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The team wants each developer to let the other developers know what progress they are making on their stories . Ex "Ready for peer Review", "Peer Reviewed","QA passed", "Deployed in Production" etc. The team is 100% remote. These statuses are communicated through email notifications by existing tools like JIRA and service now (a CRM app) as well as reported on orally on daily standups. But the team claims they do not always monitor their email and standup information is delayed so they want to be informed through the teams instant message channel. Personally I find it unnecessary (and bothersome) to provide these updates on chat when we already have tools that communicate this. My argument is simplicity - (maximize what is not done) and efficiency . What do you guys think?

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    Perhaps you can find a way for the existing tools to post to your IM channel...
    – AakashM
    Apr 7 at 8:17
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    Isn't the notion of a self-organizing team that they organize? Why is it necessary to control their information flow? (and why can't they publish the notifications in the channels they see fit?)
    – MCW
    Apr 7 at 17:17
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Your problem isn't instant messaging. Instant messaging in a remote team is a substitute for talking in a local team. Trying to say that all verbal communication should adhere to maximum efficiency and never saying anything unnecessary is... rather silly.

But.

It's equally silly for people to be constantly pinging each other (verbally or otherwise) about the status of tasks.

This is what a Sprint/Kanban board is for.

A Sprint/Kanban board is an information radiator - that is, it's a pull-type informer, not a push-type. When someone wants to know the status, s/he just looks at the board without bothering anyone.

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This question isn't really about "too much instant message communication", but rather effective communication channels. A few things stand out.

I'm not concerned by the fact that the team doesn't always monitor their email. Email shouldn't be used for time-sensitive communications. I think it's reasonable for most developers to check their email two or three times a day. People in leadership or management positions or who communicate with clients more frequently may need to handle their email more frequently

The biggest issue that I see is that one or more members of the team claim that they "do not always monitor" the information presented in the stand-up. This seems to be a pretty big problem to be. The purpose of a stand-up (or Scrum's Daily Scrum) is to allow the team to coordinate and plan their day. If there are people not paying attention, I'd suggest digging deeper into how the team is using this time.

If your team thinks that they need more visible and real-time updates to the status of work, then it seems like it may make sense to look at integrating your issue tracker, source code repository, wiki software, and other tools with your instant messaging platform. Teams that I work with have also integrated team calendars, the build server, and APM software with the instant messaging platform. There are different ways to do this that could work for the team, but the request seems reasonable. This integration is also much better than having each developer take the time to post updates on the instant messaging platform.

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Instant message communication is a 'must' for a remote team

Here is a chart showing the 'Richness of Communication Channel' prepared by Dr. Alistair Cockburn: The Richness of Communication Channel The curve at the top shows communications that are interactive. Face-to-face communication at the whiteboard is the most effective. The curve below shows one-way communications. This chart is old. We should add video conference above phone calls. And text chat above email.

Here is one of the Principles behind the Agile Manifesto:

The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

However, remote teams were already becoming necessary with offshore development. With the pandemic, WFH has become the default development practice. So, we have to do all we can to make communication more effective.

I have been a Scrum Master for several remote teams for nearly a decade. I strongly recommend adding instant message communication.

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    I don't think the question was: should a team use instant messaging (to which you answer in the affirmative, and I agree), the question was: could it ever be too much. I'm a fervent Slack user, but the channels where teams get bulky updates about every status change and every code review comment and every deployment (successful and failed ones) are really just too busy for me. Apr 7 at 4:54
  • The team wants instant messaging and the OP is saying 'Personally I find it unnecessary (and bothersome) to provide these updates on chat' because there is already email. So, this question isn't really about 'too much instant message communication', though it is posed that way. Apr 7 at 5:03
  • Let's see if the original author can comment, but to me, it reads like the question isn't about human conversation (via instant messaging), but specifically about the automated notifications from JIRA and ServiceNow. I really like the content in your answer, though. Apr 7 at 7:53
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Effectiveness of communication and volume of communication are not the same thing. It is possible to be swamped by too much communication, especially if it is of the wrong type. It is also possible to be distracted by too much communication, leading to breaks in concentration and consequent time wasted by re-doing work or correcting the errors that may creep in. Effective communication is therefore using the correct medium at an appropriate volume.

Given that the necessary information is available on Jira and / or Service Now, why don't they take a look at these systems when they want information? A drip feed of information from multiple people whenever they change the status of a task seems to me to be the wrong type of communication at the wrong time, and doesn't really give a big picture of how the work is progressing overall.

However, if your team can justify why they want the communication in the way that they have asked for it, then that's fine: you should try to support them. If they just want to know about everyone else's progress out of interest, but they don't expect to act upon the information in any way as a result of receiving it, why are they asking for it? I would be concerned that they are using the provision of the information as a way of breaking the monotony or boredom of working remotely, and suggest that there are better ways to achieve this.

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This seems ideally suited to an experiment:

  • Determine what value you are trying to get out of communicating as a team
  • Find a way to quantify and measure it
  • Run an experiment for a number of sprints
  • Review if the new approach had the desired impact
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I certainly also find "chatter" to be massively counter-productive.

(Full disclosure: I have never used Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And, there has not been a television set in my house for more than thirty years.)

Team members should always feel that they can get in contact with another member of the team when it is necessary to do so, but in my experience "[chit-]chat" is probably not going to be the most-effective means. Jira and other such "project tote-boards," in my experience, provide a much more usable trail of bread-crumbs.

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