For any distributed or geographically dispersed agile team (e.g. Scrum team) to function effectively eight conditions must be satisfied. These are:

1                     Most or all team members must have a formal training in Scrum

Why is this important? I quite often meet professionals that claim they know what Scrum is, but in reality don’t. Even though, the theory behind Scrum is simple, if you don’t have a formal training (or spent serious time reading and writing about it) you will not have a clear understanding of the process.  The last thing you want as a distributed team, is to have members in your team that don’t fully understand the underlying principles.

2                     The team must agree on common definitions for Scrum terminologies

There are many interpretations out there what for example the roles and responsibilities of a ScrumMaster are, or how to write a user story. I worked in organizations where there were several formats for writing user stories. One group would write a story in one to two lines, while another group would write 2-3 paragraphs. Definitions of terminologies varied, depending on which part of the organization you work. For distributed teams, it is imperative to have a common definition for terminologies, concepts and roles.

3                     The team must be dedicated to adhere to the Scrum principles

This is the end all, be all. If some members from a distributed team are not committed to the Scrum principles, your team is doomed.   Therefore, ensure that the organization and therefore the team is ready and committed.

4                     The team must have full support from management

Without complete backing from senior management, no team will be able to implement Scrum effectively. Let alone a distributed team. My advice, ensure that management is fully onboard, before even trying to engage in Scrum. Scrum changes the “culture” of software development in any organization and needs management support in order to be successfully implemented.

5                     The team must have a distributed or web-based scrum project management software

For dispersed Scrum teams, having access to centrally managed Scrum project management software is key. The team needs to have direct access to the electronic planning board, task board and burn down charts, as they no longer sit in one room, where they can work with index cards or sticky notes. This tool will work in conjunction with a desktop sharing application, so that other members can view the desktop of a presenting team member. There are several tools on the market today. Try any search engine and you’ll find at least a dozen.

6                    The team must have access to software that allows them to share their desktop with remote members

Having an online Scrum project management tool alone is not enough, as alluded to in point 5. During planning meetings, or the daily stand-up meetings, remote team members must be able to look at the same screen/information. The best way to accomplish this is to have one person present, while the rest of the team follows the conversation by listening to the audio and viewing the desktop of the presenter remotely. When it’s time for a remote member to present, the same principle will apply. The remote member will speak and control the Scrum project management software, while other team members follow every word she speaks or every action she undertakes on the computer.

7                     The team must have access to long distance telephony

This is self explanatory. Without audio, the meeting will be useless.

8                     The team must have source control software that can be accessed remotely

Developers must be able to check in and checkout source code and files at will. There are various source code management tools out there.

I am sure I missed a few other conditions that are necessary for a successful implementation of distributed Scrum teams.  Amongst them: Scrum teams located in timezones ( more then 5 hrs difference. That requires an amended/custom approach.

Cheers.