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Jun 08

Manage distributed teams

Office work has never been undergoing such a deep transformation. Office workers are not so eager to come back to their cubicles. Instead, they pressure companies to allow them to work fully remotely or hybrid – breaking weekdays between work office and, well… regular office. The struggle is real. 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index reported that 50% of mid-level managers confirmed that companies plan to return to in-person work five days a week in the year ahead. Meanwhile, 52% of employees are considering going hybrid or remote. The ability to manage distributed teams becomes one of the key traits. 

These statics presents the tension between a company’s need to gather people in an office space and employees’ realizations, that they can effectively work from their homes. This is tempting, especially for people with long commute times. Or those, who regard office small-talk, over water dispensers, as drudgery and a waste of time. In the State of Remote Work report by Owl Labs, 1 in 3 employees stated, that they would quit their job if they could no longer work remotely after the pandemic, and 71% want a hybrid or remote working style after the pandemic is over. A hybrid working style isn’t going anywhere, the report states.

Nearly 1 in 2 people (48%) said that if they were no longer able to work remotely, they would start looking for another job that offered more flexibility in when they worked, with men saying they would quit nearly 60% more than women. In the U.S., 81% of those that worked from home during the pandemic said they want a hybrid or remote working style once the pandemic is over. This shows there is a clear path forward post-pandemic – we read about the state of the office game.

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to everchanging circumstances, or so they say. This means you have to both understand what distributed teams are and how to work with them effectively and efficiently. The office is dead, long live the (hybrid) office!

What Are Distributed Teams?

The definition is actually simple. Distributed teams are the ones where members work from different locations full or half-time. They usually communicate via such tools as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Google Meets, as well as many different means they decide to use in their day-to-day work. Importantly, distributed teams also include people working from the office. 

Distributed teams in an Agile world

The Agile approach tackles the distributed teams’ topic effectively. It may sound a bit contradictory. One of the Agile principles clearly states that face-to-face meetings are a must for every Agile team. It’s to ensure the proper flow of information and proper communication between interested parties is maintained. A lot has changed since 2001 when the Agile Manifesto was published, and this face-to-face communication can be effectively held via proper software and tools.

Chandler Harris from Atlassian describes how the Scrum team, one of the Agile frameworks, should work in the distributed work environment:

A remote scrum team should follow the core scrum tenants of clear communication, transparency, and a dedication to continuous improvement. A remote team’s success depends on mutual trust, communication, and collaboration.

A distributed scrum team can benefit from a solid communication plan that includes: 

  • Remote work agreements
  • A way to contact other team members for informal questions
  • Establish agreements on how meetings should be structured
  • How team members communicate their availability
  • What collaboration tools should be used

The distributed team and remote workers – the main differences

Pros and Cons of Distributed Teams, or how to make them work

Before the pandemic, work tips usually revolved around the office space, and the ability to manage distributed teams wasn’t as important as now. There are still many guidelines and tips to work with your team within the confines of the company’s buildings. But what about the situation, where a smaller or bigger part of your teammates works from home, another country, or even a continent?

Well, we can think about this in a pros and cons dichotomy, but let’s give it a twist, and also focus on the challenges and potential benefits of having a distributed team.

The main challenge is, of course, synchronization. When people work from different places, it’s crucial to implement a set of rules, that helps people align with each other. You can, for example, use alignment meetings to keep stakeholders, developers, and other departments up-to-date. We write about it here. But truly helpful is the Agile approach. With the events like Planning, Daily, Review, and Retrospective, you can guarantee that every team member knows their workflow as well as their teammates.

This, of course, can be difficult, when the company has always worked in a Classic (Waterfall) model. Higher-ups can be reluctant or even hostile to the idea to change the approach. But more and more companies implement or want to implement the Agile approach. What’s stopping you to be a pioneer?

Well, the main obstacle can be the budget for proper tools and software. You’ll need things like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Slack as a means of communication with everyone. Jira can also help you track your team’s progress. These tools can be used for free, but with limited capacities. Upgrading the software has more advantages over a long distance, such as a better way to track the progress of your project or programs. Besides, the company saves money with remote workers with no need to invest in bigger office space and lessened use of resources, such as electricity or water.

More and more aspects of the contemporary workplace, like bonding with teammates or onboarding, happen online. Even office workers often attend virtual meetings. Investing in both proper tools and proper framework becomes a necessity instead of a nice benefit. Especially when the IT world embraces remote work more and more.

Tools to Efficiently Manage Distributed Teams, or have no fear, BigPicture is here!

Need a proper Product, Program, or Portfolio Management tool to manage distributed teams? Fortunately, BigPicture is always a good answer for everyone, who wants to bring their management skills to the next level.

With BigPicture, you’ll optimize your work, boost results, and save precious time. Your product, project, and portfolio management will turn into a walk in the park, making room for soft aspects of management, prompting creativity, and building a culture of innovativeness – the foundation of every successful workplace.

BigPicture gives managers unprecedented clarity of information and helps them neatly visualize roadmaps of even the most complex initiatives. The software distributes workload and allocates resources, efficiently coordinates the work of teams, easily reports on progress, and ensures perfect strategy-to-execution alignment at all levels. Importantly, it supports the Agile approach and SAFe® framework, as well as classic, and hybrid management methodologies. The app integrates smoothly with Jira, Trello, and Confluence.

Your teams can keep using their preferred tools, while you get a vantage point view of what’s going on. The Roadmap module helps you establish clear objectives, monitor their progress, and communicate their status by color-coding. The Calendar module allows you to monitor and manage all your initiatives directly on the customizable grid. Add, filter, search and edit data, and have it all automatically synced with your data source. All in one place.

Shift the focus from developing features to achieving the desired business outcomes. All of that can happen from any place in the world, you just need an internet connection.

Interested? Watch our Demo presentation or discuss your business case with one of our experts.

About The Author

Content Specialist @BigPicture since 2021. He was previously working for the biggest media outlets in Poland, e.g., Wirtualna Polska, Rzeczpospolita, where he was writing about video games, biotechnology, and startups. Now he explores the vast world of Agile and Hybrid approaches. Loves good research, short sentences, and clear communication.