Disciplined Agile

Coordinating Between Locations

One of the scaling factors faced by teams is geographic distribution – how distant are team members from each other?  A team that is collocated will coordinate their work differently than a team that is different locations in the same time zone and differently yet again than a team that is distributed globally. Disciplined Agile (DA) includes the Coordinate Activities process goal which captures advice for how to coordinate between locations, as you can see in Figure 1.

Copyright Project Management Institute All Rights Reserved Coordinate Activities v5.3 Share Information Nonsolo work (pairing, mobbing)Informal reviewsFormal reviewsIndividual (solo) work Artifact Ownership Collective ownershipDisparate ownership Coordinate Within Team Coordination meetings/scrum meetingsJust-in-time (JIT) modelingJust-in-time (JIT) planningLook-ahead modeling/planningRegular conversationsStatus meetingsVisualize work and workflow Facilitate a Working Session Agile modeling sessionOpen spaceBig room planningJoint application design (JAD) sessions Coordinate Across Program Architecture owner teamCommon cadencesCoordination meetings/scrum meetingsDivisor cadencesFacilitated working sessionManagement teamOpen spacesProduct coordination teamProduct owner teamProgram manager/coordinatorScrum of scrums (SoS)Visualize work and workflow Coordinate Across the Organization Enterprise professional as team memberEnterprise roadmaps (detailed)Enterprise roadmaps (light)Enterprise service teamsFacilitated working session Coordinate Release Schedule Continuous deployment (CD)/release streamRegular releases/release trainRelease windowsUnique project releasesNone Coordinate Between Locations Move team to a single locationGather physically at critical timesAdopt collaborative toolsAmbassadorsBoundary spanners

Figure 1. The Coordinate Activities process goal diagram.

Let’s review each option for coordinating between locations, in order of effectiveness:

  1. Move team to a single location. Everyone on the team is moved to a common location, ideally a team workroom. In short, address the actual challenge of geographic distribution.
  2. Gather physically at critical times. People come together at a single location, typically to have a working session to work through an important issue such as deciding on a strategy for upcoming work. This will enable them to make critical decisions quickly with a wider range of collaboration.
  3. Adopt collaborative tools. Teams can adopt collaborative tools (such as chat software, videoconferencing, or discussion group software) to interact with one another. This strategy is depicted in Figure 2.
  4. Ambassadors. An ambassador, see Figure 2, is someone who travels between locations, working at the location for a period before returning to their "home location". A common strategy is to spend alternating weeks at each location.
  5. Boundary spanners. Boundary spanners are responsible for coordinating communication between sites as depicted in Figure 2. They look for opportunities to help people at different sites to communicate with one another when needed, working with the boundary spanner at the other site to do so.  
Coordinate Between Locations

Figure 2. Strategies for coordinating between locations (click to enlarge).

The advantages and disadvantages of each of these strategies are captured for this process goal in the DA Browser.

February 2022