Distributed Scrum: Agile Project Management with Outsourced Development Teams

I just ran across a paper from 2006 that talks about using the Scrum methodology with distributed software development teams:


There’s also some background on the origins of Scrum in general:

The idea of building a self-empowered team in which a daily global view of the product cause the team to self-organize seemed like the right idea.

The emergent behavior of self-organizing system is fascinating to me, even apart from software development. There’s definitely a parallel to high-performing agile software development teams.

One of the interesting complexity phenomena of the first Scrum with an observed “punctuated equilibrium” effect. This occurs in biological evolution when a species in stable for long periods of time and then undergoes a sudden jump in capability.

The recommended practices for distributed teams all seem involve keeping the traditional daily 15-minute scrum meetings with the whole team. People ended up emailing their status and plans before the meeting, to mitigate language issues and keep the phone calls short. I suspect that the main benefit of actually holding the calls, instead of relying solely on emails, is to provide accountability. Otherwise it’s just too easy to publish a daily report late, or skip the reporting completely.

An Experiment

I’m the “product owner” on a team with members from two locations in the Philippines, and me in the US. We’re experimenting with an approach where the project manager acts as “scrum master” for a morning scrum, held in a chat room instead of over the phone. The log gets emailed to everyone. I review the log, respond to issues via email, and follow up via instant message for anything that requires further discussion. As a result, there’s a searchable electronic record of all those conversations, which I’m very fond of. So far it’s working out pretty well!

2 Responses to “Distributed Scrum: Agile Project Management with Outsourced Development Teams”

  • Albion Soft Guys Says:

    Outsourcing software development is the double edged sword that proves to be beneficial both for the takers and the providers as it has enabled the takers to go for the A grade IT services at a competitive rate.http://www.infysolutions.com

  • Don Says:

    David, I came across your article on Distributed scrum and wonder if after a year and a half are you still enjoying the distributed scrum team? The reason I ask is my organization has implemented scrum within the 4 walls and is looking to extend the model to other sites where the product owner is located in the states and the development team is located off-shore. Your initial insight is helpful, just wondering your thoughts after a year.Thanks,Don

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