Distributed Team

Distributed Team
Intent
: Claim the benefits of agile practice without co-locating team members

Proverbs: United we stand, divided we fall; 90% of communication is non-verbal

Also Known As: Non co-location; Split Team; Dislocated Team

Motivation: Physical constraints, such as desk space and the wider geography of an organization, may inhibit the co-location of team members. The need for agile team members to work in proximity to each other can present logistical issues that managers are unwilling to overcome. As such, a logical team boundary will be made to span physical boundaries. Managers can thus avoid an immediate resourcing issue, while offloading the management of any risk incurred to the teams themselves.

Structure: A team will try to release project increments on an iterative basis. However, the team members will be spread across multiple locations, and peer collaboration will be correspondingly impaired.

Applicability: Teams in large organizations are particularly susceptible to having non-colocated members. This is because such bodies are often geographically distributed themselves or outsource work to distant third parties.

Consequences: Agile practice is heavily dependent on individuals and their ability to interact with each other. Teams with low WIP limits are particularly impacted by the effects of distributed membership, as each item in progress will require collaborative actioning. There is an increased risk of skill silos emerging as a result of non-colocation, since the opportunities for pairing and cross-training will be reduced.

Implementation
: Scrum teams may have some of their functions outsourced or even offshored. Testing is one common example.

See Also: Teamwork; Peer