Trust in agile teams: Overcoming the obstacles of distributed software development

Gitte Tjørnehøj, Mette Fransgård, Signe Skalkam

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Abstract. Distributed software development (DSD) is becoming everyday practice in the software field. Difficult challenges and difficulty reaching the expected benefits are well documented. The key challenges are communication, coordination and control issues due to temporal, geographical and socio-cultural distance. Many solutions have been suggested, ranging form arranging outsourcing to avoid the need for close distributed collaboration, to minimizing the distances and to alleviating the effects of the distances. Recently agile software development methods are reported as successful solutions to many of the problems of DSD. However important incompatibilities between the challenges of DSD and the key tenets of agility exist and achieving a beneficially balanced agile practice in DSD can be difficult. Trust could be the key to this, since trust is crucial for the necessary corporate behavior that leads to team success. This article reports from a study of two agile DSD teams with very different organization and collaboration patterns. It addresses the role of trust and distrust in DSD by analyzing how the team members’ trust developed and erode through the lifetime of the two collaborations and how management actions influenced this. We see two important lessons from the analysis. First the agile practices of daily Scrum and self organizing team can empower DSD teams to manage their own development of trust and thereby alleviate the obstacles of DSD. Second if management fails to support the development of trust then it is difficult if not impossible to develop a balanced agile DSD practice.
Original languageDanish
Title of host publicationIRIS
PublisherTAPIR Akademisk Forlag
Publication date2012
ISBN (Print)978-82-3210090-3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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