Team Space - Breaking the Physical Barrier

Some new software development methodologies, like Extreme Programming (XP), have amongst their suggested practices a common room where a team, working in the same project, sits together.Having developers, business analysts, project managers, testers and all other stakeholders sitting together increases communication effectiveness and help in keeping all team members up-to-date when it comes to the project at hand.

Ideally, the entire team and no one else will sit in the same room. A “break-out” area nearby allows them to chat, relax, and build friendship: the ubiquitous water cooler space. A nearby meeting room is also useful for privacy, having discussions without interrupting the team and for whenever people need a quiet moment away from the team room.

Some people may be reluctant to move desks or sit together afraid of feeling exposed and afraid of the impersonality of the open space. They should be encouraged to create their own workspace customizing them as they see fit.

Preferably, desks should be in the centre of the room, and the walls will be used as an informative workspace, where useful information will be displayed to help people structure their time and make good decisions. They can be filled with whiteboard, flip charts, and posters.One way to increase the success of the one room approach is having one or more business representatives present in the room. They need to be subject matter experts and empowered to make decisions regarding requirements and their priorities.

Business representatives’ contribution includes detailed explanation—to the programmers—of the system features, clarification, writing acceptance tests in collaboration with programmers.Project failure research indicates that more business involvement is paramount to a successful project. In the least, it makes it easier to keep everyone in the loop.

The company I work for has bought a new insurance software and team to work on it adopted the one room approach to deal with one of their vital tasks. In order to finalize their requirements documentation fast and as accurate as possible, they spent an entire day working together in the same room, with someone representing the business to whom they could clarify issues pretty quickly just by turning around and asking for help.

According to one of the BAs it was a very productive approach which allowed them to accomplish a lot by being closer to team members who were important in the decision making process as well as increasing the communication effectiveness as everyone could be easily included in the discussions they found had an impact on their specific tasks.