It is a long held principle of Agile development that face to face communication is the gold standard for interactions. I have been thinking a lot about this while following the debate on telecommuting following Yahoo’s elimination of working from home.
The truth is that the Nexus forces of Mobile and Social have changed the way that we communicate in a fundamental way. Like many recent parents of teenagers, I have witnessed conversations via text message even when my boys are in the same room as their friends. My nephew picked someone that he knew from online gaming to be his roommate at college. We are all accustomed to keeping up with our friends lives with Facebook.
Does this shift in how we communicate change the requirement for co-located agile teams? While I am not yet willing to give up on the co-located team as the gold standard for agile development, It does appear that the cost of separating a team across distance is dropping. Recent moves by Agile ALM vendors to add social capabilities to their offerings reflects this desire to harness social media to support agile teams.
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Personally I don’t think there is a substitute for face-to-face collaboration on an Agile software team. Can team members effectively work remote? Of course the right type of team member can! Is there a place for flex hours and WFH on some days? Yes! The real question is would they be EVEN MORE effective if they are co-located in an agile town / neighborhood? Once I get past the emotions of this question the answer has always came back as “Yes”, if even reluctantly. I value connectivity, but I value connections more.