Remote working is the default option for the Technology Team in Ebury, and the same goes for the agile project management methodology, through the Scrum framework. Even if the misconception of agile frameworks being directly related to tons of Post-It notes in the office walls has been generally overcome, it’s clear that the face-to-face component of the methodology is an important element that seems hard to put aside when going 100% remote. So, how did the technology team at Ebury manage?
Let’s go back to March 2020. After a rather sudden switch to working fully remote due to the confinement of the population, the agile framework the development teams at Ebury had been using for some years was put to the test.
“Fortunately, this drastic change caught us prepared as most teams already had full remote members, as well as people working from home a few days a week.”, says Fernando López, Team Lead and former Scrum Master at Ebury’s Technology Team. “We gradually adapted processes like asynchronous approvals and ceremonies such as Team Retrospectives or Scrum of Scrums to be done remotely, with the use of support tools, by default. Although it is also true that we went through a transition process in which we got used to communicating more asynchronously and using meetings to keep in touch with the rest of our colleagues.”
In the last year, there are several advantages of the Agile Scrum framework that have become ever handier when we the teams work remotely:
Better task management and distribution
This is one of the main reasons companies switch to Agile frameworks in the first place, so it’s not a surprise that it’s also one of the main advantages for remote working. When working from home, meetings and conversations between team members won’t probably be as frequent as when sitting next to each other in a physical office, so everyone must know exactly what is expected from them and the tasks in which they can advance independently.
The Agile Scrum framework provides an easy way to keep track of all in-progress tasks and the team members responsible for them.
Better task management makes effective communication between team members easier, which is an essential requirement for effectiveness in the workplace. The absence of real-time communication of the physical office can hinder that precious continuous collaboration.
When everyone knows about all tasks happening in each sprint, and how they are distributed in the team, it’s easier to solve problems that may arise. Also, when the sprint is over, the teams hold a ‘sprint review’, which helps with better understanding the tasks that have been delivered before the next planning.
Individual responsibility is a key characteristic of the Agile culture. Having a clear understanding of the ownership of the different tasks is important in any case, but it’s even more crucial when working remotely. When the contact between the team members is not so constant, it’s essential that everyone knows what part of the work is up to them, and people must be held accountable for their assigned tasks.
“Is it also important to highlight the advantages in terms of team involvement”, says Fernando. “The developers take part in the entire process: analysis, development, and delivery, and because of this, everyone feels involved in the result. Everyone is part of the end-to-end journey.”
Scrum events as key opportunities to connect with the teams
The daily scrum events are recurring quick meetings with the team that can help against a frequent problem remote workers have to deal with: feeling disconnected from their colleagues and the enterprise. Having a fixed daily touchpoint with the team is not only good for task management and communication, but also for building motivation and avoiding symptoms of isolation.
“The retrospectives are also great opportunities to catch up with the team to reflect and talk about how things are going since everyone’s opinions should be heard”, adds Fernando.
Fortunately, lots of tools for working remotely in an Agile Scrum framework already exist, and some of them are amazing. Here is a list of the ones we use at Ebury to make our lives easier:
- Slack: since December 2019 Slack is the main communication tool of the technology team, and we love it. Over time, we’ve added some apps that have helped to improve the experience for remote teams even more:
- Donut: Once a week, Donut matches two or three Technology team members and sends them a DM encouraging them to meet for a virtual coffee over video chat. It’s a great way to meet people from the team you haven’t had the chance to work with, and also to reconnect with others you haven’t heard about for a while.
- Karma: Karma bot is a tool useful for thanking colleagues for their help in their daily tasks, and also for getting reports with anonymous polls about different topics.
- Jira: Probably the most used tool by teams working in agile frameworks, and that’s for a reason. It makes a lot of the things we’ve talked about in this article possible: task management, transparency, ownership…
- Parabol: We enjoy using Parabol, an Agile meeting tool for several types of meetings, for our Sprint Retrospectives. It makes this type of remote meeting a lot easier.