How to Apply Agile Project Management to Distributed Teams

During the pandemic, the world faced a rapid and dramatic change in work model. Building and maintaining a successful distributed team is challenging regardless of the company’s size. Although managers and executives have always needed a thorough understanding of the industry, the modern world also poses new challenges.

Organizations need to be adaptable, inventive, and people-oriented. New attitudes, skills, and tools are required for businesses to succeed. Agile project management can be one of the most significant steps to building an efficient working environment for distributed teams.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile project management is a non-linear method of managing projects. It focuses on segmenting big projects into smaller, more achievable tasks that are finished in short iterations over the course of the project life cycle. Teams that use the Agile technique may work more quickly, adjust to shifting project needs, and streamline their workflow.

Agile teams are better able to shift their focus and direction rapidly. The teams can assess their current work and make adjustments in predetermined increments to ensure that when the work and client landscape change, so does the team’s primary focus.

Agile, as opposed to conventional project management techniques, accepts changes and engages user stories, which are concise, straightforward descriptions of what your client wants and what objectives they have in mind. It’s particularly beneficial for projects compiled of multiple elements, like eCommerce UX development, for instance.

The three main components of the strategy are adaptability, productivity, and orientation on customers. An Agile team is often composed of a small group with a product owner taking the lead and assisting the team in comprehending the customers’ needs. The project manager in Agile is in charge of ensuring that the members of the team carry out their duties effectively. The process of work on any project in Agile looks like this:

Agile Work Process Kanban Zone

Agile Management Principles

The Agile approach to project management, which was initially created for software development, is rapidly being adopted by teams outside of IT. Wherever the strategy is applied, the values remain the same.

Customer Collaboration

Customer happiness above contract negotiations is one of the major priorities of Agile project management. According to this concept, regularly involving customers in the test-driven development process is the only way to ensure complete customer satisfaction.

Your project team should frequently consult customers to get first-hand information on the evolving product. The team’s job is to modify the project in accordance with the suggestions. This ongoing collaborative process is the only way to produce a finished product that satisfies your customer’s needs.

Encouraging Changes

Change is often seen in project management as an unnecessary increase in costs. Agile, in its turn, claims that the only way to get rid of waste and achieve continuous improvement is through changes. This is due to the fact that early assumptions about a project frequently turn out to be false. And in that case, attempting to conform the project objectives to those incorrect assumptions results in a poor final product.

Since your team has numerous opportunities to analyze and easily modify each project development phase during an Agile cycle, it has more flexibility.

Focus on Individuals

The Agile Manifesto emphasizes people and interactions over software products and processes. There will always be a human element involved in your Agile methods and tools, regardless of how sophisticated and complex they get. And this human factor is crucial for comprehending and accommodating customer needs.

Elimination of Documentation

In the past, too much time was invested in documenting. Technical requirements, descriptions, documents outlining interface designs, plans, project management reports, and approvals were required. The length of the list was the reason for the protracted delays in development.

Agile avoids dealing with documentation; instead, it simplifies the process so that the developer can access the necessary information without being mired in details. Agile project management presents requirements in the form of user stories, which are enough for a software developer to start working.

Agile PM for Distributed Teams

The task of sticking to Agile Project Management gets more complicated with distributed teams, as it may require several extra steps. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Conduct Daily Scrum Meetings

At the meetings, the entire team convenes for a brief discussion, during which they review what was done yesterday and what tasks are due today. You can also discuss all the existing questions and resolve issues. This way, the team is given a quick briefing on the upcoming challenges for the day.

Measure Your Teams’ Productivity

By tracking your team’s productivity, you can clearly see who is working on particular tasks and what needs to be changed to make the processes more effective.

Here are some metrics to track:

  • Velocity. It measures how many story points a team produced on average during the previous sprint cycles. Using this data, you may analyze how much work your team can complete in upcoming sprints.
  • Sprint Burndown. It gives you updates on how many story points your team has finished in a particular sprint. The simplest way to stay informed about the progress of your project is through sprint burndowns.
  • Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD). With CFD, you may monitor user story modifications and project progress across a range of statuses, including in progress, review, and completed.

Ensure Proper Visibility of Project Status

The lack of project progress visibility is one of the main problems distributed teams face using agile methods. As the project manager of a dispersed agile team, you should make sure your project status reports are uploaded even before a new sprint cycle begins.

It is the only way to record a sprint’s work and determine the project’s current status. It is typically tricky for PMs to obtain the correct project status. This is a serious challenge even for teams that work together in a physical location, but it gets even worse in a distributed setting.

Invest in Remote Tools

Agile was designed to help teams react quickly to changes, which is achievable only by regular and efficient communication. Teams can stay in touch and work together by holding daily meetings and sprints.

You can establish efficient communication habits with the aid of various internet tools and mobile applications. The correct apps should be chosen based on the team’s needs, the project’s complexity, and the team’s size. Among the most popular communication and collaboration tools are Slack, Asana, ClickUp, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, TeamViewer, Google Drive, and DropBox.

Distribute Work Equally

Team members should not feel overburdened, and all tasks should be distributed evenly as part of team development. In order to eliminate any misunderstanding, every team member should be completely aware of their responsibilities.

One thing that businesses are starting to understand is that adding more pressure on the team members might result in exhaustion and burnout. This is bad for everyone because overtired team members lose concentration, and productivity suffers as a result.

Final Word

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 40.7 million Americans are expected to be fully remote in the next five years. It means that in the upcoming years, companies will be changing their operating models and principles to ensure efficient work in the realia of remote communication. Agile project management will definitely be the choice for many businesses. And with our tips for Agile project management implementation, you’ll be able to create a reliable and flexible mechanism adaptable to any circumstances.

About the Author: Art Malkovich

Art Malkovich
Art Malkovich is a co-founding partner and CEO at Onilab. The company develops eCommerce websites and progressive web apps on a turnkey basis, offers store migration and UX/UI design services. Art has a profound expertise in web development, project management, and data analysis. He strives to keep the team one step ahead with a current focus on headless commerce.

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