Some tips on running distributed agile projects

I started using Twitter – no, this is not another post about Twitter – to investigate if it could help me innovate. And guess what, it kind of helps. Since I started writing tweets around the agile SAP SOA project I’m coaching, people started showing interest, and asking questions. Last week I received to following email:

Hi Sander,
I have been following you work during the last days, and mainly the SCRUM SAP stuff, and the work done is really great.
I am planning to start SCRUM and apply in the company. I will lead a group of 5-7 people but I have a limitation, my developers will be in Argentina, me and 1 domain expert are in Costa Rica, Another one in UK and in future 1 more in Asia.
In the company we have lot of tools for sharing and control so I might try to mitigate those limitations, but time zones might impact and I am concerned.
i have read many discussion talking about Agile is not for remote locations but also people saying it doesn’t apply always. I know daily scrums / stand up. We will lack of face-to-face, but I hope to take advantage of webcams and many other tools.
Hope you can provide input about this situation and provide some tips on how to start and apply.
I really want to make difference and remove the old-style waterfall from managers and peers minds.

So I answered back. Some remarks first:

  • You have an extremely distributed project! This makes work very difficult, not only in waterfall style projects, but in agile projects to.
  • Be sure that tools will help, but they will not totally solve the problem of distributed communication. Face-to-face as you might except always beats distribution.


  • We have similar experiences as you find in the literature. Especially, in applying short iterations face-2-face is always important.
  • Still, an agile approach is always preferable over waterfall.

Some tips:

  • Create agile awareness. Make sure the whole team is very well aware of the fact that they are in an agile project, meaning being open, share work and responsibilities.
  • Organize joint kick-off. A one or two day joint kick off is preferable. Show how and why agile works, what is expected in everybody’s roles, and establish the scope for the project. After the kick-off, people will know each other, and communicate easier afterwards.
  • Apply standardized and small unit of work. Apply a highly standardized type of functional work item. This will save valuable discussion. (User) stories do not apply, they allow for far too much discussion and do not allow for reuse or repeatable estimates.
    We use smart use cases in a lot of our projects (also in agile SAP (SOA) projects), which we have standardized on a lot of aspects, such as estimation, testing, code generation.
    For more information please check
  • Apply online dashboard. In our distributed projects, we love to apply an online agile dashboard. Never forget to use the simplest tool that still does the work. ThoughtWorks’ Mingle will do, but is fairly complex but is not for free. However, there are free-of-charge alternatives. You might even use our Agile Dashboard, which is not perfect, but free-of-charge.
    See and

Dashboard Burndown