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Leveraging Agile and Scrum in a Remote Environment

COVID-19 has both transformed the marketplace and turned the chaotic world of traditional workflows on its head. The future, as they say, is agile. Still, can “agile” and “Scrum” co-exist in a remote environment? Two of the core tenets of agile are collation and collaboration — both of which are directly impacted by remote ecosystems.

But, all is not lost. Some companies find that remote work leads to more fluid, agile collaboration. Much depends on workplace culture. However, even if your team prefers in-person handshakes and noisy boardroom meetings, going remote doesn’t have to crumble your SCRUM wall. Sure, you may hit a productivity dip, and you may find yourself missing the old ways of delivering agile. We’re not here to tell you that remote work is the only answer.

But, if you’re exploring a move to a remote setting, there are some steps you can take to make agile work.

1. Leverage the Right Virtual Tools

As of this writing, there’s a diversity of online collaboration tools on the market. From virtual Kanban boards to task management platforms like Trello, you’re not short on options. However, it’s important to step back and look at your remote ecosystem holistically. The one thing you’ll want to avoid is adding more siloed tech solutions to your stack. Remember, the agile framework is built on collaboration. You need to be able to sync workflows, communication platforms, and productivity tools to facilitate rapid iterations and fluid interactions.

For this, you have three options.

  • Invest in multiple siloed tools for each agile need and spend money integrating them.
  • Use one cohesive tech ecosystem.
  • Spend money developing in-house systems.

Here’s the problem: No. 3 isn’t really an option. We’re on an accelerated timeline. Many businesses have already made the move to remote. Yours must adapt now, not five years from now. Option 1 doesn’t work either. You can’t really afford to waste IT resources on integrating disparate platforms.

That leaves you with Option 2, using a comprehensive and holistic ecosystem to facilitate agile. Solutions like Microsoft 365 brings you virtual meetings and collaboration tools through Teams and Lists. Plus, you get workflow automation with Power Automate. Ideally, you want a solution that can seamlessly migrate data between each platform. Since you’re already dealing with the loss of face-to-face interactions, you’ll want to avoid adding data transfer and tech stack frictions to the equation.

2. Cultivate a Remote Culture

Not surprisingly, 43% of employees believe face-to-face interactions facilitate deeper relationships. Meanwhile, 84% say remote settings prolong workplace conflicts, and 41% think their remote colleagues are talking about them behind their backs. In other words, remote collaboration comes with intrinsic challenges. However, these are the types of challenges that come with deep cultural changes.

That said, Slack or Teams channels aren’t far removed from boardrooms in nature. Just remember to set ground rules for communication, assign arbiters to keep conversations flowing, and allow for fun conversations to take place. A good initial strategy is to assign someone to monitor body language and engagement during virtual meetings. If someone seems disengaged, use it as a coaching opportunity.

There are two paradigms that you need to be aware of in remote settings. You need everyone to be engaged with each other AND their work. Both are critical. The real challenge is the culture shock. Start planning around your virtual culture, sooner rather than later.

3. Let Agile Prevail

There’s a cadence to agile. Previously, you held daily SCRUM sprints, retrospectives, and reviews on-location. Now, you need to have them in a remote setting. So, set aside meeting times to tackle all of them. Migrating to different settings means a change in rhythm. However, the inability to identify each other’s stressors doesn’t negate their power to destabilize morale. So, take the time to have one-on-one communications with team members. Problem-solving meetings and Scrum events still need to happen. However, you’ll need to make schedules clear, consistent, and streamlined to settle your team into a new rhythm.

That said, creating new virtually-oriented workplace rituals is the fastest way to align team members with this new way of working (and thinking).

Need Help Integrating Agile and Scrum?

At Entrance, we can help you facilitate an agile ecosystem in a remote environment. From Office 365 migration and implementation to best-in-class custom solutions, we can make agile and Scrum work for you. Contact us to find out how.

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