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Co-location: The Answer to Your Agile Woes

I get it—co-location is expensive and may not be feasible for many organizations. For my large enterprise projects, co-located development is the exception rather than the norm. After being handed a high-priority feature and a very aggressive timeline, the project leadership decided to bring the project team together from all corners of the globe. The results are clear, however. Having a local scrum team has dramatically improved the outcome of my current project.

We had a bit of a lag after we decided to co-locate. Team members had to get visa approval. The procurement department had to release the appropriate funding. After a couple of weeks, once the entire scrum team was in place, we met for our first daily standup, this time all together in the same room after months of remote meetings.

From a BSA perspective, having a shortened communication loop with the development team and architects has restored my faith in Agile. If developers have concerns about a user story or are confused about a visual model, the conversation happens in real time. There is no day-long lag due to time differences. No questions get buried in anyone’s inbox. If the team has to escalate an issue to an architect, we simply walk a couple of feet. There is no week-long wait for schedule availability. All of this means that our end result is of higher quality and is produced much faster.

In addition to the obvious business value of a co-located team, the added benefit of developing real human relationships improves the product, team cohesion, and morale. It’s easy to get frustrated with someone via email. Instant messages do not provide the nuance of face-to-face interactions. It became quite clear to me after co-location that everyone on the scrum team had a common interest in developing the best product. All the other frustrations between our team practically disappeared.

In summary, a co-located scrum team can deliver a better product in a shorter amount of time. For the seemingly impossible projects in your organization, consider the merits of bringing the team together. It is surprising what an interconnected group of people can achieve when given a common goal. The impossible just may be possible with co-location.

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