How to manage a remote digital scrum team

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How to manage a remote digital scrum team

Covid-19 has led to an overnight transition to remote working for companies around the world.

Whilst agile companies are renowned for being able to adapt to changes and pivot when needed, this has been a challenge for even the most innovative and nimble. It’s no secret that one of the pillars of agile ways of working is face-to-face communication, so if you’re a scrum master, Product Manager or Development Manager, you may be concerned about the impact of remote working on your team.

Fear not! With the right mindset, tools and approach, you can manage a remote digital scrum team with ease and efficiency.

1. Don’t ditch the stand up

Just because you’re not in the office, it doesn’t mean you should do away with your daily stand up. In fact, your stand up has never been more important. If your team is working across multiple locations, it’s really important to check in each day, discuss any blockers and make sure everyone is doing ok and has what they need to make progress.

If your team is spread around the world and working across various time zones, it’s useful to find a time for your daily stand up that suits everyone. Hint: it might not be first thing in the morning!

There are some brilliant video conference tools out there, from Zoom. and Google Hangouts to Highfive and Whereby. Find the video chat service that works best for your team, has good connectivity and includes any additional features you may need like screen sharing.

It’s also useful to have a format for your stand up that works remotely. For example, you may need a system that allows people to alert the team when they would like to speak or ask a question, to avoid everyone talking at once and not being able to hear each other.

2. Tighten up on ticketing

If you’d usually write three word Jira tickets, safe in the knowledge that your developers will pop by your desk to ask what the heck “change button colour” refers to, it might be time to tighten up on your ticketing.

A BDD format is best. BDD refers to behaviour-driven development. It’s a simple but effective framework for writing development tickets that provides clarity and detail in a concise way.

Here we’ve used the example of changing the colour of a ‘visit website’ button when a user hovers over it on desktop to illustrate BDD format in action:

In order to increase the click-through rate on the visit website button Given any desktop user views the view website button on any page of the site When they hover over the button with their mouse Then the button they see should be red

A BDD format for ticketing can prove very useful for managing a remote digital scrum team as it avoids confusion and allows you to be precise about your requirements, without going into pages of detail. In fact, we suggest using a BDD format for ticketing whether your scrum team works remotely or not!

3. Visibility can motivate your team

You might be surprised to learn that one of the biggest motivators of a scrum team, aside from a great working environment, supportive team and interesting subject matter, is actually visibility.

If your remote digital scrum team is focused on really granular details of a project, it can feel a bit like being stuck in a tunnel with no light in sight. You can provide light at the end of the tunnel by consistently reminding your team of the wider company goals and objectives that their work will contribute towards.

Involve relevant team members in business decisions and strategic conversations where possible. Listen to their opinions and suggestions. We all know that agile organisations who include developers early in the planning and decision-making process tend to produce better quality output. Your scrum team understands the website architecture and technology stack better than anyone else in your business.

Most of all, make sure you keep them in the loop on what’s happening in the wider business. Remember, they may not have visibility on why what they’re working on matters.

4. Let go of regular expectations

We’re living and working in unprecedented times. Never before have so many people been forced into remote working with little notice or preparation. Some workers are also looking after children, caring for ill relatives or struggling with their own mental health and isolation issues.

Regular expectations need to be adjusted and kindness must take precedence.

Try to be as flexible as possible when managing a remote digital scrum team. Check in regularly for a personable chat with your team members to find out how they’re doing and understand any personal challenges or issues they may have. It’s important to make sure your team has sufficient support, a safe working environment and a positive attitude to looking after their mental and physical health.

If the team is producing work, even if it’s at a reduced level or perhaps not at the standard you would usually expect, try to go easy on them. This is difficult for everyone, we’re all still learning and now is the time for collaboration, not criticism. You may need to manage expectations of senior stakeholders and clients too. Ensure they understand what you can deliver and are aware of any potential risks or blockers as a result of your team working remotely.

Most businesses are pretty understanding of the current situation provided you have set realistic expectations!

Remote-first working

At Digital Detox, we have adopted a ‘remote-first’ approach to working. This means we provide the support, tools, processes and culture that facilitates a positive remote working environment for staff. Our workforce is split across multiple locations but we continue to thrive as a cohesive and collaborative remote digital scrum team. If you have a challenge, idea or opportunity you’d like us to help you work with, get in touch.