In my previous blog posts, I introduced you with the team I am proudly part of, and started describing the challenges of working SCRUM in a geographically distributed team. I wrote about our virtual planning meetings and how we try to make it a bit more personal and inclusive for remote team members. In my post today, I will continue by describing our daily “Stand up” meetings and some other tools that support us in our day-to-day work.
Virtual daily Stand Up meeting? Seriousely?
Yes, but… One of the most famous symbols of SCRUM is the short daily meeting, where all team members gather in the same room for a 10-15 minutes meeting. All are standing around the team board, moving cards around the board, discussing what they work on and the current impediments and blockers people are facing and how they can be solved.
So quite early we realized we are not going to fly everyone every day just for a 15 minutes meeting, and we set up our own morning time slot (luckily we are all located in pretty close time zones). Everybody dials in to my virtual meeting room, where I share my screen and show our project’s JIRA agile board (more about how we use JIRA later).
The pace of this call is really speedy, and I try to move the virtual ball from one to the other quickly and smoothly. Team members also know they need to give a good summary of what they are on and what they intend to do later that day, and most importantly, clearly say if they face any impediment or require any help from within the team or from the outside.
If we see there is any topic that requires additional discussion, we instantly name the relevant team members and ask them to remain online after the official call ends, and we then continue the discussion is a smaller crowd with only those relevant for the topic. This way the daily itself would almost never last more than 15 minutes, unless there are important updates that requires everyone’s attention.
JIRA and us
To replace the real physical board other SCRUM teams use, we use JIRA’s agile boards. These serve us not only for the daily but during the entire sprint lifecycle and that’s how we actually manage all our backlogs, prioritize the sprint tickets, follow our progress during the sprint and also identifying what’s pending testing.
We mainly use two boards: the “Backlog” board serves the Product Owner to keep a prioritized backlog, from the top of which we pick the tickets for the upcoming sprint during the planning meeting.
During the sprint itself, the board mostly in use is the “Active Sprint”, which looks pretty much like physical boards “normal” teams use.
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In order to serve our needs better, we made some tweaks and modifications to the default boards (they are widely configureable). For example we added the “In verification” column for tickets with status “Resolved”. This helps us identify tickets that are pending testing. We also added some filters to allow team members see their own tickets, or tickets in specific topics.
We also use what’s called “swim lanes” to separate development tickets from others sprint tickets (performance, UI, operations).
The boards are really flexible, and also allow dragging and dropping tickets between different columns, so it feels as close to a real board as possible. And we always know that we all see the exact same board all the time, so it’s almost like the real thing. Our permissions scheme allows all team member handle all sprint tickets, as we felt that’s the “Agile” thing to do. However, we are all committed to not changing the Product Owners prioritization.
Trying to make JIRA as friendly and familiar as possible, we use team member’s pictures and lively colours for tickets.
Still not done…
In the next blog posts to come, I will talk about our review meetings, virtual retrospective and a great tool we use for that, and also share some tips from my experience about how to keep a good team spirit in a virtual team.
Will also be happy to answer any questions you might have, so elaborate more on specific related topics, so please share your thoughts with me.