CDMG - Managing Distributed Teams with Agile - Jan 15 - Software Cornwall

15 gathered for another Agile CDMG on 19th Jan 2015 to discuss how agile can be used to manage distributed teams.


Olly from IBM @iolly

2015-01-19 18.39.55Works in Business Intelligence (BI) at IBM and manages a team of 45 across Europe.  The team has adopted and practices being agile and over the past 9 months Olly and his team have worked to integrate agile tools and methods into their development world of Business Intelligence.  In 9 months they have data and meaningful information that is having a positive effect on the teams levels of performance and fun! They run 2 week sprints and have daily scrum calls, they have an average split of work which is 60% business as usual and 40 on project work, they flex and switch focus based on demand.

Underlying their adoption they have focused on a journey based on achieving the four levels of agile fluency established by Martin Fowlers article

Focus on Value
Deliver Value
Optimise Value
Optimise for Systems

And to achieve this there has been:

Skills shift – enabling talent in team to flourish
Focus on value and the team
Encourage people to learn from each other

Daily scrum at 9.30 am – the best time established to account for time differences over the phone, although this means some teams have their meetings half way through or at the end of the day, the team do the best to maintain normal working hours rather than align working days.  (they found this to be a good thing for teams although some are happy with GMT, working hours performance appears to be better if the normal working hours are maintained)

The conference calls took time and practice but work well with the Scrum Master facilitating the call to make the call good and valuable, defined as a key responsibility of this role.  The team are now starting to integrated a shared kanban screen that is updated during the call

For weekly meetings the team hold video conferences as the value of visibility seeing others and being able to read their body language for example helps to bridge communication differences and is highly valuable to the team.  They use Videxop and Vsee.  As an element of these meetings special skills are presented for skills sharing – likened to the watercooler chat distributed teams loose providing a space for sharing ideas, insights and knowledge.

Additional comms tools include their secure internal voip/instant messaging tool and the IBM social media platform which has helped bring people together since its introduction.

For agile development and task management the team use an IBM enterprise tool, its highly flexible and is used to manage their tasks and defects.  It works in Epics & Stories, and there is email integration and a variety of dashboards.  It supports self-automation that agile brings and helps to raise awareness of the priority and important tasks with the team.

The system allows them to have Big Data that they can then shape into information that’s useful to them

Olly references the Agile Manifesto – people and interactions over processes and tools, and how their processes and tools work to benefit the team , improve the team and enhance interactions .

Tasks are tracked and the information generates valuable facts for the team to identify improvements ; such as strong performers on the team, the team players, where skills development may be needed, the information is used in retrospectives to improve and develop the team through skills and support.  It shows how their time is split between BAU and Projects

Olly ends on saying the adoption of agile in the team has brought fun back, its been fun doing it and is providing metrics that help the team to see their performance and celebrate that as well as improve it in a positive and constructive way.


Video :

Lots of screenshots and interesting view points:

Wo King & Marcus @mywoisme – Demoing distributed working using agile tools..

2015-01-19 18.23.40Wo and Marcus gave a great demonstration of how they are using agile and how they have integrated it into their development platforms

Using lightweight agile boards from , a Slack feed from and github as well as other tech tools they have aligned data so everyone can see whats happening.

There is a continuous narrative for projects, and as a development tool Wo is blown away by the integration capabilities in slack with github as well as being able to post you tube code/dev clips, it has integrated with waffle, and has command line integration.  It enables devs to link issues from github that then appear as tasks on waffle and slack.  other bonuses are its great for searching and it just works!

They can post some components of their work publicly for open source development and keep others private, it shows people working on elements in github and the contributors history such as language tags.  GHI used to create issues . These are all free tools .. Gitter is a chat free tool they also use.

One big plus is there is continuous automated integration – if something fails test it then add it to the backlog automatically

The biggest plus is that the developer doesn’t have to come away from their dev screen to post an update on the task, they can do it from the command line with simple keywords.

The dev can move stuff on the kanban board from the command line and this makes the board more real time as the dev uses within his familiar environment, making it easier and therefore more efficient at updating.

There’s no need for a 2nd or 3rd screen for admin, and it saves the cost of multi tasking between programmes to record work.

A great demo from Wo and Marcus with Wo as the client/manager and Marcus as the developer with a real time addition of a corrective task from the team lead (okay to OK) from kanban to cmd line, and an update of the kanban board via the command line once completed..

A really innovative use of these free dev tools in automating and applying agile thinking, tools and techniques.

Nick Clare – Rally Software

2015-01-19 18.39.55It was great to welcome Nick Clare and Phillip McKensie Smith from Rally Software.  With a background in scaling agile development and working with companies such as Ford, Nick gave a great talk on the risks and opportunities associated with distributed teams sharing some great insights

Distributed Teams A Liability or Opportunity?

Need good team processes – tasks (contribution) and socio-emotional (cohesion)

Research suggests that teams with poor task related processes suffered heavily with increased dispersion

The quality of task related processes appears to be a significant factor in deciding whether dispersion becomes a liability or an opportunity


Emphasis on team skills
Promote Self Leadership across team
Provide face to face meetings
Foster a global culture

Simple practices – a regular heartbeat to meeting timings, sharing activities across locations, whole team daily stand ups , chatrooms eg flowdock, meeting face to face and via video conferencing, share team areas via webcams

Culturally in agile its ok to fail, trying different things is ok, failure is ok as long as learn from it and alter your subsequent path

Sides : Distributed Teams (Cornwall 2015 Jan) Nick Clare – Rally Software Coach

Great synergy between all three talks from 3 very different perspectives, a positive and practical meet up with some great discussions and plenty of food for thought.

Potential next talks

thank you all for attending, there are a number of suggestions on for our next events

Show and tell agile – lightening talks 10 minute present & discuss – what works, or not !
Continuous delivery
Pair programming and Mob programming

Scheduled meet ups include

Monday 26th Jan – Digital Economy in the next European Programme.

Wednesday 21 Jan – Digital Marketing Developments 2015

30 Jan – Code Club Meetup