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Is Co-location mandatory for Scrum teams?

Last post 06:32 am September 15, 2018 by Ian Mitchell
10 replies
04:48 pm September 13, 2018

I am curious to know if co-location is mandatory in order to be effective at implementing scrum. In today's global context, some of our team members are inevitably offshore. Can we not work with distributed teams?

I understand that a tight knit collaboration,  time differences etc may become challenging, but other than these are there other significant disadvantages? are there any advantages?


06:20 pm September 13, 2018

Hi Steve,

The Scrum Guide does not mandate the co-location of the teams. It is always good to have teams at a same location for the obvious reasons. However, if the team knows how to self-manage themselves and has all the competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others not part of the team, I don't think the location would matter. IMO.

 


06:54 pm September 13, 2018

I understand that a tight knit collaboration,  time differences etc may become challenging, but other than these are there other significant disadvantages?

The rationale for dislocation often boils down to cost. You therefore need a means of determining, on an ongoing basis, whether or not the dislocation of the team is in fact proving to be cost effective. That can be hard to do and hence there is rarely much transparency over the matter.


09:02 pm September 13, 2018

As others aid it is not mandatory.  There seems to be more distributed Scrum Teams than not in the industry.  In most cases there are more challenges than not, but Scrum can still work.  Have the Scrum Team inspect and adapt what works and what doesn't, and coach them to find and implement solutions.

In my experience here is a small list of what gets impacted with non co-located teams:

  • Transparency is challenging
  • Team building is harder
  • Osmotic communication is lost
  • Tacit knowledge is lost
  • Facilitation of Scrum events and other meetings usually take longer

10:00 am September 14, 2018

Scrum doesn't mandate that team members be co-located, but co-location fosters collaboration, trust, transparency and quick inspect and adapt among the team members. Co-creating a positive team space with good collaboration tools like instant VC connect ( readily available in team space without the need to make a booking), high quality audio solutions, coupled with lots of visual information radiators and also some private space for teams to think quietly etc will help to remove the overheads that are caused due to the dispersed team members.


10:22 am September 14, 2018

+ collaboration is critical for the self organizing, cross functional development team to deliver working software every sprint. More the dispersion ratio, harder the collaboration and it impacts the team's ability to get it to a DONE increment.


01:23 pm September 14, 2018

Leaving aside the obvious disadvantages of not having a scrum team co-located, It's not mandatory. Actually this will be an opportunity to surface out the issues associated with team not being co-located.


03:12 pm September 14, 2018

Thanks everyone for your comments.

@Ian, could you elaborate how cost is a factor when it comes to dislocated teams?

@Chris, why/how is transparency lost? if we have tools like JIRA to capture our backlog, stories etc and as long as we agree that as a team we'd keep it updated, can we not maintain transparency? Challenging I agree, but possible.


08:52 pm September 14, 2018

@Chris, why/how is transparency lost? if we have tools like JIRA to capture our backlog, stories etc and as long as we agree that as a team we'd keep it updated, can we not maintain transparency? Challenging I agree, but possible.

I mentioned that transparency is challenging, not lost.  Nonetheless, let's work with your example.  I agree with you that using a tool like Jira may work, but how effective is it compared to face to face communication?  The original intent of the user story was a promise to have a conversation.  Why?  Because what we write down is often misunderstood, and more often than not it is helpful for the Development Team and the Product Owner to get talk face to face to get clarifications, bringing transparency to the Product Backlog item.  

And from the manifesto:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

05:58 am September 15, 2018

+1 to Chris.

Using online tools like JIRA acts as ' information refrigerators', whereas having physical, low cost, high value, tangible tools like charts, post-its, scrum board, white boarding in the co located team space serves as ' information radiators' that enables collaboration, real time feedback, self organization, inspect and adapt within the scrum team.


06:32 am September 15, 2018

could you elaborate how cost is a factor when it comes to dislocated teams?

Those advocating dislocation may be considering such things as:

- remote worker salaries might be less, and the difference can be substantial

- no apparent obligation to pay for office space

- a theoretically more diverse pool of people to recruit from

Unfortunately they may not fully evaluate hidden costs, e.g.

- investment in top-notch collaboration services, bandwidth, and communication tools locally and in each remote location

- reduced communication and collaboration between team members due to any technical limitations and time differences.

- transportation and hotel fees to get team members together occasionally.

- overheads in negotiating different legislatures and standards


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