Implementing agile methods like Scrum relies on broad communication. With a distributed team there’s a need for much more heavy communication. Unfortunately the distributedness of a team complicates easy communication. In most cases the common ways to send and receive information is
- one-to-one/many by email: the most anonymous distributed communication from one person to a group of people. Advantage: ability to spread complete and detailed information. Disadvantage: uncertainty of the message being read and understood.
- one-to-one by phone: the most direct distributed communication between two persons. Advantage: direct feedback is possible. Disadvantage: not useful for team communication.
- one-to-many by phone (phone conference): mostly uni-directional communication from one person to a group of people. Advantage: team communication is limited but possible. Disadvantage: direct feedback is hidden.
- many-to-many by meeting: ideal way of team communication. Advantage: face-to-face in one room, ability to use boards, cards, beamers. Disadvantage: unable to participate for distributed team members
Best solution for distributed teams: use a video conferencing system with all team members in front of the cameras. That way you virtually enlarge the meeting room and can use most of the advantages of a usual meeting. By adding a beamer to each side of the system and setting up a remote desktop infrastructure, all other tools can be simulated as well.
I initiated a Daily Video Scrum for my distributed development team. Of course a little more preparation is needed to start the video system and, the beamer. But it’s worth the effort – try it and you will see the benefits!