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How Silicon Valley startups run standups to keep their devs happy

Today many startups open their doors to the remote workforce., YC company based in San Francisco, is one of them. However, remote culture brings on the table its advantages and challenges.

Stand-up meetings only seem like an easy practice, but many Agile teams face challenges with it, especially when going remote. Some developers even hate standups.

Here's the story from Elizabeth at how they successfully manage a remote team using modern communication tools like Slack and Standuply.

As a distributed team across locations and time zones, we work asynchronously. The goal is to move forward efficiently, both as individuals and as a group.

For daily standups and check-ins, we previously patched together a manual system of video calls and Slack pings and snippets. In the last year, we've turned to Standuply to run our standups and reports.

Standuply is a scrum tool that runs in Slack. With its customized reports and native Slack UI, we easily set up different kind of reports, with better followup. Not only do we sync better, but it also helps us evolve best practices, quickly.


A Slack bot for asynchronous standups

The background: working as a distributed, committed team

Like a lot of startup and product teams, we pull in tactics from agile development, scrum methodology and more. For us, working from anywhere was a key imprint from the start.

So, like a lot of distributed startups, we're on Slack. It lets us ping each other fast, wherever we are. The challenge, of course, is to make sense of all the information flying around in Slack.

Kwin, our colleague and CEO, has written about managing communications heartbeats. He describes two kinds of daily team updates:

  • End of day Slack post
  • Very short daily standup meetings. A group call.

Overall the system worked. The couple issues we bumped into weren't a surprise:

  • Missed EOD;
  • Standup call went on a bit long.

Despite these frustrations, we weren't inclined to tamper with a system that mostly worked.

Standuply for Slack reports

Then Slack bots emerged, with real sophistication. We were contacted by Standuply, about integrating a live instant video call into their product reports. Standuply is a Slack standup bot.

It runs asynchronous standup and retrospective meetings, as well as other ways to track team performance right in Slack, like Slack polls and its new Experts product.

What we found is Standuply improved our standup and scrum protocol. We could keep what worked but stitch it together more cohesively and efficiently.

Standuply “runs” our meetings, from Slack. It's the Slack-bot version of the person who keeps a meeting moving forward. You customize meeting times and windows, and the meeting structure.

How we run our standups and check-ins

Signing up for Standuply is fast and simple. You simply connect your Standuply and Slack accounts. Standuply then guides you in setting up a structure, with a few key tabs — scheduling, respondents & requests, and results delivery.

To start using Standuply, we first focused on our daily scrum reports. Previously, we had the two heartbeats each day: the morning standup call and also an EOD. The EOD was the quick text snippet where we each quickly note what we worked on that day, and what we'd work on the next day.

When we set up Standuply, we took the opportunity to think this through again. Earlier we mentioned some frustration with the morning call. The theory was it provided 2 benefits: first, we synced efficiently. Second, and simply but just as importantly, we saw each other.

In reality, the scheduling of the call presented a challenge. Instead of a quick update, people sometimes used it as a project status call to start the day. It took consistent work to make sure that didn't happen. The morning time also was awkward for support and sales teammates who work with customers on the U.S. east coast or in Europe. Those first morning hours are exactly the time they need to prioritize customers.

As frustrating as all that was, it was also clear we valued getting together as a group. So we needed a process that tapped scrum discipline but also the video call dynamic.

So we flipped our reports:

  • Instead of an EOD, we created a Standuply morning check-in.
  • At the end of day, we set up Standuply to run a second bot, the Classic Standup.
  • Finally, shortly after the standup bot ran, Standuply prompts us to join our daily video call. More below on why that's working much better for us.

Overall, Standuply gives us the flexibility to work as we need and succeed as a group. That's what we really value as a distributed team building neat things together, in a way that works for all of us. It's great we can keep growing, from anywhere.

The wonderful top photo is from Unsplash, Anna Samoylova. Thank you!

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