Standups Frees Scrum From the Tyranny of Time and Space

Thursday, June 27, 2019
Michael Zunenshine
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The battle for scrum is on!

Purists of the agile work management framework insist that all hands be on deck, same time, same place, all ears a-perked, and mouths a-ready for roll call. 

But new workplace dynamics call for some out-of-the-timezone/space-box solutions, especially when team members are strewn about the globe.

Standups is part of the vanguard taking on the rigid scrum orthodoxy in the name of distributed workforces. Through the platform, members can view and record their updates in real time, have access to all past recordings for later viewing, as well as be able to pre-record an update before a set ‘standup’ meeting. 

The Standups system

Asynchronous tech

The core of Standups’ platform revolves around their trademarked non-real-time video and voice technology. While this lets team members post their updates out of sync with one another, it, of course, does not prevent the feeling of simultaneous viewing for those who can show up on time.  

The dashboard

All your teams are listed on the left panel of the dashboard. Adding new people to the platform is done with just an email and a few clicks.

The main dash shows the date of your next stand-up right up top, with your previous meetings descending from the most recent onward. Each stand-up on the list is displayed as a gallery with your profile on the left and every other member of the team scrolling off to the right.

Each member’s profile card on a stand-up shows their pic, their availability status, time zone difference, comments, and the duration of their recording during that stand-up. You can also expand a profile to the right panel of the dash to get their contact info and other added information.

Recording updates

A designated ‘scrum master’ will determine how long each recording can be—Standups allows anywhere between 2 and 5 minutes. This keeps them short and sweet—as stand-up reports ought to be, while also keeping the platform from being overloaded with stored video files.

When you record you see the countdown timer from however long the max duration is set to. You can choose to disable the video and add a note. It’s also possible to record your update in advance of a stand-up meeting in case you know you won’t be available.

Viewing

When viewing, you can see all comments and reactions. You also see the number of times the recording has been viewed, and by whom, although management (or the scrum master) can disable this for regular team members.

Setting up a meeting

When you plug in the day and time of a virtual stand-up, you can also choose to repeat it every set number of days, weeks or months. You can also select specific days for the repetitions to land on.

All that video

Your recordings are stored forever, and there’s no max to how much storage you can have. Standups also offers mobile apps (Android and iOS), so that users can chime in from anywhere. 

As for the tech end, all the encoding happens locally on the user’s device. This means there’s practically zero delay to access the video once it’s been recorded. 

Finally, on the user end, the videos can be viewed as a Snapchat-esque story UI, which helps track progress in a more linear fashion. 

Origins and alternatives

The idea for Standups formed when the current CEO, JP Pincheira, worked for a firm in Germany while living in Brazil. He recounts having to “get up at 5 AM just to make it for the 10 AM standup back in Hamburg. This didn't feel right. Other team members were going through the same.”

There are other platforms on the market providing virtual solutions for the traditional stand-up meeting. Like Standuply whose idea is to replace audio/video updates with a polling system that will aggregate the results and then feed them to management.

But this is more of an alternative to scrum and not a solution to one of scrum’s shortcomings—distributed teams. For Pincheira, “it is important to see your teammates often” because seeing and hearing one another “does help a lot to make distributed/remote teams more cohesive and engaged.”

And ultimately, more productive.

 

Against the scrum naysayers

Some critics of scrum argue that the constant need to repeat over and over what’s going on in identical settings can actually suck energy out of a workforce. 

This argument counters the origin of scrum, which was not to add extra repetitive tasks to one’s day but to improve productivity efficiently. W. Edwards Deming, one of scrum’s early advocates, would claim that creating a more efficient team-work system was always superior to slashing costs when going after big market shares.

Besides, why would any firm implement a new system if it wasn’t to boost business?

Sure, not every company needs to have daily stand-up meetings. When things are going smoothly they can be less frequent, while in times of crisis, daily scrums might be the way to go. 

The Standups platform makes it easy for management and scrum masters to update and notify their teams about unplanned scrums during “war-room” situations.

The point is, daily stand-up meetings must not devolve into a lazy theater of sound bites. It is the freedom from rigid times and places afforded by Standups’ platform that can avoid this drag on spontaneity, while continually fostering better communicative cohesion.

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