Like it or not, the hybrid work model is here to stay. Many companies learned quickly that the only way to stay open for business was to adopt a hybrid work model at the outset of the pandemic.
And just like how companies revisited their work models in response to change, now companies need to reevaluate their product delivery strategies in order to stay competitive within those hybrid environments. Adopting an agile product delivery approach is key to outperforming competitors, but it doesn’t come without a set of challenges in a hybrid setting.
What are some challenges of agile product delivery in a hybrid environment?
A lot of companies are already using some flavor of agile software development to consistently and quickly deliver products to their customers. Traditionally, that agile strategy has included working in close proximity with each other. This fosters a healthy environment of collaboration where team members know what everybody else is working on and where they can step in to help each other.
The strategies traditionally used for continuous delivery in DevOps rely on experimentation, constant communication, and collaboration with and feedback from customers to ensure that needs are met.
A hybrid model can make it difficult to create this type of intimate, collaborative environment for agile software development in a few ways including:
- A disconnected workforce: There are fewer face-to-face meetings, which means that some action items or dependencies could be overlooked.
- Silo mentality: Remote employees can be very productive, but they can also get used to working on their own, which can lead to a sense of isolation and silo mentality. For product delivery, this can make it harder to identify and remove roadblocks to increase efficiency.
- Communication breakdowns: If silos aren’t connected, there can be less transparency into what each individual is working on, and communication can break down as team members isolate themselves. It’s crucial for product delivery that teams communicate consistently about their findings, adapt in retrospectives, and stay current on statuses in daily stand-ups.
- A decline in collaboration and creativity: Sometimes distributed teams can have less collaboration and creativity as employees continue to work the way they are used to without sharing ideas.
- Fewer interactions with customers: A lot of agile is about quickly addressing customer needs. It’s difficult to address those needs if you don’t collaborate with customers and learn what their needs are.
- Loss of context or information sharing: Getting teams aligned with a shared contextual understanding of processes, architecture, and their own learnings from experiments is more challenging when some team members are in office and others are remote. This makes it tricky to learn but also to identify possible areas that could be automated. Hybrid teams need a way to access a single source of truth and regularly share findings so they can learn from each other quickly and identify automation opportunities.
What are the benefits of agile software development in a hybrid environment?
The companies that can successfully adapt their agile product delivery to the hybrid world will stand out from those who continue business as usual. And when your teams do successfully adapt their product delivery strategies, it leads to:
- Increased speed-to-market: The faster you can get your products to market, the easier it should be to get customers to buy it. If you are first with a new type of product or technology, you’ll have a big advantage over your competitors.
- Higher employee retention: The hybrid model gives employees more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Adapting your agile strategies for your hybrid teams can boost morale, help individuals avoid burnout, ease stress, and create a culture of continuous learning as employees work with new technologies that keep them connected. This all leads to better employee retention.
- Increased responsiveness to customer and market needs: An agile environment helps the team respond quickly to changing customer and market needs. Your strategies for hybrid need to ensure that the team can still interact and collaborate with customers.
How do you adapt agile strategies for your hybrid team?
So how do you create an environment for agile product delivery when your team members are working from several different locations? You’ll need to focus on collaboration, communication, trust, and transparency.
A good way to create a culture of collaboration with a hybrid team is by using a technology stack that includes cloud-based tools that integrate well with each other and that can be accessed at any time from any location.
Visual tools are ideal for creating a virtual space for collaboration where team members can work on the same documents in real time from any location in the world. For example, a virtual whiteboard like Lucidspark brings the whole team together in brainstorming sessions where they can take ideas and turn them into something more tangible. In addition, creating visual documents helps team members to more easily understand what is currently being done and what still needs to be done.
Visuals use a common language that your team can quickly digest and interpret. The documents you can create with an intelligent diagramming solution like Lucidchart will help your team to not only track current work but also to map out opportunities for enhancement and to develop strategies for addressing challenges in future product releases. Visuals such as flowcharts and kanban boards help your team to easily understand who is doing what, where it is being done, and what still needs to be done.
Face-to-face is generally the best way to communicate, especially when asking for help from other team members. But in a hybrid world, face-to-face communication isn’t always possible.
It’s possible that your hybrid teams will be spread across multiple geographic locations and time zones. This can create scheduling challenges that can affect your communications. You might want to establish a set of core hours when everybody needs to be available for meetings and verbal communication. Be sure to follow the agile practice of a daily, 15-minute stand-up meeting to keep communications in sync and to gauge what needs to be done and to set priorities. You may also want to shift to prioritizing ways to make asynchronous communication easy as well.
To facilitate communication and to ensure that your team is informed, aligned, and working toward the same goal, you might want to select one centralized communication platform. When communications are funneled to a single platform, it’s easier for the team to consume and contribute to it. And a single communication platform makes it easy to store and access project documentation, schedules, and policies so nothing falls through the cracks.
For your hybrid team to be agile, you need to establish a culture of trust. Not only is it important that you trust your team members to do their jobs, they need to learn to trust each other as well. Instead of worrying about where everybody is or what they are doing at any given time, look at the overall results of their work. If work is being done on time within each iteration and releases stay on schedule, you can trust that your team is able to be agile in a hybrid model.
Establish clear goals
When your team works as a cohesive, collaborative unit in a hybrid environment, they should be able to understand what the goals associated with the current project are. You need to establish clear goals so the team understands what you are trying to accomplish with the current development cycle. This helps everybody understand how their individual goals fit with team and organizational goals.
When your hybrid team can effectively collaborate, communicate, and trust each other, you and the team have better clarity and transparency into the current status of the project. With transparency also comes accountability and a sense of ownership. This encourages team members to step up and help each other to reach goals.
Putting it all together
As you adapt your product delivery strategies for your hybrid team, your team will be more efficient and work will be completed on time, which should result in getting your products released to market on a faster schedule.
When you keep the communication lines open with customers and get useful feedback, the team can look for ways to improve processes, prioritize features and functions that customers want, and continue to deliver high-quality products on a regular basis to meet customer needs and to keep them happy.
Prioritizing business agility is what creates legendary teams and products now and in the future.Download free e-book