New Release: Distributed Agile Development at Microsoft patterns & practices

Distributed Agile Development at Microsoft patterns & practices (PDF) is now available.

Distributed development is a fact of life for many teams. Unfortunately most agile methodologies or approaches assume that the team is located in a single team room. Until recently there has been little guidance about how to apply these approaches with a geographically dispersed team.   Microsoft’s patterns & practices group has been following an agile, distributed development approach for the past five years. During this time teams within the group have experimented extensively with different approaches to best address the challenges of distributed agile development. This paper outlines the challenges faced by geographically distributed agile teams and details some proven practices to address these issues and build successful distributed teams.

Contents at a Glance

  • Introduction
  • Why Colocate?
  • The Reality of Distributed Teams
  • Distributed Teams at patterns & practices
  • Challenges
  • Proven Practices
  • Focus on Communication
  • Plan to Travel
  • Team Distribution
  • Focus on Coaching the Team
  • Distribution of Work
  • Build the Team Over Time
  • Provide the Right Tools
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author

Key Links

Comments (6)

  1. Andrew says:

    Hi JD!

    The paper suggests to avoid having a remote team developing a dedicated component (p.14-15).

    "…Distributed teams should continue to think about their work in the context of completing user stories not adding features to components…"

    Do you have any particular guidelines on how to facilitate this attitude? How to efficiently manage an offshore team that does (or does not) have a dedicated part – and how to mitigate any possible issues?

    Obviously, focus on communication, coaching, tools and so on might help – but the paper leaves a feeling that P&P teams use something else or plan differently…

  2. Richard Threlkeld says:

    On page 8, in the fifth paragraph "In some cases, communication what would have been informal…" the word what should be replaced with the word that.

    A very well written paper which I intend to share with many of my clients. Virtually all of them are doing offshore work. Most have a distributed team structure similar to that you describe.

    Richard Threlkeld

    Software Innovation

  3. Richard Threlkeld says:

    Editing again. On page 16 in the "At patterns & practices" box and in the third paragraph "Our teams have core members may stay…" should be "Our teams have core members who may stay…".

    I’m a product of a school teacher who stopped adults on the street to correct their grammer.

    Richard Threlkeld

  4. J.D. Meier says:

    @ Andrew –

    What’s worked well for me is a couple little practices:

    1.  Iteration plan on Mondays with the offshore team.  Figure out the stories to deliver for the week.

    2.  Daily standups with the offshore team.  10 minutes or less – a fast paced meeting for status.  This keeps the team in synch.

    3.  "Show and Tell" on Fridays.  Have the offshore team demo their completed scenarios and/or progress against scenarios.

    Two additional tools help:

    1. "Experience Step Throughs" –

    2. Scenario and Feature Frame –

    The experience step through is effectively a short deck that does a visual storyboard of the scenario.

    @ Richard –

    Good catches!  I’ll pass them along.

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