Many Info-Tech members are wrestling with how to best manage their software development productivity in the work-from-home (WFH) world created by the emergence of COVID-19, especially for teams using a Waterfall approach. We suggest they sprinkle some Agile practices into their normal routine to improve transparency and show continuous value delivery.
As a prolonged global lockdown (or perhaps several lockdowns occurring in waves) looks increasingly likely, organizations that master effective WFH practices are more likely to survive this pandemic (as well as future high-disruption events). Thankfully, IT work (including software development) is particularly well suited to accommodating WFH.
But how does an organization ensure their remote workforce is being productive? And how do they concretely measure this productivity? The answer is to borrow some key Agile practices and sprinkle them into their existing process.
It’s important to know that Agile development methodologies (like Scrum) are particularly well suited to adapting to WFH. This is primarily due to two key characteristics of all Agile methodologies:
These two characteristics give Agile teams a leg up on WFH compared to teams using other methodologies (like Waterfall). However, another important characteristic of Agile, its reliance on face-to-face conversation, must be addressed in a WFH context in order to maximize productivity. Thankfully, this can easily be achieved by adopting effective modern collaboration tools that have capabilities like:
Collaboration tools (sometimes several of them) are used routinely and effectively by remote Agile teams (i.e. teams that are not entirely colocated). There are numerous tools readily available on the market (e.g. Zoom, MS Teams, Webex, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Slack, Miro, RingCentral, Azure DevOps), and although it takes some getting used to, any Agile team should be able to maintain good productivity using them.
WFH presents a significantly bigger challenge for Waterfall development teams. Waterfall is less well suited to effective monitoring of productivity in a WFH context, because concrete results are not seen until quite late in a project/release. Here we suggest that you selectively adopt a small number of Agile practices and carefully introduce them to your Waterfall teams in order to help you more effectively gauge progress and productivity. These practices are:
By sprinkling in these Agile practices, you will be able to better monitor Waterfall project productivity, while also helping your Waterfall teams to better understand Agile practices in a digestible way (which may help you in the future if you plan to move your teams over to Agile).
Notice that this will require your Waterfall teams to significantly change their normal way of working. And because change is always difficult, we recommend that you assign each Waterfall team a mentor to help them through this transition. If you have Agile teams in your organization, you can draw on some of them as mentors. Pick people who not only have a good understanding of Agile and its principles/practices but also have a knack for helping others understand them better (think Agile Coach, Scrum Master, Agile Evangelist, etc.). If you don’t have Agile expertise in-house, you will need to look externally for a good Agile coach.
Your mentors will need to spend some time working with their Waterfall team to help them understand, adopt, and adapt to these new practices. The approach used should be to guide the Waterfall team on how to develop their software releases incrementally. Here are more details about this sprinkling approach:
As a final note, remember that your Waterfall teams will also benefit from the effective use of collaboration tools as discussed above for Agile teams. Good collaboration tools are critical to WFH success no matter what methodology a team follows.
If you would like to share your experiences (successes, failures, insights, etc.) on adapting to WFH, please complete Info-tech’s Remote Agile Story Card survey.
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