5 Team Building Exercises for Agile Developers

team building exercisesTeam building gets a bad rap. While employers are open to implementing team building exercises into the workplace, they are often met with resistance. Employees sometimes see team building exercises as a waste of time that they can’t afford and won’t enjoy. This is especially true of team building exercises that occur over a weekend when employees are enjoying time off.

Team building exercises are meant to be productive, fun, and meaningful. Going into team building with a negative attitude negates a lot of the exercise’s benefits. This is a shame, considering the plethora of benefits team building exercises have including:

  • Improved communication
  • Develop team roles
  • Better interpersonal relationships
  • Maximize profitability
  • Inter-team networking
  • Improved morale
  • Help improve skills
  • Shared learning
  • Encourage mission focus

If you manage a remote agile development team, these benefits are probably sounding very appealing. So what is a project manager to do when they want to improve cohesion in their agile development team? Team building exercises, of course. Employees do not have to be in the same office or even away on a weekend together to practice these exercise.

The activities outlined below can involve developers who work both on-site and remotely. All it takes is video chat capabilities and a block of time where you can all meet. These team building exercises are proven to help strengthen communication skills and team productivity! Considering they are all free and can be done in-office with remote workers, they are worth giving a shot.

5 Team Building Exercise to Try with Agile Developers

 1. Two Truths and a Lie

Each person participating writes down their name, two things about them that are true, and one thing that is false. All three things should be relatively believable. As each person reads their two truths and a lie, the rest of the team has to figure out which facts are real, and what is the lie.

2. Find the Common Thread

Developers are split into groups and must figure out a commonality that runs through each member. The first group to find the common thread wins.

3. Show and Tell

This one is pretty much the same as the old school time activity. Each team member gets a day to bring something in that allows the rest to get to know them a little better. This can be a live demonstration, or it also works through the written word.

4. Blind Drawing

Split the group into small teams or pairs. Have one person blindfolded and the other team must instruct what the blindfolded member must draw, but they can only use abstract descriptions… nothing concrete. This is a great communication exercise perfect for long distance developers.

5. What’s on Your Desk

Have each member bring an item from their desk and instruct them to transform it into a new product for the company. Have each member give a two minute presentation “selling” the product to the rest of the group.

As stated earlier, these team building exercises will help build trust, strengthen bonds, and enhance communication skills. They also work to get creativity flowing among team members and could result in new processes, projects, or products! Have you ever participated in, or run, a team building exercise that you found beneficial? We’d love to hear about it!

At Number 8, we promote team growth and development with both our on site workers and nearshore developers. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page here!

Explaining the Agile Process and the Transition to an Agile Scrum Environment

agile scrumMaking the move from waterfall to an agile scrum development environment can be a big move, but for many software teams, it’s definitely worth the transition. When you work in an environment that utilizes the scrum methodology, it’s likely this organization values open communication, collaboration and efficiency.

While we’ve already explored the basics of agile scrum in previous blog posts, we haven’t delved into the actual format of agile scrum meetings. Depending on team preferences and styles, these meetings typically take on different forms and timelines, but they all include certain characteristics of the scrum methodology.

First let’s meet the “typical” agile scrum team. These are the actual people involved and engaged throughout this process. It all begins with the “Product Owner” and his or her vision for the project. Next we have the “Scrum Development Team.” This group of cross-functional members works together in a self-organizing, collective atmosphere. The “Scrum Master” is more of the team manager, providing an important type of leadershipo inside the group. The job of the Scrum Master revolves around facilitating and resolving any issues experienced throughout the entire product development process.

