Using Scrum in Global Software Development: A Systematic Literature Review
CSE, The University of New South
Wales and National ICT Australia
Muhammad Ali Babar
University of Limerick
CSE,The University of New South
There is a growing interest in applying agile practices
in Global Software Development (GSD) projects. The literature
on using Scrum, one of the most popular agile approaches, in
distributed development projects has steadily been growing.
However, there has not been any effort to systematically select,
review, and synthesize the literature on this topic. We have
conducted a systematic literature review of the primary studies
that report using Scrum practices in GSD projects. Our search
strategy identified 366 papers, of which 20 were identified as
primary papers relevant to our research. We extracted data from
these papers to identify various challenges of using Scrum in
GSD. Current strategies to deal with the identified challenges
have also been extracted. This paper presents the review’s
findings that are expected to help researchers and practitioners
to understand the challenges involved in using Scrum for GSD
projects and the strategies available to deal with them.
Keywords- Global software development, agile approaches,
Scrum, systematic literature reviews
The trend in the recent software development industry is
to move towards Global Software Development (GSD).
This is driven by a number of factors such as improved
network infrastructure, move towards component-based
architecture and increased time-to-market pressure.
Despite its popularity, the question of “which agile practices
are effective for GSD under which circumstances?” has not
been closely researched yet .
Agile Software Development (ASD) paradigm has
gained significant attention due to its flexible approach to
managing the requirement volatility and emphasis on
extensive collaboration between customers and developers
. Recently, we have observed that an increased number of
GSD project managers are seriously considering introducing
agile practices . Given the increased interest in applying
agile practices in GSD projects, it appears worthwhile for
the practitioners and researchers to investigate the relevant
experiences reported in the literature to learn how agile
practices can be effectively used in GSD projects. Due to
the fact that agile practices are based on the philosophy of
close, frequent and collocated collaborations, the
geographical distance in GSD alone can present a challenge.
Through a number of reports by GSD practitioners in the
literature, we have found that, despite the obvious
difficulties, there are some instances of success of using
agile practices with distributed teams [S1-S5]. But other
researchers  still argue that the fundamental question on
whether agile practices can be used in a distributed setting is
still open to debate.
As the interest in using agile approaches in GSD projects
is growing; so is the research literature on various
mechanisms, challenges and strategies of deploying agile
practices for GSD projects. However, there has not been any
significant effort to systematically identify, synthesize, and
report the literature on using agile in GSD projects. To
address this research gap, this systematic literature review
seeks to identify, synthesize, and present the findings
reported about using Scrum practices in GSD to date. In this
review, we only investigate agile practices that pertain to
software project management. We chose “Scrum” as it has a
focus on day to day project management and is the most
widely adopted agile project management method. Recently,
an increasing number of GSD project managers are also
seriously considering the use of Scrum practices in their
development environment .
The next section gives an overview of Scrum method and
discusses the motivation of this research. Section 3 describes
the research methods used. The results of this study are
presented in Section IV. Section V discusses the findings to
draw some conclusions. The limitations of the study are
mentioned in Section VI. Section VII closes the paper with a
brief discussion of the researchable issues on this topic.
In this section, we first introduce the Scrum method,
place the Scrum in the context of GSD and more concretely
justify the need for this review.
Scrum is an iterative and incremental project
management approach that provides a simple “inspect and
adapt” framework. In Scrum, software is delivered in
increments called “Sprints” (usually 2-4 weeks iterations)
. Each sprint starts with planning and ends with a review.
A sprint planning by a Scrum team is a time-boxed meeting,
which could last up to 4 hours. It is dedicated to developing
2009 Fourth IEEE International Conference on Global Software Engineering
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2009 Fourth IEEE International Conference on Global Software Engineering
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detailed plans for the sprint. The Stakeholders of a project
attend sprint review meetings to review the state of the
business, the market and technology. These meetings could
also last up to 4 hours. A retrospective meeting may be
scheduled to assess the teamwork in the completed sprints. A
daily Scrum meeting by a Scrum team is a 15-minute long
and each team member addresses three questions: what did I
do yesterday, what will I do today and what impediments are
in my way? Scrum produces three artefacts, namely: product
backlogs, sprint backlogs and burn-down charts. Backlogs
contain customer requirements and daily burn down charts
show the cumulative work remaining.
