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Keys to Making Agile Work for Your Remote Team – Part 1

In the past few decades, not much has made as big of an impact on software development as the Agile methodology. The Agile methodology is an approach to project management that is focused on breaking down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, which are completed in short iterations throughout the project life cycle. This offers numerous benefits, such as enabling teams to work faster, adapt to changes better, improve output quality, and optimize their workflows, among others.

Agile has proven to be effective in optimizing not only software development processes, but many others in various industries. But while it is no doubt a breakthrough way of working, it is not foolproof. Challenges and ways that run counter to Agile principles and practices can undermine its effectiveness. Organizations that offshore IT roles can be particularly susceptible to these, as the remote nature of their work arrangements may prompt managers to implement strict working practices. 

To ensure success when adopting Agile, it is critical to realize and understand some key points about it, and work to apply these in your organization.

  1. Understand what Agile really is and how it works

To get the most out of Agile, you need to fully understand it. It is not a chaotic approach where everybody can do whatever they want, or a stiff approach that simply means doing things faster. At the heart of Agile is a set of principles and core values that serve as its foundation. Any team planning to adopt an Agile methodology must abide by these principles and values:

  • The 4 Core Values of Agile
    • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – Teams, and especially those that offshore IT roles, may develop a reliance on processes and tools. However, their importance should not supersede that of individual team members and their roles.
    • Working software over comprehensive documentation – Documentation is important, but working software is even more so. This hierarchy gives developers exactly what they need to get the job done, without getting overloaded.
    • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation – Customers should be involved throughout the process, and their updated input is prioritized to ensure the product meets their exact needs.
    • Responding to change over following a plan – Agile is largely characterized by how it allows teams to respond quickly to change. This characteristic is one of the biggest departures from traditional project management, but has repeatedly proven to be one of Agile’s greatest strengths.
  • The 12 Principles of Agile
    • Satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
    • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development.
    • Deliver value frequently, with a preference for the shorter timescale.
    • Coordinating team members must work together throughout the project.
    • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
    • Face-to-face conversation is the most efficient and effective method of conveying information. For remote teams however, this doesn’t have to be taken literally. Synchronous communication is what is most effective here. As long as you have a means of communicating clearly and directly, then this principle is followed.
    • The final product is the primary measure of progress.
    • Maintain a sustainable working pace for all stakeholders.
    • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
    • Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential. Why complicate things when the simplest solution meets the customer’s needs?
    • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams. Motivated teams generate the most value when you give them the freedom to do so.
    • Regularly reflect on how your team can become more effective, then tune and adjust behaviors accordingly.

Agile comes in several varieties that put emphasis on different things. While they share the same values and principles and have a lot in common, they have differences in roles, rules, advantages, and others. It’s important to look into these particular areas to determine which variant/s of Agile will be most appropriate for your remote team, and how to adopt it successfully.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll discuss the other key aspects that are critical to adopting an Agile approach successfully, especially with a remote team. Stay tuned!

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