The Agile Process and Different Types of Agile Scrum Meetings

Now that we’ve provided a basic understanding of the team and scrum qualities, it is time to move on to the actual agile scrum process. Agile software development is often described as an incremental development process. This process becomes more of a cycle in terms of movement. If there is an issue or a setback, the process might move backward to resolve such issues. This cyclical process allows the project to easily continue forward as well. This is where the agility of this method becomes vital. But for more of a visual, the scrum process begins with the sprint planning meeting and proceeds from there. Here is an overview of the different types of scrum meetings:

Sprint Planning Meeting:

This meeting begins with the Product Owner. This is where he or she explains her vision for the project as well as ways for the team to meet this goal. During this meeting, team members decide the amount of work they can complete in a timely manner. This is also when the team moves work from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog. This step requires a lot of planning and usually this takes around 8 hours for the group to decide on a finalized 30-day Sprint.

Daily Scrum and Sprint Execution:

From the planning meeting, we move into the daily scrum meetings. Every single day for about 30 minutes, the team gathers together to report any issues or progress on their tasks. Though brief, this meeting is an essential part of the scrum process. It is designed to keep all group members on track in a cohesive manner. Normally the Product Owner is present during all daily scrum meetings to assist in any way.

Sprint Review Meeting:

This meeting is used to showcase a live demonstration of the work completed. During the sprint review meeting the Product Owner, Scrum Master and stakeholders are present. They review the product and suggest changes or improvements.

Sprint Retrospective Meeting:

This meeting is held to facilitate a team’s reflection on their progress. The team speaks openly about their organizational concerns and teamwork. During this meeting, dialogue should remain friendly, non-judgmental and impartial. This review session is a key part of team building and development and it’s also very important for future scrum projects.

Backlog Refinement Meeting:

The last type of scrum meeting reviewed in this article is the backlog refinement meeting. Team members focus on the quality and skill work involved during sprints. This meeting is necessary for the business owners to connect with the development team and is used to assess the quality and development of the final product. This meeting involves important reflection on the team backlogs. These backlogs are often written in User Story form and specify what makes the product useful to the consumer.

Scrum meetings involve so much more than the brief descriptions provided above. There are many additional pieces to the scrum process including things like burndown charts and scaling, but the point of this post is to provide an overview of different kinds of scrum meetings. Regardless of the type, all scrum meetings encourage organization, progress and resolutions. With this incremental and cyclical software development process, all members have the ability to communicate openly and honestly. With the process of scrum and the sprint timeline, projects are more efficiently completed with the help of a capable and cooperative team and Product Owner led by a skillful Scrum Master.

Whether you are already using an agile approach to software development, or are considering transitioning towards a more agile methodology, the senior level agile developers at Number8 can help you make the shift. For additional details about working with a Number8 software developer, give us a call or contact us via email.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Offshore Software Developers

offshore software developersExpanding your dev team to include offshore software developers?

Don’t make these common mistakes.

There are so many advantages to outsourcing your software development to offshore software developers. Managers are able to find highly qualified professionals to fill in the gaps where they need while keeping development costs down. Project managers are then allowed to focus on their core competence rather than spending unnecessary time going over development details.

When hiring offshore software developers, many companies make the same mistakes. These errors contribute to both loss of time as well as money. Figuring out these common mistakes ahead of time can help you, as a project manager, to avoid these losses and keep your work on track.

Have a Clear Project Vision

When talking with offshore software developers, you need to have your project goals lined up and thoroughly explained so the prospective hires can demonstrate their competencies when it comes to completing their tasks. Let them know–as best you are allowed– the project’s intricacies you plan on accomplishing as well as the end goal. Make sure they understand both aspects and feel comfortable asking questions up front so you can avoid any troubles.

Problems with Communication

Communication is crucial when it comes to offshore developers– many a project has fallen through because of lack of communication. Pay attention to potential developers’ respond time, communications channels, and how well they receive and execute directions. Hiring developers that are initially patchy with communication will only cause you bigger problems down the road.

Mismatched Cultures

When it comes to hiring offshore, there is always the problem of discrepancies between your culture and that of your developers’. Communication is so much much than simply knowing the same language. There are idioms, gestures, customs, and behavior norms that can get in the way. One way to help prevent this is by hiring nearshore developers. Nearshore developers are located in countries close to your own; for instance, a project manager in the United States may hire nearshore developers in San Jose, Costa Rica. The cultures share more similarities and there are fewer chances for discrepancy.

