Adapting our workflow

We’ve all been a part of video calls where the distance feels tangible. Even if you’re just across town, it can seem like you and your team are worlds apart, making it tough to contribute in a meaningful way. In addition to the physical distance, virtual meetings can interrupt your workflow and make it difficult to get back into a groove.

However, when it comes to best practices for the modern-day, one ceremony that seems to transcend across all teams is the need for daily planning/status meetings. Often referred to as standups.

In my own experience, teams that conduct daily standups, (even without fully implementing the Agile Methodology) run more efficiently. Now that many of us are working remotely, the reality is that some of us can no longer stand in a circle in the same room as our teammates.

Given that responding to change is at the heart of Agile, we may need to reimagine how to conduct standups effectively.

Recently, the idea of asynchronous standups has been growing in popularity. When we say asynchronous (async for short), we are simply referring to events that don’t happen in a synchronized order. When it comes to async standups, the concept is quite simple: Each team member submits a daily report at an agreed-upon time within their respective timezone. These replies are gathered into an easily digestible report (typically via automation) and distributed for the team to review at their convenience.

What are the Benefits?

Within the Episource engineering team, we have developers in timezones across the globe. Naturally, it can be challenging to find an ideal meeting time for all team members, so maximizing asynchronous communication is important. With this approach, time zone issues become a thing of the past. In addition, asynchronous meetings also improve team engagement by providing automated reports and trackable metrics.

Daily Reports & Trackable Metrics

Through the use of an automated bot, our individual reports are combined into a single document and delivered to a specified slack channel. Storing these responses in a centralized place is beneficial for the entire team and serves as a morale booster.

These daily reports help keep the team up to date and serve as a friendly reminder that you’re not the only one working towards completion of the project. I find daily inspiration in the work my teammates are doing. These reminders become more than just a status update. They are a window into the successes, challenges, failures, and accomplishments of each person on the team.

With reports being delivered to the team daily, it’s easy to track metrics. The increased visibility can help the team more accurately forecast and determine velocity, ultimately enhancing the speed of delivery. These reports also help the team quickly identify unexpected bottlenecks before they become problematic.

All of this leads to more precise and timely communication with stakeholders and customers while leaving a clear paper trail that facilitates open dialogue about the status of blocked items.

Tools & Resources

To be clear: this article is not advocating for the removal of real-time standups via video or in-person (safely). In fact, our team still meets twice a week via video chat, which helps us stay connected and makes our virtual meetings have a sense of intentionality.

For the async portion, we use DailyBot - a Slack bot that prompts us with the questions we’d typically answer in a real-time standup and handles report generation on our behalf.

Below you’ll find several additional resources that may work for your team. However, it’s worth noting that you don’t need any fancy tools to conduct async standups. These status updates can easily be added to a shared document, such as a spreadsheet, email, or a specified channel in your company’s preferred chat app.

The important part isn’t the tooling; it’s finding a simple, repeatable process for your team to communicate easily.

Regardless of how and when you create the report, the brilliance of async standups is the allowance for everyone to respond in a way that fits within their ideal workflow while keeping the rest of the team engaged and informed.

The Episource engineering team is always looking for ways to improve our efficiency, if you have any additional ideas or need help getting started, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re all in this together!

- Geekbot

- Standuply

- DailyBot

- Standup is a planning meeting