Saturday, October 24, 2015

Martin Fowler's Great Blog Post On Remote Versus Co-Located Work

I really enjoyed this blog post by Martin Fowler titled:  Remote Versus Co-Located Work.

Martin is a great speaker, writer and thought leader in the field of software.

He brings out many great points such as these three snippets below: 

"Another factor is that there are so many other factors that make a team work well. If someone is saying they are more effective on a single-site team, that may be because other factors are in play compared to different teams. One way to reduce this problem is to pay special attention to teams that have changed their distribution pattern, such as splitting from single-site to multi-site. Other factors still intrude, particularly since changes in team distribution often mean people will leave or join a team, but I think this yields stronger evidence than comparing totally different teams.

Given this, all I (or anyone) can do is listen to lots of people and make the best judgement I can. I've heard a lot of experiences about teams and locations, including quite a few where teams have changed their distribution pattern (although I haven't heard very much to or from remote-first). The weight of anecdotes leads me to conclude that most teams are more productive when in a single-site model.

The reason for this is the ease of communication. While tools like (video) chat, screen sharing, and the like have done much to make remote work easier, there is still nothing as effective as being able to turn around, see the person you want to talk to, and just be able to speak. Co-location also introduces a huge amount of out-of-band conversations which improves personal relationships. The result is a virtuous cycle of improved relationships and communication. Since communication is such a central part of software development, this is a big impact on productivity."

When people ask me, "why did Sun go belly up?" One of my answers is, "hoteling or work from home killed Sun Microsystems." I would say this because hoteling absolutely killed any sense of teamwork or comradery.  This was especially tough when a company is going through layoffs as Sun was at the time.

My feeling on this has been that teams need to be be physically together, but individuals can work from home for stretches at a time when it is more heads-down isolated work.