pair programming and team building in non-colocated team

Last post 05:20 am January 13, 2020
by Simon Rennocks
6 replies
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03:40 pm January 27, 2019

I try to help two scrum teams. In both scrum development teams there are 3-4 developers in northern Europe, 1 developer in eastern Europe and 1 developer in Africa. (I do not favour this setup. I would prefer to have teams that are internally colocated and a complete scrum team in each location. However, there are C-level corporate politics involved dictating that the teams must be non-colocated and distributed. This must just be seen as an external constraint.) (For readers in America, consider a team with 3 developers in Chicago, one developer in Mexico and one in Brazil and you should have the same problem.)

The organisation has very little technical aids to help the distributed development. We have "Skype for business" but the connection is not good to Africa and we have lots of problems with bad sound and even worse video. There is no budget available for buying collaboration tools. We do not have anything like proper video conferencing or virtual whiteboards. There is no budget for travelling.

The development teams do not currently do pair programming, but they would benefit from pair (and mob) programming. The SW line manager also want to the teams to do pair (and mob) programming. 

The development teams have not yelled. They are not really teams, they are collections of well-intending individuals.

  1. Does anyone have any ideas for how to do pair programming when the programmers in the pair are not colocated? 
  2. Does anyone have any ideas for good team building activities that can be done remotely? All the team building activities I am familiar with are based on having the participants on one location (in one room, or outdoors in one spot).

Thank you in advance for any guidance you can offer!

 

08:53 pm January 28, 2019

They are not really teams, they are collections of well-intending individuals.

What transparency have they themselves put over the various problems you describe, so it becomes possible to advocate their position? Or are the observations you have made essentially your own at this stage?

11:17 am January 29, 2019

Does anyone have any ideas for how to do pair programming when the programmers in the pair are not colocated? 

I'm afraid to say I don't think there is a good one. You know (better than me, I'd argue), physical presence is everything, in any setup and any industry. I was going to suggest Slack videosharing - but you mentioned poor connection; we've tried it in one of my previous teams, and while it was appreciated (as it was newly introduced), in the end it got abandoned because the people didn't feel any connection and the collaboration seemed rather artificial to them.

 

Does anyone have any ideas for good team building activities that can be done remotely? All the team building activities I am familiar with are based on having the participants on one location (in one room, or outdoors in one spot).

Again, physical presence is the key atribute. I'm not aware of any such successful activities, but more than glad to learn of any other people may know.

12:50 pm January 29, 2019

Hi Tom, I can understand your situation because I have been through this as well. I have both onsite, nearshore and offshore resources and we use WebEx, Mattermost, Confluence and other tools for team collaboration. Like you, I also prefer co-location but that should not stop us as Scrum Masters to find ways to facilitate these collaborations. Here are my responses to your questions. 

1) Remote Pair Programming is tough when you have connectivity issues. When I faced WebEx connectivity/slowness issues in offshore (India), we escalated the issue to the senior leadership and with their help it was fixed. 

2) For team building (specially for remote teams) - there aren't many as I have tried looking for them. The ones that I know of and have tried are "Find a Panda" & "Taboo". Other than these games, we do like casual Friday Standup call where members of development team take turns to host this call followed by a team building question (15 mins). Sometimes I ask these questions or the team members come up with one. We recently tried this question "If you had to live underground for a month, how would you prepare?" and it was FUN!. 

Hope this helps. 

Anuj 

03:39 pm January 30, 2019

Does anyone have any ideas for how to do pair programming when the programmers in the pair are not colocated? 

I do, but all of them involve spending money on tooling and/or connection. Lack of funding for proper  remote collaboration is an impediment to a non-co-located team, as is a poor internet connection.

07:18 pm January 31, 2019

Thank you Julian, Anuj, Eugene and Ian for your answers. 

(I will continue to monitor this thread for more helpful information.)

08:30 pm January 12, 2020

Hi Tom,

You should also checkout Menlo Innovations. They do everything in pairs and do sometime have remote pair partners.

Simon