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How internationally distributed Teams can improve their Sprint Review

Part 1: Does distance cancel out efficiency of internationally dispersed Teams?
Part 2: 
Should internationally distributed Teams be avoided?
Part 3:
Scrum Spaces of internationally distributed Teams – the Do’s and Don’ts
Part 4:
The Pros and Cons of Electronic and/or Physical Taskboards
Part 5:
How internationally distributed Teams can improve their Daily Scrum
Part 6: How internationally distributed Teams can improve their Sprint Planning 1
Part 7: How internationally distributed Teams can improve their Sprint Planning 2

Stephanie G.: Having discussed Sprint Planning 2, let us continue with your experiences and advice for the Sprint Review. Would you say that the meeting becomes more complicated the more locations are involved?

Hélène V.: It does indeed get more complicated if the Customers live in different timezones. It would be truly inhumane to ask one of the Customers to get out of bed at 4am in order to participate at the Review. If that‘s the case, I would simply have more than one Review meeting. After all, Reviews are usually culturally pretty different anyway – for example, an Australian thinks differently than an Austrian. If you hold more than one Review, I think it would suffice to have one Dev.Team member and the Product Owner present. Of course, the Dev.Team member should vary.

Christof B.: I don‘t necessarily think that it becomes more complicated the more locations are involved. The thing is, even co-located Teams sometimes have international Customers, so the question of handling international Reviews is of interest to most Scrum Teams. The meeting very much depends on the kind of software that is presented – for example, it is more difficult to show a mobile app than a browser. However, generally one can say that it‘s simply a matter of having the right tool – Webex or TeamViewer are good options. If a telephone connection is unavailable, feedback via chat is also possible.

Bernd K.: I agree – from a technological point of view, the Review is quite easy. My Team members used to present all Stories by using Desktop Sharing and Skype.

Kristina K.: True! You can always send the product increment to the Customer in advance via a preview platform and then watch one of the Users click around via video conference. However, as Christof has already stated, this depends on the type of product. I also think it would be a good idea for the Product Owner and a Dev.Team member to fly to the Customer every now and again. Alternatively, a proxy User can be found in each location – a colleague, for example – who can try out the product increment. I usually vary these options – alternating internal and external Reviews. If the distance allows it, I would also recommend the whole Team coming together for every second Sprint change.

Hélène V.: On top of Kristina’s input, if you decide to hold a Sprint Review for each Customer, I would take the feedback from one Customer to the next. Meaning that I would ask whether the Australian is of the same opinion as the Austrian that i.e. there‘s a button missing in the upper left corner. If the budget allows it, I would even recommend to fly in the Customer directly every now and again.

Deborah W.: We never had any Customers present at our Sprint Reviews. Instead, we did what Kristina’s just mentioned and asked people from other departments to step in for them. It was very pragmatic – we had one person with an iPad who filmed the proxy User while handling the application and clicking around. The webcam also filmed what was shown on the screen, so that all locations could get the idea.

Bernd K.: Deborah, it was similar with my Team. Before I arrived as the new ScrumMaster, the User or Customer had never actually seen the product. It seemed that there was a real culture of criticism in the relationship between the Customer and the company. After three Sprints, we had a large Review to which I invited Managers and Customers. It was strange, because the fear in the air was truly tangible. In the end, only the Management and other interested people turned up. That was really nice, as the Team felt in a safe environment to present their work. If I could do it again, I would first address and work on the feedback culture before inviting the Customer.

Stephanie G.: Ina, what do you think?! Did you have a similar experience?

Ina K.: I find it rather funny that I‘m the only one here who found the Review to be one of the more difficult meetings with internationally distributed Teams. I always had these questions running through my head: How can you get the Customer or User properly involved if they‘re on a different continent?! Does using a person from an internal department suffice as a proxy for them? I love the fact that Scrum provides us with the Sprint Review, as it gives all parties concerned the opportunity to get involved in the making of the product. As a Manager, I can try out product increments that are ready to be delivered – how cool is that?! Even people who are not very technologically talented can participate. The Review enables the Scrum Team to interact with the Customer by way of feedback and arouse his interest in the product. When working with co-located Teams, I really enjoy turning the Review into a marketplace together with other Scrum Teams, where all stakeholders can try out different elements at the same time. I find that to be much more fun than simple presentations with frontal speakers. However, organising a marketplace is more complicated when working with internationally distributed Teams.

Bernd K.: Ina, you‘re not the only one who found it quite difficult. There really are certain aspects that need to be addressed when talking about Reviews and distributed Teams. For example, some of my Team members found it pretty stressful to present without knowing what the audience looks like or how they are reacting. They were also pretty scared of negative feedback. So we made sure that we had webcams pointing at the audience, so that the presenters would become more relaxed. As ScrumMaster, I began introducing a culture of positive feedback and of pushing performance into the foreground. After a while, even the Product Owner praised the Team during the Reviews.

Stephanie G.: Anything else that you would advise to keep an eye out for?!

Ina K.: The preparation is the most important element of the Sprint Review, as it is always better when different Team members from various locations present. This should become part of the routine. At the actual meeting, as a ScrumMaster, you should make sure that everyone is involved – always ask whether there are any more questions concerning a certain feature and make sure that the guests know how important it is for them to be involved.

Bernd K.: Particularly during the Sprint Review, I find it super embarrassing if the technological connection does not start. Keeping Murphy’s Law in mind, I would really recommend arriving even earlier than you normally would for a meeting in order to make sure that everything is up and running before the guests arrive.

Stephanie G.: True, Bernd. I‘m glad you mentioned the topic of preparation, as I can only second the importance of that! So summing up your points, one should consider the following when holding a Sprint Review with a distributed Scrum Team:

  • Make sure that the technological set-up and the Team members are prepared 
  • Make sure that the right tools are available for allowing the Customer to try out the product increments and filming it
  • Vary the Review meeting: 
    • have more than one Review, but share the feedback across Review meetings i.e. different time zones, different Customers
    • PO and 1 varying Dev.Team member fly to the Customer
    • fly in the Customer or
    • ask colleagues or potential End Users at each location to try out the product increment as proxy Customers
  • Work on a positive feedback culture
  • Terry Mardi

    Great article Im part of a sprint team that uses Gemini software its very good and simple to use.
    Check them out on http://www.countersoft,com