Does “scrum” work in offshoring?

A question posed a few months back on stackoverflow on scrum and offshoring got a number of mixed responses. Many state that scrum does not work with remote teams. There may be a number of factors to scrum not working, which has very little to do with scrum in the first place. Some teams are not suitable to scrum, or rather, the individuals on the team are not suitable. Scrum requires a change in mindset, to be proactive, not be willing to fail, and be willing to be honest.

The time difference does appear to be the biggest obstacle. Many of the other issues, such as cultural differences, can be resolved, or at least mitigated, with direct communication. Direct communication is hampered when remote teams work in different time zones.

Flexibility is required from the team members in all locations. It may suit some members of the team to start early and leave early so that their working hours overlap with some of the others. This has to be sustainable. The team members that come in early should not be the ones who regularly leave late. If this occurs, there is a problem with resource bottlenecking. What would happen to the team when this member goes on holidays? A meeting that involves the whole team is often not required if the team members take the responsibility to communicate to each other. I have found instant messaging to be quite useful in this regard. When having a discussion with some team members in a chat room, the messages can be saved and posted to a wiki or emailed to the rest of the team. This also helps to clear up confusion over what was said during a telephone conversation.

Note that I only refer to one team. Referring to a group of team members by their location may reinforce the differences between the groups. For example, rather that referring to team members as the ‘San Jose Team’ or the ‘Palo Alto Team’, try ‘The team members in San Jose’ or ‘The team members in Palo Alto’. This suitable change emphasises that the team is one unit, just distributed.

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