Geographically distributed development teams

Geographically
distributed
development teams.
Risks and opportunities

It’s been universally accepted that face-to-face communication is a prerequisite for effective teamwork and the successful development of solid software products. For some reason, “long-distance” applied to any type of relationship is considered an absolute evil, destined to ruin communication and bring harm to whatever it touches. However, agile teams around the world keep proving that with a smart approach, geographic distribution can play into your hands.

Geographically Distributed Development Put Simply

Geographically distributed development

Geographical distribution is a multi-level notion that basically means being physically separated from your team members. Levels of geographic distribution include both near- and far-located teams, while some experts even consider working in different rooms or boxes within one room as being geographically distributed.

On the opposite side, there are co-located teams who share the same workspace, enjoy direct communication, see the body language signs for better mutual understanding, and encounter no interaction risks. To draw a more precise picture of separation variants, it’s necessary to mention that teams can also be fully or partly dispersed or distributed in sub-teams. In fact, almost every software development company out there has dealt with geographic distribution, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, or had their employees sometimes working from home before the pandemic.

Alleged Risks of Geographic Distribution

Risks of geographic distribution

Organizing the cohesive work of agile geographically distributed teams is a challenge. Building long-distance communication, testing out cooperation strategies, tackling the ongoing issues triggered by misunderstanding, and a bunch of other complications. Here are the risks you might face if you step away from co-located agile team composition.

The Complexity of Organizational Structure

Running a team of partly or fully dispersed developer engineers is a tough one. Being deprived of a natural face-to-face communication option, team members are more likely to lose the sense of unity and motivation, indispensable for fruitful cooperation. Video conferencing and various visual aids aimed at making long-distance work might fail if there is no clear communication strategy backed with a solid understanding of a common goal.

Time Zone Differences

Geographically distributed software development quite often encounters the need to deal with communication risks in a team of far-located specialists who are naturally interconnected due to the development of the same product. It might appear stressful for team members to be online at nighttime to discuss some crucial work Paragraphs or ineffective to leave written notes for their counterparts from another time zone.

Video conferencing and various visual aids aimed at making long-distance work might fail if there is no clear communication strategy backed with a solid understanding of a common goal.

Cultural Mismatches

People rarely take the cultural factor into account until they have to work during holidays or during the time of other traditional or religious events. Figuring out how to cater to everyone's needs and arrange team members' work time with regard to cultural aspect requires a well-developed strategy. Apart from that, people of different cultures might represent various types of work ethic that can negatively influence the whole process and lead to failure.

Turning Risks into Opportunities

Opportunities of geographic distribution

Concentrating on risks without considering them as opportunities is a proven way to a setback. That’s why let’s look at the negatives from the other perspective.

Discover New Work Management Approaches

The complexity of organizational structure is a challenge that can arise even if the team is not geographically dispersed. Managers of far-located teams usually turn to agile methodologies that help build resilient cooperation structure and ensure a positive team culture, resulting in top-quality products and overall work process satisfaction.

Speaking of agile approaches to geographically distributed development, it’s vital to mention that either of them can be applied to long-distance work without losing in communication and software quality.

  • Scrum. One of the most popular Agile frameworks based on the concept of transparency, continuous communication, and quality improvement. Daily synchronizing scrums can easily be realized in a digital environment, while the product development stages and deadlines rely on specific engineers wherever in the world they are.

  • Kanban. A table-based way of cooperation that can be successfully applied to far-located teams. Kanban encourages constant communication and allows a team to see the development process as a whole, emphasizing the tasks waiting to be done and crossing off the completed ones.

  • XP. Extreme Programming methodology pays much attention to teamwork, mutual respect, qualitative communication, and collaborative issue resolution. The distinctive feature is continuous product testing that makes XP more agile than other concepts.

Collecting insights and opinions from employees around the globe will encourage the whole team to think bigger, take into account the cultural aspects of end-users, and build more efficient software apps.
  • Lean Development. The framework focuses on its own values, such as deleting excess activities, communication and effective conflict resolution, increasing motivation, and product quality. Lean Development can be applied to any team or industry since its values work in any dimension.

  • Crystal. The methodology directly links the value of interaction between team members and the final product quality. Crystal focuses on people who create and try to install strong interpersonal work relationships and the atmosphere of constant knowledge circulation.

    To make things work, find a company that will introduce your team to Agile methodologies, help you choose the suitable one, establish your relationship with the customer, and consult on any related issues to help you figure out the perfect solution.

Gather Top-Notch Professionals

Time zone mismatches and cultural differences of your employees will take a back seat if those people are real professionals. Geographically distributed teams have an opportunity to gather high-end developer engineers from all around the world if they struggle to find experts in their own country, which is quite a widespread issue. Besides, any individual work schedule can be altered to meet the needs of a particular person on the team.

Scale Customer Coverage

Scaling factors of geographic distribution is a huge benefit that is often forgotten. Having people of different cultures and backgrounds develop a software product is an invaluable asset. Collecting insights and opinions from employees around the globe will encourage the whole team to think bigger, take into account the cultural aspects of end-users, and build more efficient software apps. Besides, if you worry about differences in understanding of the company's goals and aspirations, it’s always possible to make use of ambassadors traveling between far-located sites to unite the team.

The Final Thought

Agile experiences with geographic distribution appear to be more viable than developer team leads used to think. The success of a product has never really relied on the distance between the people who build it, rather on their understanding of integrity, mutual responsibility, and a strong sense of common goal. The diversity of agile methodologies allows to activate the resources of any team, however, dispersed they might be, uncovering the benefits of geographic distribution for anyone who is ready to see them.

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