Category Archives: Scaling Agile

Distributed teams and dependencies – My talk at Austin City Limits Conference

I recently had this opportunity to talk at the Agile City Limits conference at the Dell headquarters in Round Round, Texas. There were a lot of awesome things about the conference. Awesome crowd, awesome energy and from the audience an awesome urge to ask some really great questions. Not to mention that the topic itself “Distributed Teams and Dependencies” was one that is the biggest concern with any large organization trying to adopt agile.

The primary intention behind this presentation was to decouple challenges with a distributed setup and agile. The problems teams and individuals face with a distributed team are resolvable through the use of right tools and techniques. With large and distributed teams, there is so much focus put on process that most teams gradually move away from individuals and iterations and drag themselves back to be driven by using more processes and tools.

The key to overcoming challenges with distributed teams is through using the right balance of agile teams with focus on product/project vision, cross team collaboration, building the right level of trust and understanding cultural sensitivity. Additionally, communication and collaboration tools along with required development tools become great facilitators for collaboration between teams. Teams using agile methods have had great success with tools like story mapping, backlog grooming, scrum of scrums.

I also took the opportunity to talk about what makes a good distributed setup and how organizations should focus on running Scrum successfully before scaling. At the end of the day, it is all about managing the distance.

The audience was particularly interested in understanding the opportunities around team dependencies. My focus in this part was to share my experience in how I and the teams I have coached addressed the challenges with team interlocks. After talking about why dependencies exist and the kind of problems dependencies bring, I walked through some tried and tested approaches which included:

  • Approach to plan to keep dependencies to minimum as you form new teams
  • Creating an open source model
  • Planning for dependencies ahead of time
  • Creating communities of practice for better collaboration

All in all, it was a great discussion and I hope the audience enjoyed attending my talk as much as I enjoyed presenting it.

Here’s my presentation.