Scrum Meetings: To Scrum or Not To Scrum with Your Freelance Developer

Published Oct 12, 2017
Scrum Meetings: To Scrum or Not To Scrum with Your Freelance Developer

You’re working on a big project with your in-house team and freelance developer when you realize that you might not meet your next deadline because your team is caught in a long feedback loop.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you might want to consider inviting your freelance developer to your daily scrums.

Whether it’s because their time zones don’t match, there’s a lack of interest on either or both sides, or there’s just no perceived need for it, freelance developers aren’t usually involved in their clients’ scrum meetings.

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However, that doesn’t have to be the case.

We’re going to walk you through the pros and cons of daily scrums — with some of CodementorX’s experienced freelance developers chiming in — and make the case that because a freelance developer is part of the dev team, he or she should be included in the team’s daily scrum.

What Is a Daily Scrum?

Scrum has been making projects happen since 2001. It’s an Agile framework that revolves around sprints. Several famous companies use Scrum to meet their project goals, including Google, Logitech, Bose, Adobe, and Mckinsey and Co.

Project goals are broken up into sprints, which last a week or two depending on the company. Sprints bring the team closer to achieving a specific goal. The teams have a scrum master that acts as a coach during the daily scrums — 15 minute scrum meetings held every day, at the same time and place — to make sure the team stays on track to meet their sprint goals.

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The scrum master doesn’t need to be a developer though — you can take on the role of scrum master even if you’re not a developer, as long as you understand and follow Scrum principles and are willing to share power and let the team lead.

The scrum master’s role in the daily scrum isn’t to direct the team, but to facilitate the meeting, where team members share what they did yesterday, what they plan to do today, and any problems they’ve encountered that may hinder their progress.

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Pros and Cons of Daily Scrums with Your Freelance Developer

In this section, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of inviting your freelance developer to join in your daily scrums. Although we believe that the pros outweigh the cons, we think it’s worth presenting both so you can make an informed decision.

Pros

Efficient communication — Inviting your freelance developer to join your daily scrum means less communication lag. By participating in the meetings, he or she knows what is going on without having to wait for sprint/project updates from a team member. Conversely, your team doesn’t have to wait to be updated on his or her progress either, which makes the sprint more efficient overall.

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Momcilo Popov said that for him, as long as the client understood Scrum methodology well, daily scrums “helps improve project organizations on both sides.” Another CodementorX developer, Lance Pioch, agrees that participating in scrum meetings is helpful, because “it’s allowed me more direct and better communication with my clients...and when done correctly, it can be a great asset for many clients.”

Closer integration and troubleshooting — If your freelance developer joins your daily scrum, you’ll all know if there are delays or technical difficulties cropping up on the project. By knowing early on if there are issues that could cause problems down the road for your sprint goals (and being updated daily), your team can help the freelance developer (or vice versa), nip technical issues in the bud.

Michael Perrenoud feels that “the biggest goal of a scrum is to find impediments that the Scrum Master or Product Owner can then get resolved ASAP” and “is a form of accountability as well, because the developer has to provide an update daily in front of everybody. It’s a good way for the Product Owner to get a view into how things are progressing if they are invited.”

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Keeps the project on track — When everyone is on the same page regarding changes to the sprint or project roadmap, your entire team (freelance dev included) can better keep tabs on your progress. Because each sprint is so short, it’s extra important that everyone knows where everybody else stands so the project remains on track.

Lance likes participating in scrums with clients, saying, “I like being able to communicate with the client on a regular basis and let them know of the current progress and what priorities and if they’ve changed or something else has happened.”

Cons

Out of Sync — One major aspect of the daily scrum is that it takes place at the same time and place, daily. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that your freelancers’ schedule may not sync neatly with yours, either because of time zone differences or because of their own prior commitments.

For Artem Golovin, who has been freelancing for eight years, scheduling is one of the biggest downsides of scrumming, because “morning is not morning everywhere in the world, for some it would be too early, for others — too late.”

Not Interested — Keep in mind also that not every freelancer would be interested in daily scrums with your team, be it for personal, professional, or time related reasons, and that’s why they chose to freelance in the first place.

Artem felt that because “developers are not kids, [there’s] no need to sit with them every morning and hear stuff no-one is interested in. Let them do the actual job instead.”

