Managing Global Scrum Teams

Author: Wavicle Data Solutions


With the proliferation of companies turning to a “Global” model where some to most of the development effort is conducted outside of the United States, running an effective Scrum team may seem impossible. However, remember that Scrum is under the Agile framework, which provides for the ability to customize the approach to Scrum to fit your capability while still preserving the important tenets of Agile/Scrum in the process.


One of the biggest challenges expressed by companies with global development teams when attempting to implement Agile/Scrum is: “How would teams conduct Daily Stand-Ups?”. This question is asked a lot, especially by companies new to Agile/Scrum. The reason being is that companies are trained based on the textbook approach to Scrum, which calls for dedicated, Co-Located teams to achieve the highest success rate. While co-locating teams is ultimately the best approach, only a small percentage of companies enjoy the luxury of having full teams all situated in the same physical space. Additionally, with a company’s office locations spread out around the United States, many teams are not even located in the same physical building not to mention the same state. Global teams also face added challenges created by an almost 12-hour time difference. Yet, with the use of technology and the attitude to find the best solutions given certain limitations, global Agile/Scrum teams are thriving worldwide.


The key to overcoming any limitation within global Scrum teams is to focus on the tenets to which you can adhere (found in the Agile Manifest’ 12 Principles, like “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software”, “Welcome changing requirements, even late in development”, and “Working software is the primary measure of progress”) and then find the best approach to address the limitations. For a global Scrum team, technology, like the tracking and collaboration tool Confluence/Jira, provides teams the ability to:


  • Update Task Status
  • Log/Clear blockers
  • Report Defects
  • Collaborate with other teammates


All of this helps address the objections many face when utilizing global Scrum teams for project work.


Additionally, to find the best solution for a global scrum team to effectively execute an important ceremony like “The Daily Standup” where teams come together to define work completed, work to be completed and any blockers, below are 3 options to overcome geographical distance and time difference:


  1. Using conference calls or video conferencing, hold “The Daily Standup” at a time when the entire global team can attend. Daily Standups are recommended to last only 15 minutes, so the team coordinates and agrees on a time that works best. A secondary option is to periodically change the start time to better accommodate one or the other team to equally share the effort.
  2. Using conference calls or video conferencing, designate a lead at the offshore location to provide status for the remainder of the offshore team. The team’s status can be either updated in the tracking tool and/or provided in email daily for the lead to share with the onshore team. In the event blockers have created major issues, teams can ALWAYS utilize option #1 above for some time to address the blockers and then go back to this option once blockers are cleared.
  3. Have the offshore team use the tracking tool, like Confluence/Jira, to report daily status, upcoming work, and any blockers. These tools are designed to support Scrum, so using them consistently can eliminate the need to meet daily. Many teams find that meeting once or twice per week via conference calls or video conferencing is more than sufficient to discuss status and blockers.


By utilizing options like these companies can remove the objections of distance and time and create effective global scrum teams.


Lastly, there is an overarching factor that must be addressed when utilizing a Global Scrum team model, and that is trust. Inherently, there needs to be trust that the teams are diligent and capable of managing the necessary work to complete the Sprints/Features/Projects. In fact, trust is one of the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto – “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.”. If trust is lagging then it doesn’t matter where the team is located – effectiveness will be challenged.