Olly Brand – Working Remotely in a Global Team – Live Blog

Olly Brand is a technology consultant who works (remotely) for IBM. He specialises in the design, building and running of Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing. He coaches remote working and Agile practices and has been featured in the Times, Guardian and Financial Times. You can catch up with Olly on Twitter.


After starting with IBM 15 years ago, Olly moved to Cornwall to become a consultant. This meant he was commuting 40000 miles a year. He recommends reading Tim Ferris’s 4 hour work week (as do I). In 2010 he was lucky enough to negotiate a remote working arrangements.

This was not without its fears.

IMG_20150904_151830The pros out weighed the cons.

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Living close to ones parents is a challenge. To stop himself going mad he got a dog. I’m sure the walks helped to clear his head after a long day. He found he was much more able to put himself in strange situates to work (Mother in laws), but this comes with a tradeoff in that you need to provide your own equipment.

Remote working lessons learnt:

  • Remote working is a skill.
  • Get organised to help manage burnout and to stay productive.
  • Establish a routine, it helps you and your co-workers.
  • Flexibility is key, it’s one of the many benefits.
  • Somethings are easier fave to face. Use that time wisely an value it.
  • Doing your day job is treading water.
  • Backup your work, and have a backup plan when all fails. What happens when the internet fails?
  • Tools are your friend (Skype, Trello, Evernote).

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The team is essential to a multi billion dollar business. The IBM team are distributed across the planet. When this world wide working pattern was introduced the team became slow, cohesion between members dropped leading to a high churn rate. So solve this they adopted Agile.

Goals became the driving force behind the team.

IMG_20150904_153414Each product had:

  • a Product owner
  • Lead developer
  • Support team member
  • Stream Leader.

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This is not waterfall. Promise!

The team found that 9.30 am was the best time for the daily Scrum, with two week sprints starting on a Wednesday. This allowed the work cycle to fit around the lifestyle and time zones of various workers around the world.

Social media, instant messaging and wikis are great for sharing knowledge throughout the distributed team. Post it notes should be digitally replaced, they are core to the Agile process. The team adopted a Kaizen attitude.

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Remote working and Agile are both value proposition.

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