Distributed Agile vs collocated agile - Is it important to be in the same room?
Successful teams are built on trust. From a very long time, the success of IT projects has been dependent on the success of the teams that are running the projects, especially those teams, where the output of the team is greater than the sum of individual parts. In creating that greater sum, it is trust that is most important.
Let's take a look at the four supporting principles of Agile. Agile is more about Individuals and how they interact, rather than processes and tools. At the same time, it's more about getting the software to work, rather than creating broad documentation. It believes in involving the customer, rather than contract mediation, and it also believes in reacting to a change instead of following a set plan.
Collocated agile, has its advantages, when it comes to achieving these goals. Being in the same location, helps in interaction and getting together for the same strategy, but in this age of globalization, where teams are based out of different geographies, the scales would probably tilt in the favor of distributed agile.
Distributed agile can achieve the same outcome of collocated agile, if the right principles are in place. Firstly, it's important to build trust. Secondly, there has to be a project vision that is shared by all the team members. Thirdly and most importantly, the whole team has to be a part of planning, iteration and review.
For these to happen, there has to be a strong communication infrastructure, to improve the trust factor. Video conferencing are a must for distributed agile to achieve the same success that collocated agile would achieve. To create a shared vision for the project, distributed teams should come together, during different stages like release planning, sprint planning and daily scrum.
In addition, if the projects that are being dealt with are big, then for distributed agile, it makes sense to have short iterations so that feedback can be provided on a timely basis. Also, it would make distributed teams to come together for the initial duration of the project. This time spent together can be used for having discussions and for setting up the frame work, architecture and design, so that the rest of the work can be done smoothly, even if the teams are working out of different locations.
Most important of all, the whole team should participate in sprint planning, sprint reviews. This will ensure that all the people in the team are on the same page. This would also ensure that people have a sense of ownership of the project they are a part of.
Though, easier said than done, if these can be ensured, then distributed agile will be as effective as collocated agile.