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Pay to Play — Finally, if you want your freelance developer to join your daily scrum, be prepared to receive a bill for it. While you do reap excellent benefits from his or her participation in your daily scrums, remember that you’re still financially compensating the freelancer for his or her time spent during the meeting — time they could have been coding, which can add up over the course of the project

Artem agrees with this point, saying, “Imagine, if you have six developers and daily scrums take 10 minutes, every morning. So 10 minutes x 6 developers’ time x 5 days = congratulations, you’ve just wasted five hours of ‘common’ time, imagine how much stuff could have been done.”

Check out the Tips for Daily Scrums section to learn how to circumvent these issues.

Additional Points to Consider

If you decide to have your freelance developer join in your daily scrums, keep in mind that there may be internal or sensitive information revealed. While the daily scrum is only meant to discuss technical information, and very briefly, there is a risk that more information than you intended could be revealed. This situation, however, could be mitigated if you have your developer sign a non-disclosure agreement.

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Consider the type of project you’re working on with your freelance developer. If their work is heavily integrated with the work the rest of the team is doing, i.e., if their work requires working in tandem with one or two in-house devs, it would be more efficient to have your freelance developer join in the daily scrums.

How useful scrum meetings were depended on what type of freelance project being worked on, according to Momcilo, who noted, "All in all, I had only good experiences when working on a large project architecture and find it sometimes too robust for medium-sized and small projects."

Kian Khosh, noted that daily scrum meetings were useful “only if there are multiple people working on the project," and Humayun Shabbir felt that daily scrums were “very good for long-term projects that last for six months or more” because “under the right communication it can make things more efficient over time. The worthwhileness of Daily Sprints also depends on team size and then the length of the project. Effective communication is key.”

Tips for Daily Scrum Meetings With Your Freelance Developer

While these tips are still applicable for in-house scrum meetings, they’ve been tweaked for teams working with freelance developers. In addition, we’ve asked some of our own top-vetted developers for their own advice.

Short and Sweet — Keep the meetings short and focused, which they should be anyway. Your freelancers’ time may be more limited, and you’d rather be paying them to code instead of simply sitting there listening if the meeting becomes inefficient.

Lucas Bertoni seconds this, noting that clients can make scrums worthwhile by keeping it “simple and constructive," while Michael Urvan felt that daily scrums are “efficient if they are limited to a few minutes.” Kiah Khoush echoes this sentiment as well, saying,“The most important thing is to keep it short (10 mins max) and only discuss: ‘What did you work on?’ and ‘What are you going to work on today?’ In that capacity, it can be very useful for everyone to ‘catch up’ with each other.”

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Tick Tock — Make sure to set time limits per person and adhere to them. Setting time limits keeps the meetings short. Also, let the freelance developer talk early in the meeting, either first or second. Having the freelance developer go first means that he or she has more freedom to leave earlier if the meeting starts becoming long.

Kian Khoush points out that when time limits aren’t respected, “daily stand up meetings sometimes turn into full-blown meetings and it becomes a regular meeting. These kinds of meetings easily become a waste of time.”

Are You Available? — Try to plan meetings around a time convenient for both your in-house team members and the freelance developer, but prioritize the freelance developer’s schedule. Your team members have more opportunities to interact at the office, but your freelancer developer’s time may be less flexible.

In fact, for Michael Urvan, in some cases, “an every-other-day schedule (rather than a daily scrum) might be better,” but, “as long as it is in the correct Scrum format, it is worthwhile and helps make a freelancer feel like part of the team.”

Conclusion

While it may be more difficult to set up a time that makes everyone happy, at least initially, including your freelance developer in your daily scrums is beneficial enough to be worth the effort.

From the developer’s point of view, across the board, when it comes to scrum meetings, the key for their usefulness is that the meetings are kept efficient, short, and goal oriented, and Scrum methodology is well understood by the client and the client’s dev team.

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While on the surface it may seem like a waste of time and money to pay your freelance developer to attend your scrums, in the long run, you’ll save valuable time not waiting for updates or encountering technical issues that were unforeseen because of a delay in communication time.

In addition, it’ll be easier for your product owner to more accurately estimate your project’s delivery time and the chances of your sprint’s success. When it comes to your company’s success, it’s better to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish — that’s why we think it’s best to invite your freelance developers to join your daily scrums.

Have you scrummed with your freelancers? What are your thoughts on scrum meetings? Let us know what you think in the comments section!

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