B. Scrum in Global Software Development
Agile approaches are usually considered effective for the
projects with high uncertainty . Paasivaara et al [S1]
reported that distributed software development projects with
volatile requirements and uncertain implementation
technologies can use various agile practices for effectively
organizing and managing projects. Scrum has been already
found an effective approach to managing projects with
many small, collocated development teams . Sutherland
and Schwaber  argue that Scrum can also be used for
large and distributed teams. Indeed, from the papers
reviewed in this review, we have found some distributed
projects in which Scrum has been successfully used.
C. Objective of this Review
Scrum teams are self organized, are facilitated by rich
communication and a collaborative environment and are
usually considered effective for co-located projects with a
small team size . Thus, it is apparently difficult to apply
Scrum practices in GSD projects because of the physical
separation of the development team members . There can
be other GSD project contextual factors (e.g., number of
distributed sites, collaboration modes, i.e., inter
organizational or intra organizational, number of teams,
project personnel or team size, socio-cultural distance and
so on) that may also impact on Scrum team collaboration
processes. A recent survey about agile practice adoption rate
, reported that agile practices can be successfully used by
significantly distributed team members. Another survey
concludes that among the various agile practices, project
management practices such as Scrum practices have a
higher adoption rate . Thus, we can argue that Scrum, as
an agile method, is becoming increasingly popular and may
also be used for globally distributed teams. But the actual
process of using Scrum’s collaborative practices instead of
project stakeholder’s distribution is not clearly understood
. For this reason we have decided to explore, investigate
and explain various challenging factors that restrict the use
of Scrum practices due to the global project. Current
strategies to reduce these challenging factors are also be
This research has been carried out by following
Kitchenham and Charters  guidelines for conducting
Systematic Literature Review (SLR) or Systematic Review
(SR), which involves several activities such as the
development of review protocol, the identification and
selection of primary studies, the data extraction and
synthesis, and reporting the results. We followed all these
steps for the reported study as described in the following
sections of this paper.
The broad objective of this study is to answer the
following research question.
RQ. What is currently known about the use of the Scrum
practices in GSD projects?
More specifically, this study focuses on the following two
RQ1. What challenging or risk factors restrict the use of
Scrum practices in globally distributed projects?
RQ2. What strategies or practices are being commonly used
to deal with these challenging factors to support the use of
Scrum practices in globally distributed projects?
A. Data Sources and Search Strategies
We only searched for papers that are written in English
and available online. The search strategy included electronic
databases and manual searches of conference proceedings.
The following electronic databases were used.
• IEEEXplore (www.ieeexplore.ieee.org/Xplore/)
• ACM Digital library (www.portal.acm.org/dl.cfm)
• Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com.au/)
• Compendex EI (www.engineeringvillage2.org/)
• Wiley InterSciene (www.interscience.wiley.com/)
• Elsevier Science Direct (www.sceincedirect.com/)
• AIS eLibrary (www.aisel.aisnet.org/)
• SpringerLink (www.springerlink.com/)
We also searched the following conference proceedings
for papers on the use of the Scrum practice(s) in GSD
• Agile Processes in Software Engineering and Extreme
• Agile Conference
The types of papers ranged from industry experience
reports, theoretical, empirical and experimental academic
papers. Figure 1 shows the review process and the number
of papers identified at each stage. In stage 1, we searched
the databases using the search terms listed in Table I.
Category 1 has more keywords and shows many variations
of the same term “Global Software Development”. All these
search items were combined by using the Boolean “AND”
operator, which entails that an article that focuses on both
Agile and Global Software Development, will be retrieved.
That is, we searched every possible combination of one item
from Category Type 1 AND Category Type 2. The search
excluded articles that address editorials, prefaces, article,
reviews, discussion comments, news, summaries of
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tutorials, workshops, panels and poster sessions. This search
strategy resulted in a total of 583 “hits’ that included 366
TABLE I. S
SED IN THIS
B. Managing Studies and Inclusion Decisions
Our study followed the citation management procedure
reported by Dyba and Dingsoyr . We used EndNote for
storing relevant citations from stage 1 (n=366). The
citations were then imported into a spreadsheet where we
recorded the sources of each citation and subsequent
inclusion / exclusion decision. We maintained separate
Endnote library and spreadsheet for each stage. In the
second stage, two of the authors sat together and went
through the titles of all the 366 studies that resulted from
stage 1, to determine their relevance to the systematic
review. At this stage, articles with titles that indicated
clearly that the articles were outside the scope of the SLR
boundary were excluded and identified 123 relevant studies.
