Can Agile Development Thrive in the Hybrid Workplace?


A report by Accenture confirmed that 83% of 9,326 workers surveyed prefer a hybrid work model, where they can work from remote locations at least 25% of the time. Organizations with high technical and strategic resilience were already planning hybrid work models even before the worldwide pandemic hit.

Data shows that enabling a resilient workforce to be productive and healthy can lead to financial rewards. 63% of high revenue growth companies have already allowed hybrid work models. In contrast, 69% of negative or nil growth companies are still squarely focused on where their people physically work, favoring and rewarding on-site instead of rolling out healthy hybrid work.

A Statista report from 2021 states that 73% of employees want flexible remote work options to stay at the end of the pandemic. Organizations not only cut costs through a hybrid workplace but also encourage a healthy work-life balance for their employees, increasing employee loyalty and reducing churn rate, among many other benefits.

As many organizations follow Agile methodology, is a hybrid workplace compatible with the workflow they have in place? Let’s dig in deeper.

Agile Development and Face-to-face Communication

Agile says that face-to-face communication is the best because that was true in 2001 when Agile was defined. The state of technology lacked back then in terms of connectivity software, remote collaboration tools and capabilities, leaving software developers desk-chained.

This was two decades ago. Today, remote web cameras, connectivity software and video conferencing tools make remote collaboration possible and even the only viable option in a pandemic.

So, we need to redefine what we mean by face-to-face communication to include video conferencing, not just in-person meetings.

Agile Supports the Idea of the Hybrid Workplace

Gartner quotes Graham Waller, Distinguished VP Analyst, saying, “The agile work process is structured around ley events and ceremonies that happen regularly – for example, a two-week scrum sprint that is repeated again and again. Certain activities happen on certain days, so it becomes even more important in a hybrid environment to get team members together based on critical, not arbitrary, moments”.

Well-designed hybrid work models offer employees the autonomy to decide where they want to work, when and how. Agile sprints show how workstreams can be effective with intentional and careful planning in a hybrid work setting.

The key activities in a two-week agile sprint are planning, daily scrum, backlog grooming, sprint review and sprint retrospective. While it’s okay for team members to not be in the same room for most of those, it can be precious to bring a team together for, say, a sprint retrospective.

A human-centric workflow design, in this case, would amplify in-person moments by combining the sprint retrospective with onboarding, mentoring and team building activities.

Tips for Implementing Agile in a Hybrid Scenario

As the hybrid work model gains permanence in organizations, it’s important to carefully plan Agile moments and bring transformational changes to how teams operate to accommodate remote work.

Here are a few tips:

Evolve communication protocols

Here are a few communication protocols that evolve cultural norms to create a stronger bridge between in-office and remote workforce:

  • Issue guidelines on when in-person meetings are preferred and times when asynchronous communication can be more appropriate.
  • When scheduling meetings, honor all participant’s timezone and switch up meeting times so that meetings are convenient for every team member. Communicate meeting schedules well in advance so all participants can expect to free up slots in their day.
  • Establish no-meeting periods so that all team members can perform ‘deep work’ without continuous distraction from meetings.
  • When working remotely, encourage members to turn on video and normalize showing up on video in casual clothes, without make-up, with kids sitting in their lap.
  • When facilitating a meeting, encourage everyone to participate and keep each team member involved by using their first names frequently.

Boost SRE and test automation

Hybrid work is also an opportunity to enhance how people collaborate in your organization. Establishing integrated tools, workflows and responsibilities ensures that each person works productively and efficiently, whether they choose to work from the office or remotely.

Hybrid teams can improve release cycles by focusing on testing and the role of site reliability engineers. Site reliability engineering methodology changes user acceptance testing from a checklist on a production to a place where engineering fixes, security, instrumentation and performance are measured.

SREs bring reliable, high-quality, secure applications through AIOps, DevOps and test automation to reduce toil, increase productivity, develop insights and prioritize work. Connecting and automating workflows is key to fast-paced hybrid work.

Build timezone friendly teams

One of the biggest challenges of hybrid work is managing teams with polar timezones and establishing convenient communication schedules. Besides working around the problem, organizations may choose to assemble teams with members who live no more than three timezones away from each other.

This ensures an overlapping work schedule so that meetings and collaboration are smooth. Of course, in organizations where this gets hyper-complicated, it helps to establish boundaries around asynchronous communication and switch meeting times.

Use empathy

The best way to bring hybrid employees together is to build empathy and connection. In offices, employees drop by each other’s workspaces to share a lunch or coffee, better understanding each other’s worlds.

Create opportunities for such connection virtually through online social events, group projects, and 1:1 conversations with colleagues. The Agile methodology thrives with better communication and understanding between team members.

Analyze and adapt

This concept is already a part of Agile but replicate the analyze and adapt concept not just in the project but also in organizational and team design. Ensure that you and your team reflect and adapt to the hybrid environment.

This is an exciting place to be- a hybrid work model that allows all of us more freedom with responsibilities. It’s appreciable that the Agile methodology works well with the values and methods of the hybrid workforce.

If you’re facing challenges in skilfully implementing Agile for your newly hybrid workplace, speak to one of our Agile / DevOps consultants today.

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