Recently, we wrote a blog that outlined the various types of outsourcing. We went into quite a bit of detail as to why we, at Number8, choose to outsource nearshore software developers instead of onshore or offshore. However, that is not the best practice for every company. For companies that do opt to hire offshore developers instead of onshore or nearshore, it should help to avoid the common mistakes outlined above.

At Number8, we help companies connect with the best offshore software developers in countries like Costa Rica and Honduras. We believe hiring nearshore developers helps prevent a lot of the common problems managers come by when building their offshore development team. f you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page here!

Benefits of Hiring Offshore Software Developers in Central America

Offshore Software DevelopersWhen some people hear the term “outsourcing,” they get a negative association. For a while, the word became synonymous with the removal of jobs or even entire businesses from the area. However in today’s software development market, that’s pretty far from the truth.

The reality is there is a huge job gap in the technology sector. By 2019, $500 billion of potential salaries will be lost as there are 1 million more computing jobs than students. So how does a growing business fill that gap?

Central America for Offshore Software Developers

Rather than taking jobs away, outsourcing is about establishing relationships in order to meet entity’s needs in the technological sector. In the United States, business leaders recruit offshore workers to contribute necessary man hours for crucial projects. In places like Central America, the increase in software developer positions available helps boost economies by providing jobs.

One of the benefits to hiring offshore software developers in Central America is the development of state-of-the-art IT and business hubs in cities like San José, Costa Rica. Countries like Costa Rica have favorable business policies as well as political stability that make it attractive for large enterprises.

Other Benefits of Central American Offshore Software Developers

Another reason American companies are turning to Central America for offshore software developers is the similarities between the countries’ cultures. Like the United States, Central America countries promote a culture of innovation. They embrace modern methodologies like agile software development that encourage people to play towards their strengths and harness problem-solving creativity.

Furthermore, the education system in Central American countries teach students English in the American dialect, which makes it easy for teams to communicate. Hiring offshore software developers from Central America also solves the time zone problem companies face when they hire offshore developers in Asia. Costa Rica, for example, is only 2 hours ahead of San Francisco.

At Number8, we tap into the abundance of technological talent in Central America to help fill the job gap in the tech sector. We help U.S. companies connect with offshore software developers that can help with processes and execution of projects. If you are interested in learning more about our offshore software developers or if you think you are qualified to join our team, then give us a call at (502) 890-7665 today!

Transitioning to Agile Software Development

Agile Software Development

Business leaders are not usually concerned with the inner workings of their company’s software development– but should they be? According to the methodology of agile software development, there should be more interaction between managers and programmers.  When implemented correctly, agile development principles allow developers to stay flexible in order to build a quality project. The management side gets involved to qualify changes in deadline and anything else needed to enter the market.

Agile Software Development: Developmental Duties

When shifting towards agile software development, one major change is the amount of day-to-day duties the development team has. For one, they have to begin incorporating more QA measures in order to test developing software’s performance. It’s a dramatic shift for workers, but over time the agile software develop method will save them time with development processes.

Developers will learn to quit relying on manual testing, else they risk falling back to the previous waterfall processes. This allows them to catch bugs early on, so they can fix the software as they go. The more developed software is, the more confusing it is retracing your steps in order to find the bug.

Agile Software Development: Management Duties

The best thing a manager can do for their team when attempting to transfer to agile software development is to emphasize the importance of changing the way the team thinks as a whole. Hanging on to the old ways of developing will slow down the transition and make it more difficult to incorporate the new ways into day-to-day operations.

Managers should communicate regularly with team members. This ends up being a time intensive practice, but it’s a cornerstone of agile methodology. A main tenant for the method is people over processes. Communication is especially important because with agile, developers don’t have a defined role. Instead, they are given a certain amount of flexibility, as far as roles go. This can be pretty confusing for a manager, but it allows them to assess each team member’s strength to create more efficient processes in the future.

At Number8, we help companies transition to agile software development so they too can experience the improved processes. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page here!