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Handling distributed development sites

Remote
Product Team

13 February, 2019

Jan reviews some strategies for functioning with distributed sites.

Problem

Especially in growing and larger companies the beauty of having development, product management and business in one place is simply not possible. Be it the lack of resources, an international growth path or simply cost reduction plans, you have to cope with distribution.

Actions taken

I would like to quickly explain several concepts:

**Extended work bench:**

A typical scenario a good of decade ago, where only the pure development capabilities (Dev, QA, DevOps, Agile) are located in one place. Most likely meetings takes place via video conferencing between the team and the project / product responsible. Ticketing systems such as JIRA remain the core of the alignment phase. This model will primarily work if the core of the development is known and little to none innovation is part of the backlog. Innovation center: A trendy pattern, especially in the recent 5 years. Usually major companies build a small cross functional (10-50 people) team, at best in one of the worldwide start-up centres (e.g. San Francisco, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, etc.). Those teams have a lot of freedom to experiment with new concepts outside of the corporate politics. However, the going to market speed is expected to be very high, so the people have to appreciate a start-up culture. Local branch: Especially after M&A activities, those distributed sites remain center of excellence for a particular asset and /or functionality, which was previously developed by the formerly acquired company. The benefit is clearly that expertise is already in place and business operations are considered to continue smooth.

Lessons learned

There are sure way more, but based on my experience these are quite typical scenarios in the development domain. Regardless of which model some might prefer, there is one golden rule for all: Proximity eats strategy for breakfast! Alignment processes are not a necessary evil but rather vital to the entire success. Distribution often leads to local agendas and only a transparent and fair treatment between the site and the headquarter will mitigate a divergence of the company's strategy. Every business function which is missing on the site should make sure that there is at least one weekly sync. A physical presence is mandatory at least once per quarter.


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