However, a paper’s title may not always represent the
content of the paper. During the next stage, we divided 123
abstracts among three researchers in such a way so that each
abstract was reviewed by two researchers independently.
We found 109 abstract agreements among 123 assessments.
All the disagreements were resolved by three researcher’s
discussions. At the end of stage 3, we were left with 77
papers for stage 4 of the selection process.
C. Final Selection
We used the following screening criteria to ensure the
papers address our research topic.
1. Does a paper address the use of any Scrum practices in
2. Does a paper discuss any real life experience of using
Scrum practices in distributed projects?
As there is a lack of existing empirical research, we also
consider “lesson learned” report based on expert opinion
that address the use of Scrum practice in GSD projects. For
additional quality assessment, we included following two
criteria related to the quality of each paper’s description.
3. Does the objective of the paper is clearly mentioned?
4. Does the paper discuss GSD project contextual factors
The adequacy of project contextual factors discussion
was measured based on the GSE background information as
shown in Appendix B. These 4 points provided a measure of
the extent to which we are confident that a selected paper
could make a valuable contribution to understand the
current use of Scrum practices in distributed setting. Each of
the 4 criteria was graded on a dichotomous (“yes” or “no”)
Figure 1. The selection process of primary papers.
We selected 21 papers out of the 77 articles by carrying
out the quality assessment based on these four screening
criteria. We accepted a paper that has satisfied 4 criteria and
graded as all “yes”. For example, we excluded a number of
papers that discussed some other agile methods and
practices (e.g. XP, pair programming). Among the 21
papers, we found that one journal paper [S1] was an
extended version of previously published conference paper
[S1a]. We also found that two papers [S3] and [S3a]
published in two different conferences were based on the
same empirical study. In both cases, we included the
comprehensive recently published papers as mentioned in
appendix A. In addition, one researcher went through the
reference list of every selected paper of this final stage. This
helped us to identify any relevant paper that was not
extracted by our search strategy. In this process, we
identified one journal paper [S8] that was not retrieved
through our search of electronic databases but was cited by
some of the selected papers [S1, S4]. The abstract was
reviewed by two researchers independently and agreed that
the paper [S8] appeared to be within the scope of the
research. Finally we selected 20 papers (excluding two
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repeated papers S1a and S3a and including one journal
paper S8 from initially selected 21 papers) for data
extraction and synthesis phases. We have enlisted the
selected primary studies in Appendix A.
D. Data Extraction and Synthesis
From the final selected studies, we extracted data using a
pre-defined data extraction form as shown in Appendix B.
The detail description of the data extraction form can be
obtained in the technical report . During data extraction,
we found it quite difficult to extract relevant and meaningful
information that can answer the research questions. This is
because the primary studies included in this SLR are mainly
based on industry based experience reports and most of
them are not described in a commonly used research paper
structure. As usually a standard research report discusses
research problem, related research work, research method,
data analysis technique and conclusion adequately . For
this reason, two researchers performed data extraction
independently. Extracted data from each researcher were
compared and disagreements were discussed and resolved
by consensus in meetings. For further disagreement, we
consulted with a third independent researcher who has
extensive experience in SLR. We used a qualitative data
analysis tool (NVivo) to store textual data that are able to
address our research questions.
We synthesized the data by identifying themes emanating
from the findings reported in each of the paper reviewed in
this study. In the following section, we present frequencies
of the number of times each theme is identified in different
studies. The respective frequencies reflect the number of
times a particular challenge has been mentioned in different
A. Overview of Studies
Table II shows that the number of papers on the issue of
using Scrum practices in GSD context are increasing over
the last few years. It can be argued that the publication trend
may be an indicator of practitioners and researchers’
growing interest in using and reporting Scrum practices for
TABLE II. S
Year 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
papers 1 1 1 3 4 9 1
% 5% 5% 5% 15% 20% 45% 5%
Table III shows that only 4 studies (20%) included in this
SLR are empirical studies and all of them are industrial case
studies. Rest of the 16 studies (80%) are classified as
“lesson learned” or industrial experience reports. Hence, we
conclude that there is a little empirical evidence based
reported on the use of Scrum practices in GSD context.
