Agile distributed team – using chat to run scrum meetings

The current development team that I’m working in is really small – just 2 software gurus, a product owner and me as a scum-master/system admninistrator/part-time developer/architect.

Our team is distributed to the extent that sometimes all four of us are located in different places during our meetings – but time zones difference is in most of the cases withing 1-2 hours. Up until recently some of us didn’t have a permanent office and had to participate in daily scrum meetings, and sprint planning/reviews from public open spaces.

We tired to use Skype, but flakiness of wireless in some locations and sometimes just insufficient bandwith quickly rendered it as a non-viable option. Even with commercial telco systems it is quite often that people spend first 10 minutes of the meeting on making sure that everyone is on the line and can hear the other party – can be really frustrating, especially when the meeting is supposed to last for 15 minutes.

In the end we started using Google Talk for daily scrum meetings and for sprint planning / reviews as well. Works really good – keeps reports short and to the point. No time is lost on setting up voice connections and exchanging “can you hear me – you are breaking up”.

I believe two major factors that contribute to success use of chat are that:
1. the team is small and
2. everyone is in equal position

When a part of the team is located in the same physical space and there is just one or two people on the other side of the telephone – most important discussions tend to take place face-2-face, and remote members of the team are excluded. Using chat ensures that those team members who happen to be in the same office are talking to each other the same way as if they were remote.

It would be interesting to hear experiences from other teams that are running scrum with chat as primary means of communication.

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