Collaboration At a Distance

Getting teams to function well when they are not co-located isn’t easy. Some teams figure out what works for them and, in my experience, most don’t do it well. When discussing this with others, there is always agreement that teams can be highly productive when distributed geographically and no one has ever given an example of how to get a team there. That was until I read an article by Johanna Rothman. Johanna posted the article on InfoQ which gives a step by step process that worked for a team as described to her by one of the team members.

Not only does the team make collaboration work across geographical locations but also across four and a half time zones. This is impressive.  For the teams I work with, we only have to contend with North American east coast versus west coast time zone. We do have teams in India however they are co-located and only need to collaborate with the North American Product Owner.

Not all steps will work for all teams however what is described should provide a distributed team some ideas of things to try. There will also be organizational challenges. For example, we use Scrum as our development methodology and the teams would have to work with their managers to ensure that expectations are met if they were to start using kanban. I would hope that this wouldn’t be too big a stumbling point as ultimately we just want quality software delivered at regular intervals.

I would love to hear thoughts from others on this topic, particularly any practices that work for your teams that aren’t in Johanna’s article.

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