Team BuildingHow to Manage a Remote Scrum Team Successfully

Avya Chaudhary · 2022-11-29

The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for remote culture across the globe. Even after the pandemic, many companies have continued to embrace hybrid work policies and a work from home employee setup. The list goes on to include Airbnb, 3M, and Coinbase. However, with too many boons, come a bit of banes as well. Scrums have been harder to manage in remote, distributed teams. But, many companies still opt for the agile methodology as it allows a flexible workflow to match pace with the workplace's changing requirements.

The core of scrum teams is open communication, transparency, constant improvement, and skill-sharing. It helps businesses to operate in a dynamic environment. However, often managers find it difficult to extract value from a remote scrum team. 

Today, this guide will cover some tried and tested tips to manage remote scrum teams efficiently. But, let us first start by understanding what a remote scrum team is.

What is a Remote Scrum Team?

Agile scrum methodology

A remote scrum team is either a partial or complete remote team that adopts a scrum model for daily activities and operations. The team is divided into three parts: product owner, scrum master, and development team (consisting of coders, testers, etc.). 

The product owner is the person to whom the end product is delivered- they may or may not be the end-user. The scrum master is responsible for team functionality by monitoring the work and being the focal point for collaboration. The development team is responsible for technical activities like programming, and testing software. 

Businesses opt for a remote scrum as:

  • It helps the company to work unrestricted beyond geographical boundaries.
  • Distributed teams require it for 24/7 runtime.
  • They end up saving on business space and other capital.
  • The teams can adapt to dynamic environments and evolving customer needs.

But, businesses face some problems when working with distributed teams. The scrum master has to deal with these as they hamper scrum teams’ functionality.

Major Challenges in a Remote Scrum Team

Even though remote scrum teams offer a wide range of functionality, the manager faces three core challenges in team management. These could reduce efficiency, increase churn, and lead to poor team relations.

  1. Communication Gap: Since the teams work virtually and have less direct or real-time contact, it can widen the communication gap. Oftentimes the crucial details are missed, and product updates are delayed. As a result, the team members end up repeating the same work, affecting their productivity. This communication gap fosters an unhealthy environment among the team leading to reduced trust, conflicts and missing deliverables. 
  2. Disorganized Project Knowledge: Remote scrum teams lack real-time communication due to time zone differences, delaying communication, product updates, blockers, and work progress. The product updates are not synced and members are working independently leading to incoherent project knowledge. A lot of product and project knowledge that gets shared over the calls, casual catch-ups and in-person meetings while working in the office goes in the dark in a remote or hybrid setup. There are missing pieces of product information that set back work progress, thus increasing the number of blockers and backlogs.
  3. Working in Silos: Remote teams compel certain team members to work alone. They work on their own with no real-time updates and scarce project knowledge. Any blocker that might arise is moved to the next sprint cycle, which stacks the backlog. Unlike traditional teams, they do not have access to immediate feedback or real-time problem-solving. It also impacts the workflow negatively.  

However, the right tools and measures can tackle these issues. Both the scrum master and development team needs to be flexible and adapt new customs to make virtual scrum a success.

7 Strategies to Successfully Manage Scrum for Distributed Teams

Agile scrum way to lead remote teams

Managing virtual scrum teams is about clear communication, keeping everything and everybody in the loop, and aiming at self-sufficiency. Here are 7 strategies to manage a remote scrum team: 

Focus on Collaboration

Collaboration tools are crucial to bring all the team members of the remote scrum team together for comprehensive and coherent product knowledge and development. However, time differences can be a road blocker for seamless collaboration and communication. Hence, managers should focus on asynchronous communication which involves the team to collaborate without real-time interactions. The collaboration channels should be relevant, accessible, and transparent to leverage them rightfully. Three basic tools to facilitate collaboration are:

  1. Whiteboards: Traditional offices use work progress boards for discussing product plans, blockers, and work progress. Whiteboards, like Miro and Zoom, could help the teams to replicate that environment with a digital whiteboard.
  2. Project management tools: Project management tools like ClickUp allows managers to allot work and track progress of the team members. Also, it enables them to assign tasks to individual team members and create sprints beforehand.
  3. Communication tools (Chanty, Slack, Microsoft Teams): Communication tools help to discuss work progress, blockers, and product updates to have unified project knowledge.

Using the Right Project Management Tool

Project management tool selection should be done carefully. It needs to increase efficiency and handle the workload of a virtual scrum team. The tool needs to be able to:

  1. Track realistic sprints
  2. Add assignee to avoid ambiguities
  3. Schedule tasks with realistic deadlines
  4. Scale tasks and reduce stress for internal teams
  5. Update work progress in real-time. 

A better work progress tracking process helps in efficient sprint planning and task allocation. Also, the work progress is easier to review as everything is centralized on a single platform. 

Embracing Flexibility

A virtual scrum team needs to be flexible to ensure the work is completed with no extra backlogs. For instance, a daily standup at 9 am sharp might not be feasible for all the members. Instead, shifting to an activity tool where all the members would update and remain in sync is better for remote scrum teams. Your end goal should be to attain the end goal and not strictly follow the SOPs. If you can increase efficiency with tweaks here and there, then your team should embrace those changes.  

Better Sprint Planning

Sprint planning is crucial for a scrum team. It is the core of work progress. A manager needs to measure the work done, backlog, and current tasks allocated and proactively plan sprints for the team. It requires constant updates from the team and effort from the manager’s end. Managers should use data from previous sprints to measure, analyze gaps, and enhance sprint planning. 

Centralized Information

Secondary backlog, constant updates, and multiple tools have one main goal to centralize information. Centralized information is vital to keep teams in sync and build transparency. Often scrum teams face the issue of duplication of work or misinformation. A centralized base helps in tackling such problems. Also, the manager could document all the vital project information to ensure data consistency throughout the team. 

Feedback, Progress Updates and Project Visibility

Feedback and sprint retrospectives are great starting points for measuring work progress. Additionally, regular standups highlight work progress and assist in planning sprints accordingly. Analytics tools like Hatica assist in measuring the progress of your distributed development teams. It is a comprehensive platform that tracks your team’s work progress by integrating with different developer tools. It helps you identify bottlenecks until the deployment of issues. The manager gets insights into cycle time which help in better sprint planning. From burnout to unbalanced workload, Hatica highlights all the gaps in your virtual scrum team.

  • Trust - Collect feedback, sprint retrospectives and team reaction using insights from data from tools like Hatica
  • Self-reliance -  sets realistic expectations and helps the teams to communicate better
  • Continuously optimize processes and workflows - improves communication, efficiency, and the project's overall performance

Are Scrum Remote Teams Worth the Effort?

70% of companies are planning to opt for a hybrid work model. Remote scrum teams may replace traditional work teams eventually. Hence, managers should focus on planning and tool deployment to manage remote scrum teams seamlessly. 

The remote scrum teams help managers to adapt to dynamic product requirements. Finding the gaps and using the right counter-strategy can increase employee efficiency. Collaboration tools like Asana, Confluence, Slack, etc., and analytics tools like Hatica become a helping hand to run remote teams effectively when working with distributed teams. 

Remote scrum teams are the need of the hour. With a strategic approach, managers can leverage them to better product delivery and improve workflows.

Request a demo to explore Hatica for getting the most out of your remote scrum practices.

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Table of Contents
  • What is a Remote Scrum Team?
  • Major Challenges in a Remote Scrum Team
  • 7 Strategies to Successfully Manage Scrum for Distributed Teams
  • Are Scrum Remote Teams Worth the Effort?