It’s generally accepted that co-location and face-to-face communication are a good thing but it’s proved almost impossible to quantify in financial terms.
The Case for Co-location
The agile manifesto states:
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Almost everyone I meet sees the sense in these statements. And almost every organisation I have worked with violates them.
The Financial Benefits
Proving the financial benefits of outsourcing is relatively simple:
- We can quantify the cost of outsourcing
- We can quantify the cost of buying skills versus investing in people
But proving the financial benefit of collocation has proved difficult. As a result, we have not been able to make any meaningful financial comparison.
But now, we can. Following a study published in 2003, there is a formula we can use to compare the efficiency of distributed work with co-located work:
Distributed work = co-located work * 2.5
Yes. You read that right. Work items take 2.5 times longer to complete if the work is done by distributed teams versus that same work being done by co-located teams.
In June 2003, James D Herbsleb (Carnegie Mellon University) and Dr. Audris Mockus published the article “An Empirical Study of Speed and Communication in Globally Distributed Software Development” in IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering.
In this publication, a key finding was that ‘distributed work items appear to take about 2.5 times as long to complete as similar items where all the work is colocated’.
So, in a world where time to market is vital, we should consider that distributed teams can take 2.5 times longer to complete their work AND may cost more as well.
The Turbo Scrum Course
This is just one technique of over 30 that I cover in my Turbo Scrum course. This course is designed for anyone involved in software development that wants to get more productivity from their software endeavours.