieces;
- estimating and correcting estimates
- Removing items that are no longer relevant;
- Closing issues that are beyond the team’s long-term capacity, marking them “out of scope” in the team’s issue tracker for future research;
- Items are being re-prioritized due to customer feedback, requested features, and revised estimates.
We hope this article has inspired you to manage a distributed Scrum team.