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Issues And Problems Likely To Arise While Implementing Scrum With Distributed Or Remote Teams

By Expert Author: Mrugesh Panchal

The scrum team is fundamentally a tightly cohesive, and a functional unit in which a daily contact is necessary amongst the team members to be productive. The team should collaborate and deliver the functionality as a whole unit, rather than contribute on an individual basis. For scrum to be effective, each team member should be mentally tuned and “in sync” with the goals laid down by the product owner with regards the project completion. It is very important that the team members know and understand each other properly so they can collaborate in a healthy manner. This becomes possible only when the entire team is located in a single place and share common resources. When the team is distributed over different geographic locations, it becomes very difficult for the individual team members to understand and “jell” with each other. This can lead to decreased interaction and information sharing – something that should be avoided at all costs in scrum.

The language difference
Distributed team members may belong to different religions and cultures. They may speak different languages. They may be culturally different, which can be an impediment because it may lead to a situation where the remotely located member may not be able to follow the conversation during the scrum meeting. A lack of understanding may lead to unclear understanding about task goals and how the actual development should be carried out. It may become difficult for the product owner and the scrum master to plan scrum implementation. Scrum methodology requires the remote member to participate in several types of meetings such as the daily scrum meeting, sprint planning meeting, sprint review meeting, and the sprint retrospective meeting. Moreover, it may impair “team pairing”, which is often required for carrying out complex development.

Solution
The product owner should carefully hand pick the team members. If the individual is remotely located, holding a personal meeting may prove to be fruitful in understanding the person. If a physical meeting is not possible, an extensive and a thorough video conferencing ought to be carried out to understand the person in depth and adjudge whether he or she can effectively collaborate and deliver the results. Many times, cultural diversities do not actually hamper the process flow if the person is experienced and aware about the deliverables. Communicating in a different language does not always affect the project goals if the person understands what he or she is supposed to do, and can follow the manner in which the goals are to be delivered.

Technical and security related aspects and issues
The technical and security related issues could prove to be an issue in distributed teams. When a team member is communicating using online tools and resources from an external location, it becomes necessary to set up customized access protocols and configure the firewalls to support the interaction. This can be a major concern for most system administrators since they may be required to frequently change the account access settings. With online phishing and hacking threats on the rise, there could be instances of someone manipulating your resources out of bad intent.

Solution
The technical lead or the system administrator should have a detailed discussion with the remote member and explain the security related concerns to him or her. The lead should also suggest possible alternatives and configure the resources through profile creation so the online threats are minimized. The remote member should provide necessary information such as the IP and DNS specifications of his or her PC so the administrator can set up special access rights for the member.

Using compatible software
Certain companies make it mandatory for all remote members to own licensed copies of the software they are using fro communication purposes. While certain software such as Skype are excellent for communicating purposes, it should be noted that not all individuals use Microsoft Windows OS and Intel based processors in their PCs. IT may not be financially possible for the remote member to own licensed copies of the software.

Solution
The technical lead should suggest free and open source operating systems and applications so the remote member can use the software without needing to buy licensed copies. Certain operating systems such as Linux and Ubuntu are open source systems, and it is not required to buy them.

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