Agile or agile project methodology refers to an iterative method of planning and supervising project practices that dismantles them into minuscule cycles called iterations or sprints. A sprint normally runs from a couple of days up to a few weeks. However, the benefit of this method is that it allows teams to release segments when they are complete, instead of waiting until the whole project has ended. Thus if there are any errors, these can be corrected quickly. As such, an agile methodology lessens the risks for large-scale failures, there being ongoing development during the project lifecycle.
The agile concept seems to be in opposition to traditional outsourcing. More so, how can an agile model, which emphasises teamwork, work together with the traditional outsourcing model? The traditional model involves sourcing workers who follow instructions and do not work collaboratively. To argue more in-depth, many following an agile method believe that staff must be insourced. Such people believe that outsourcing is a fruitless exercise, despite outsourcing offering business cost savings and introduction of much-needed skill sets. Nevertheless businesses introducing agile methods can also resort to outsourcing − a blended approach allows for benefits of both worlds.
When a business adds an outsourcing agency to its staffing component, the in-house team can delegate the project to its virtual assistants. Equally, the virtual assistants can return projects to the in-house team. This is also referred to as a waterfall model, indicating a cascade taking place between these steps. The agile method stresses interdisciplinary teams working meticulously together throughout agile sprints. The argument is that the teams will be sharing information, solving issues, and maintaining a viable product. The agile method also demands that the team members work on the project as equals; there must be flexibility should change be needed. Thereafter, action must be prompt and efficient. As such, one team may not punt against the other − both must execute the action in unison.
To encourage a business that has adopted an agile method to benefit from outsourcing, any barriers between the business and the outsourcing agency must be removed. Also, all members must work side by side − such can be physically together with virtually. This comprises a distributed agile approach. In this approach, the various squads are made up of both in-house staff and virtual assistants. In these squads, members are equal. Members should have a one-time mindset focused on the needs of the end users, and seeking solutions to address these.
The result can be teams that are productive and passionate when adopting a distributed agile approach. Meanwhile, the business benefits from ongoing cost savings, owing to outsourcing some of the tasks.
Distributed agile in action
For an effective synergy to exist between the business and the outsourced staff, one must evaluate the various models.
- First model – Most staff work onsite from a primary location, reporting in person to the business
- Second model – Similar to the first, but with product owners, scrum masters, as well as business analysts to ensure quality assurance
- Third model – The product owner, together with the on-site employees of the business, are based at the main business location, the rest of the team working remotely
One should add that scrum masters can be from the business or outsourced, with testers and developers, for instance, being outsourced.
Determine the significance of juxtapositioning
There are businesses that believe that an agile method demands collocation; however, collocation is dependent on the project. For instance, there is no need for collocation of a call center functioning completed offshore. So long as functionality and all other requirements are met, remote workers are indeed possible.
Select the distributed agile model
Selecting the most suitable version of the distributed agile model for each project means grasping and accommodating appropriate tradeoffs. Such are seen mostly in terms of obtainable knowledge, costs, and teamwork. Many businesses will opt for either Model One or Two. These two models are pricey, as businesses must lean more on their own staff. However, irrespective of the model selected, should there be any changes, the model must be reviewed to match the needs of the project. However, to increase cost savings, moving towards the third model is suggested, but only if the processes and systems are stable, and the development is not critical to the business at that time.
Only after the distributed agile model is selected, can the business seek outsourced staff from an outsourcing agency. This will include adding new team practices, in addition to technologies and tools to ensure proper communication and output. However, there is a benefit when a business uses an outsourcing agency, the risk then being shared. What is important is to have clear communication in stating the business needs to ensure that the correct talent is sourced to complete the tasks. The business can also make changes. This may mean onboarding more assistants, or even offboarding assistants.
New team practices
With an agile method, the reporting structure differs from traditional outsourcing models, everyone working on the same product. However, there are still various levels of seniority or expertise. Therefore a new best practice is useful in ensuring a smooth way forward.
Build a shared culture
A key practice in distributed agile is developing a culture in which people share an understanding of the agile principles as well as the different roles each will take. As such, the business should coach both its on-site and outsourced staff to ensure the efficacy of the cultural change. The minds of the on-site staff will be set at ease should they fear that outsourced staff will replace them. Moreover, the goal is to create a team, even if the team members are made up of different people in different groups.
An additional key practice, no matter which model is selected, is collocation. This can be vital, at least throughout the first two or three sprints; then before any crucial, measureable deliverables are due. Certain team participants should collocate during that early stage, and teams can direct representatives to visit the business on a regular basis. After a team is thoroughly merged, representatives may need to visit less. If not collocated, squad members who are situated in diverse time zones will need to amend their work timetables. Doing so, they will produce devoted time slots with a three-to-four-hour overlap. They can then connect with other staff members using videoconferencing tools such as Zoom or Tauria.
Make a full commitment
A team must be fully dedicated to all agile rituals that take place once every two weeks to promote progress, show projects under development, and split the work between team members. These rituals should be undertaken once all members of the team, even those in dissimilar time zones, can join in. Furthermore, team members should be trained to appreciate that every meeting is significant.
Empower vendor resources
If business employees are not allowed to make their own decisions, progress will be slow. The business must ensure that outsourced staff members are empowered to make choices and to move ahead between meetings, rather than waiting for the go-ahead from the product owner. If a staff member makes a blunder, this can be corrected, especially given the extremely iterative nature of agile progress.
Tools and technologies
Businesses that select a distributed agile method must utilize tools and technologies to improve communication and output. Basic teamwork tools for screen sharing, in addition to messaging, are the smallest enablers of effective communication. Teams likewise must use communication tools that can gather everyone for live discussions. All team members must use the same platform. Everyone has the right to use high-quality audio and video apparatus for conferencing, in addition to tools that aid collaborative writing, as well as whiteboard sessions.
Furthermore, all team members should have access to agile life-cycle management tools that will increase transparency and aid tracking KPIs. They should also have right to use the same development environment for constructing, testing, and organizing new products and services. Moreover, businesses must create a united pipeline of work that permits team members in diverse time zones to continue working on products after team members in other time zones have ended their day’s work.
Collaboration might not always be achievable initially. In one example, a business established that virtual assistants were repeatedly omitting videoconferences by US-based members—but not for the motives it anticipated. The virtual assistants had some practical restraints. The virtual assistants could not stay late for videoconferences, their office being situated in an area unsafe in the evenings. At home, members of the virtual team could not join video meetings due to lack of essential internet bandwidth. This situation was resolved by reimbursing the costs of high-speed internet connections in the homes of persons who required it.
Applying agile methods of working all the way through a business is a long journey. Making use of an outsourcing agency to join you on the journey can allow your business to transform, developing, while still being able to reap the rewards of outsourcing. Moreover, distributed agile partnership calls for a business and the outsourcing agency to work and adapt together. For those who succeed the rewards are substantial. This includes lower costs, access to a huge pool of technology-savvy staff, and the ability to work uninterruptedly and speedily, even across various time zones.