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21 Dec 2015

Co-location – where the real magic happens

Scrum team members have to sit together. Everybody knows that, but what if it is impossible? I cannot tell you how many books I have read about how important co-location is, and I could not agree more.

Once upon a time an enthusiastic team has started to work on a project. They felt the power to change the world, their only problem was that they were separated by the evil distance between two cities.

I think it sounds familiar to a bunch of scrum masters these days. What can we do?

Alistair Cockburn says:

osmotic communication: (it means indirect communication in the background, so that team members pick up relevant information as though by osmosis) makes the cost of communications low and the feedback rate high, so that errors are fixed extremely quickly and knowledge is disseminated quickly. Of course we have to strive for the collocation or at least we can find alternative ways to get the team together.

Everyday life has become more and more difficult because of the lack of communication in the team. In our company we found an alternative solution through which we were able to bring the team closer, so we convinced the management to buy a video conference service, which contains 24 hours online mediation between the two offices. Practically,we had a TV in both offices to which the service was connected. So after it had been implemented, real magic happened. We were able to see eachother like never before – like it was an extended office where we could see through a virtual window. If someone had a question just asked it face-to-face and discussed any kind of issue.

While in the beginning of the project retrospectives were all about the misunderstandings and the poor information flow between the two offices, From that moment on, there were no communication problems to complain about. It’s not for free, but there are some solutions in the market which works out of the box and doesn’t require technical skills.


  • face-to-face communication can come true
  • richer communication experience in everyday work
  • faster problem solving processes
  • better collaboration and teamwork
  • less misunderstanding between distributed teams


  • needs added hardware and software
  • not a good solution for sprint reviews, plannings and retrospectives

by Ágnes Bátori

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