This is a guest blog post from Bjarki Óskarsson of TM Software makers of the Tempo Plugin.

In today’s fast-­paced business world, many organizations face the challenges of having their teams distributed in different offices around the globe. Effective communication among teams is vital for a business to succeed, but geographical distances often make it difficult to keep everyone on the same page. Connecting distributed teams, regardless of time and place, is possible with the agile solutions made available by the Atlassian ecosystem, including JIRA, JIRA Agile, and Tempo’s Timesheets and Planner add­-ons.

Define your team, workload, and project scope

A basic premise of any team is that they’re working together to achieve a common goal. That’s why effective team management is such an important part of any team’s success. With Tempo’s new teams feature – available in both the Tempo Timesheets and Tempo Planner add­-ons – users can harness the value of JIRA and JIRA Agile in one centralized space, attributing projects and sprints to specific teams, and dividing work among the teams, including stories, tasks, sub­tasks, and other work items. Grouping users together into one or more teams ultimately makes team management more transparent and efficient, helping teams to successfully keep track of projects and releases.

When assigned to a particular team, all members have access to a centralized team space. Current team structure, team commitment (workload), roles, availability, and future members can be clearly identified. Team leads can define the team’s mission, access, detailed reports of the team’s progress, and link to specific projects and agile boards that the team is currently working on.

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Prioritize your Sprints with JIRA Agile

Although prioritizing sprints and release backlogs is an integral part of product development, team collaboration can sometimes be difficult, particularly when team members are sitting in different offices and even in different time zones. With JIRA Agile, team leaders and product owners can organize stories that deliver the most value to their customers at the end of a sprint – accessible by all team members – keeping everyone focused and on the same page. Team and member commitment can be configured to calculate sprint velocity and load. Even more, teams that prefer to work in kanban rather than scrum can do so with JIRA Agile with the same level of success.

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Calculate team capacity for your sprints and releases in real time

Many team leads face the hassle of calculating their team capacity using multiple tools, which makes the process complicated, time consuming, and in some instances, a liability. Spreadsheets, superfluous team meetings, phone calls, and emails to plan ahead can now be a thing of the past.

Harnessing information from JIRA and JIRA Agile, you can validate your team’s capacity and keep everyone in sync for a particular sprint with Tempo’s new Planner add­-on. Once a team is connected with a particular project or agile board, Tempo Planner guides you through the story points and tasks that need to be accomplished for your next release. If your team is over or under planned, circle back to your agile board and add or remove from the backlog to fulfill or relieve your team’s capacity as needed.

Calculating team capacity when people are away from work or in different locales cansometimes be tricky and delay a project’s progress. Tempo Planner’s workload and holiday schemes – available in its upcoming 1.1 release – enable businesses with distributed teams to set up multiple schemes according to each employee’s expected workload, incorporating local holidays and other time off. Team leads can quickly determine who is in the office, view the expected capacity of each team member in real time, and react to any sudden changes to keep the team on track.

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Knowing that plans and organizational priorities can often change, Tempo Planner’s planning timeline enables teams to easily view the tasks that need to be completed, while team leads can fine­tune the scope of a project or sprint or adjust team resources as the project gets underway.

Track how your team is spending its time

Keeping track of how your team is spending its valuable time is an important aspect of team and project management – the things that get measured are the things that get done. When you track time, you get a healthy dose of the unfettered truth. For most of us, time tracking is more about making every hour count than it is about counting every hour. That is, time tracking is not just about awareness: it’s about change. When you realize how you spend your time, it makes clear where your team’s priorities are – or ought to be – and it shows you how you might make that time better match your priorities.

As international enterprise solutions, JIRA and Tempo Timesheets enable users not only to objectively keep track of how time is spent, but to determine how best to manage and inspire team behavior to meet your business goals. With Tempo Timesheets, distributed team members can log their time spent working on JIRA issues and sub­issues, no matter where they are located around the globe. Tempo’s workload and holiday schemes mean that team leads can quickly visualize their team members’ workloads and availability directly from the team timesheet view.

Teams can be comprised of several different workload schemes (hours of work required each day, for the specific days of the week), which makes accounting for independent contractors, part-­time employees, or employees with different weekend schedules easy. And, JIRA and Tempo data can be aggregated using Tempo’s reporting features, or exported to an external system for further team reporting and analysis.

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Chart your team’s progress

Account for team capacity

Keeping an accurate track of team progress means knowing what’s working and what isn’t, and making adaptations before potential problems escalate. Tempo Planner’s Team Capacity Report gives team leads an overview of full team member planned time, and can be broken down by day, week, month, or quarter, allowing you to glance at the imminent tasks at hand or further down the road.

Planned time can be viewed in real­time, enabling users to determine if team members have been over or under ­allocated. If so, plan items can be adjusted for maximum results on the planner timeline with easy drag­-and-­drop features and other direct on-­screen interactions. Future what­if scenarios can be gleaned, and anticipated hires or new team members can be accounted for with longer-term planning options.

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Chart your team’s estimated versus actual progress

Team reporting is possible with JIRA and Tempo Timesheets, which breaks down all estimated and worked on issues time performed by a team for a project during a given timeframe, and can be useful to track activities that fall outside of the project and team’s scope. Reports can be viewed by day, week, month, or a custom period, so team leads can ascertain whether work is going as planned, where shortages exist, and where additional efforts should be focused. Reports are also available for team members, projects, customer accounts, or issues. Team leads and account managers can also get a breakdown of billable hours for their entire team, which can be exported for customer invoicing. These reports help keep teams on schedule, and can also be used for future projections regarding team resources.

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Enhance your team’s sprint retrospective

No matter how fantastic a scrum team is, there is always opportunity to improve. Although a good scrum team will be constantly looking for improvement opportunities, the sprint retrospective is a good time to set aside for the team to deliberately reflect on how the team is doing and to find ways to improve for the next iteration. JIRA Agile’s sprint report provides time tracking data for every sprint, and can be especially useful for agile teams at the retrospective level. Get an overview of all tasks within the sprint that were completed and that have not yet been finished, as well as the estimated versus actual time spent on them. Use the data to help plan your next sprint and get your team up and running.

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About Dan Radigan

Software has been a passion since the days of the floppy disk (you know, the actual 5.25 inch floppy ones). Agile has had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally as I've learned the best experiences are agile, both in code and in life. You'll often find me at the intersection of technology, photography, and motorcycling. Find me on twitter @danradigan.

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