Development, Musings

Challenges of being a remote Scrum Master

It’s not easy when one is a Scrum Master remote from the entire team! I’ve heard a few times now that it’s rare and a real challenge to work with.

So why do I do it?

  1. Business Unit requires a tech guy. There’s no technical folks in the local office!
  2. Dev team requires a tech interface for the business unit.
  3. Someone thinks its necessary and hired me for the job.
  4. I like the challenge!

Challenges faced

  1. A lot of non-verbal cues get lost in communications and sprint planning.
  2. Missing out on building the team culture and practices.
  3. It’s not easy to help solve a problem with external factors via Skype/Phone.

Does Scrum help?

  1. The practices recommended (Daily Scrum, Sprint Retrospectives) aim to shorten the feedback loop for delivery of features (user stories). It’s really useful when your entire team is not in the same country.
  2. Daily Scrum is done via Skype and everyone’s on a common Skype channel throughout the day. This helps simulate being in the same room although there is a fair bit of communication gone missing in virtual setup.
  3. Sprint Planning is planned in such a way that both Product Owner and myself are with the team during this period with the team. This means a LOT of flying but it’s also helpful to reduce conflicts and ideally get better planning.
  4. Measuring metrics like Velocity, Operational Efficiency, Reliability, etc helps to let management have visibility into the team’s performance.
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Development, Musings

Lot of time flying these days and more time to read

Past 3 months have gone by rather quickly. With a new opportunity and managing a new team in KL, lots of challenges are encountered with the remote meetings and daily scrums.

Attend Certified ScrumMaster conducted by Jesse Fewell in KL from 8th to 10th November. The great part? I’m now a Certified ScrumMaster! With one year or more of practice, I’ll be applying to be a Certified Scrum Professional.

Scrum is a relatively common sense approach to project management, I’ve enjoyed learning about the process and how it reacts to dynamic business needs. For teams who are new to process (as in my team), it’s definitely challenging as it requires a high level of transparency to daily work and significant openness to embrace change. There are many barriers to bring a team to such a level ranging from old attitudes and behavior and tendency for most people to be very reserved with their opinions.

Couple of books have helped open my mind to how a business can benefit from having a sense of urgency and not being complacent about their success.

Leading Change

A Sense of Urgency

Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions

Managed to read this in an hour or so while waiting for RT to start. Good book to read after you’ve read the previous two. Found myself laughing at some parallels to real life. They may be penguins in the story but lots of people behave a lot like that.

Managing Virtual Teams: Getting the Most from Wikis, Blogs, and Other Collaborative Tools

Currently we’re using Pivotal Tracker (coincidently met JB Steadman from Pivotal Labs Singapore during a networking session) with Google Docs for most real-time collaboration of documents.

Skype has been tremendous in helping bridge communications but I think Mumble or Ventrilo might be better to maintain better comms. Video might also be necessary soon as a lot of times, facial cues are an important part to communication

The Art of Scalability: Scalable Web Architecture, Processes, and Organizations for the Modern Enterprise

There are a lot of interesting lessons to learn from this book, still 1/3 of the way through it but the topics on hiring, capacity planning and team dynamics is a good read.

Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition

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