Developers enjoy being on self-organizing agile teams and building innovative solutions. They recognize the need to discuss problems, resolve blocks, hold retrospectives, and share results in sprint reviews.
But developers loathe attending too many meetings or wasting time in poorly managed ones. Barrages of urgent emails, impromptu Zoom sessions, or frequent Slack messages can drain productivity. Coding requires concentration, and distractions can lead to software defects and quality issues.
Evaluate meeting practices and behaviors
We used whiteboards and sticky notes to manage backlogs in the early agile and scrum years, but most teams replaced these analog practices with Jira Software, Digital.ai, Azure DevOps, or other agile tools. Many agile practitioners prefer having collocated teams working in open spaces, but there are many best practices for supporting agile in geographically dispersed teams.
Maybe it’s time to reconsider meeting practices for hybrid experiences.
“In the engineering and developer community, being able to use the best tools is important and directly tied to developer happiness,” says Sabry Tozin, vice president of productivity engineering at LinkedIn. “They like getting work done without interruptions, and in a hybrid environment, organizations must invest in tooling to attract and retain talent while enabling a more seamless hybrid work experience.”
Ravi Duddukuru, chief product officer at DevGraph, agrees and says development managers, product owners, and scrum managers must adjust how meetings are managed and that it’s even more important to manage the time and agenda. He says, “When we all used to work in offices, standup meetings ensured meeting efficiency. That approach needs to be applied to remote agile and app dev meetings. The purpose and agenda need to be clear, everyone needs to know exactly what to report, and then the meeting should end.”
Duddukuru adds this recommendation, “Weekly meetings should be put on the calendar as a placeholder, but they should only be held when necessary, giving time back to actual development.”
In a previous article, I provided several recommendations for agile and devops teams in a hybrid work model, including tips on managing meetings. For example, advanced teams can conduct daily standups on Slack or Microsoft Teams, especially when they frequently update their active sprint boards with the work in progress. I also suggest blocking out no-meeting periods so that developers have sacred time to concentrate on coding and other development activities.
Some other best practices for managing hybrid meetings:
- Ensure that the meeting leader defines the agenda when scheduling meetings.
- Invite only primary collaborators and decision-makers.
- Turn on video whenever possible.
- Have meeting facilitators ask everyone to contribute their opinions and ideas.
- Record meetings, create transcripts, and centralize access so others can review.
- Capture meeting decisions and follow-ups.
The importance of tools and how you use them
Sometimes, it’s the choice of tools for hybrid work that can simplify remote collaboration. Sometimes it’s how organizations, teams, and people use them.
For example, in the 15th annual State of Agile report by Digital.ai, 81% of respondents said they use Jira Software, and many create projects, boards, and backlogs to manage their scrum. These basic tools help agile teams manage their priorities, requirements, and status to complete sprints and releases. There are also opportunities to improve collaboration with product owners and stakeholders using advanced road maps and sharing views of Jira issues on Confluence pages.
Another option is to reduce the complexity in developing applications, dashboards, and data integrations with low-code and no-code tools. These tools can cut the time and collaboration required to prototype, develop, test, and deploy capabilities, and their visual programming modalities often lessen the need to create detailed implementation documents.
Rosaria Silipo, PhD, principal data scientist and head of evangelism at KNIME, agrees and says, “Low-code tools are becoming increasingly popular and deliver the freedom to prototype swiftly. They enable the collaboration of simple to complex app dev within an integrated platform, where steps are consumable by technical and non-technical stakeholders.”
Other tools that can improve collaboration and reduce the need for lengthy or frequent meetings:
- Design tools such as Miro, Balsamiq, or others help conceive user experiences, design user interfaces, and enable design thinking in scrum.
- Devops CI/CD pipeline tools automate builds and report integration issues, reducing the time teams need to diagnose code, resolve testing issues, and address deployment problems.
- Continuous testing tools automate regression tests and shift-left security practices, helping teams identify issues before they become production defects or security incidents.
- Integrating agile, devops, IT service management, and other IT workflow tools improve collaboration between teams supporting scrum, incident management, IT request management, and other service functions.
- AIops platforms help devops teams centralize observability and monitoring data and simplify the coordination required to resolve incidents or address the root causes of repeat problems.
Equipment is also important to support remote developers and collaboration. Leaders should ensure that developers have adequate internet speed, secure connections, superior compute resources, and sufficient video and audio equipment. When even one person in a meeting is hampered by technology or connectivity challenges, it makes everyone less productive.
The goal should be to improve standards on how teams use tools, ensure consistency in data collection, and automate more integrations between platforms. When development teams buy into using tools in consistent ways, it reduces the need for meetings and lengthy discussions about missing information or poor data quality.
As health conditions permit more in-person activities, leaders should also consider which meetings benefit from having more people onsite. Brainstorming sessions about innovations, major workflow changes, or problem triages are often better when more people are in the same room. But meeting facilitators will still need to consider equipment, tools, and practices as all meetings will likely have remote participants.
One final best practice: Agile teams should use retrospectives to discuss how to improve their collaboration, reduce meeting time, and improve their use of workflow tools. Teams that are open to challenging their status quo are more likely to increase productivity and boost developer happiness.
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