Tips for agile and devops teams in a hybrid work model

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Many leaders are hoping that the worst of COVID-19 is behind us, and leaders are now considering their return-to-work policies, flexible working practices, and ongoing adoption of collaborating technologies. Will leaders support hybrid work, or will they require employees to return to the office full time?

According to one recent survey, 73% of employees seek hybrid-work environments where they have some flexibility in where and when they work. Another survey suggests that 39% of employees will consider quitting if organisational leaders force them back to the office full time. In a recent internal survey at Apple, 90% of respondents said they “strongly agree” with the statement “location-flexible working options are a very important issue to me.”

I collaborate with many CIOs working with their executive teams to successfully transition to hybrid models. Wayne Sadin, a board and CIO advisor, says, “The hybrid organisation succeeds or fails based on its ability to make all three categories of people (office, remote, and hybrid) feel valued.” Martin Davis, CIO and managing partner at Dunelm Associates, agrees, “Critical to hybrid working will be finding ways to treat everyone equally.”

I also spoke with Bob Davis, chief marketing officer at Plutora, about how tech and business leaders collaborate with a hybrid-work model. He states, “The ability to maintain high-quality, efficient software delivery that delights customers and provides value to the business may have hit a speed bump when companies moved to a remote work style. But they were able to forge ahead as long as they had complete portfolio and pipeline visibility, smooth handoffs between teams, governance and compliance, and a system that facilitates collaboration, even in a distributed world.”

Success won’t just come from top-down policies and practices, and it will require leaders across the organisation to implement new ways of collaborating with their direct reports, multidisciplinary agile teams, and cross-organisational workflows.

Here are some of my recommendations for hybrid work at technology organisations that focus on agile methodologies, devops practices, and site reliability engineering.

Treat hybrid work as a longer-term transformation

In April 2020 I shared seven best practices for remote teams that remain relevant to hybrid work. I suggested teams improve collaboration by adjusting agile ceremonies and increasing the level of documentation. For remote devops teams, I recommend a greater focus on risk remediation through shift-left testing and security practices. For distributed software development teams, I advise formalising agile planning practices to develop road maps and deliver on customer expectations.

Although there are some commonalities between hybrid work and remote work with distributed teams, there are also several stark differences. For one thing, advocates of hybrid work hope to make it a sustainable way of operating that improves work-life balance, whereas remote work was a forced response to an emergency.

In that light, hybrid work should be considered an evolving, transformational process. Teams should hold regular discussions on areas of improvement and standardise behaviors and practices.

Here are my recommendations for agile development teams and devops organisations using a hybrid-work model.

Standardise and evolve communication protocols

Start by considering the intersection of business goals, workspaces, technologies, and work policies when considering how people collaborate in meetings. Aligning cultural norms and practices with hybrid work enables more productive collaborations between in-office and remote people. Some communication protocols worth considering:

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