Colocation is dead

Colocation is dead

Colocation in an agile context means all team members are in the same office.

Current agile is built on the assumption of colocation and this shows up right in the 12 principles: The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

Scrum explicitly assumes colocation and the most frequent activity is a face-to-face standup. Kanban practictioners sometimes choose a daily meet also.

Colocation, in absolute form, was lost quite some time ago. Even if you are a completely co-located team the next hire might be remote, someone chooses to work from home or the next project require collaboration with another time zone.

Why can’t we just replace face-to-face with virtual?

Calling meetings by default has to go away and be replaced with smart software that notifies the right people at the right times. Meetings should be held more strategically with asynchronous groundwork ahead of time.

There are a multitude of reasons for this:

  • Virtual is not as good as face to face
  • Scheduling across time zones is difficult
  • Technology has overtaken some interactions - for instance reporting status face to face no longer makes sense
  • Decisions requiring in depth thinking cannot be done real time
  • Face to face meetings tend to not record anything
  • Maturity of the software industry - online research and open source are consulted before asking team members

Written communication should be preferred for meetings scheduled as part of process with structure around that communication to keep the signal to noise ratio high.

Fortunately, agile is also built on the principle of introspection and adaptation.

Ben Follis
Ben Follis Co-Founder of Uclusion