TABLE III. T
Study Focus Number
Empirical Study 4 20% [S1-4]
16 80% [S5-20]
Table IV presents project frequencies that are
categorized according to few distributed project contextual
factors. We have found that most of the studies report the
use of Scrum practices in GSD projects from intra-
organizational, multi-national companies. Our findings also
reveal that a limited number of distributed sites are involved
while Scrum practices are used in distributed sites.
However, some researchers claim that a distributed project
with multiple teams can also use Scrum in their
development . Scrum can also be used in a distributed
project with large number of project personnel or team size.
In this case a number of Scrum teams are involved within
the project. Some of the distributed projects can also use
Scrum by minimizing the challenge of no overlap time
between distributed sites. We have also found that a wide
range of project domains ranging from simple web
application to mission critical projects have been undertaken
using Scrum in distributed development environment.
TABLE IV. P
B. Findings about Research Questions
This section discusses how the data extracted from the
reviewed studied address our research questions. By
investigating the two research questions, we aim to provide a
synthesized overview of the literature on using Scrum
practices in different distributed projects.
1) RQ1-Challenges of Using Scrum Due to Project
We have identified sixteen papers that can help us to
answer the research question 1 (RQ1), “What are the
challenges of using Scrum practices in distributed
Our analysis of the extracted data has revealed that the
temporal, geographical and socio-cultural distance of GSD
projects impact on using various Scrum practices in
distributed settings. We have found that communication
related issues are the major challenges when using Scrum in
distributed settings. Cultural differences among distributed
team members may also impact on team collaboration and
communication processes. Managing a large team can also
be considered as one of the key challenges. A lack of
dedicated meeting room for each site and Scrum team
distribution at multiple sites also appear to be challenging
factors that restrict the team communication and
collaboration processes. Table V summarizes our findings
about the key challenges of using the Scrum practices in
GSD projects. Usually sprint planning or retrospective
sessions can last up to four hours or sometimes even more
. Thus, it is very difficult to conduct such a long meeting
if the distributed teams experience significant time zone
differences. For this reason, lack of synchronous
communication is considered as one of the most vital
challenges for using Scrum in GSD context.
TABLE V. C
Challenging factors Paper references Frequency
Tool support [S4, S10-11,S15-
Large Team [S2,S5,S7,S10,S16] 5
Office Space [S15-17] 2
Multiple sites [S9] 1
A distributed project usually involves people with
cultural and linguistic diversity, which may discourage
offshore team members from voicing their opinions or
views fully and completely [S1]. This situation usually
results in miscommunication, misunderstandings or
confusion among team members. This SLR has found that
some Scrum teams could not conduct effective retrospective
meetings due to the socio-cultural distance involved in the
distributed project [S1, S7]. Communication networks can
also be slow and unreliable with poor transmission quality
hampering communication standards when using various
communication tools (e.g. video conferencing) [S15-16,
S19]. Providing better communication bandwidth and right
tool in a distributed project that use distributed Scrum
meeting practices is vital [S17].
Lack of effective collaborative tools, global task boards,
suitable bug and issue trackers, globally accessible backlog
tool are also reported to be challenging factors [S10-11,
S15]. Managing a project with a team of large number of
members distributed at multiple sites is considered a
challenging undertaking [S2, S5, S7]. The need of a
dedicated meeting room with necessary infrastructure and
tool support is also considered necessary in a number of
reviewed studies [S15-17]. Using Scrum in a team that is
distributed in more than two sites with different time zone
differences is also observed quite difficult [S9].
2) RQ2- Used Strategiesto deal with these challenging
Our SLR has found that Scrum teams use various
practices or strategies to reduce these challenging factors to
support the use of Scrum practices in globally distributed
projects. This review has identified and categorized these
practices as follows.
Synchronous communication: Our SLR found that Scrum
teams used some strategies to provide synchronous
communication when distributed team has no overlap time.
From the reviewed papers, we found ten projects had
distributed sites without any overlapping working hours.
Thus we can argue that Scrum can be used within a
distributed project that has even no overlap time between
distributed sites. To address the lack of synchronous
communication following practices were widely used.
Synchronized work hours: This practice is widely used by
Scrum teams to ensure synchronous communication among
distributed sites can be arranged. This is done by adjusting
working hours, working from home, working long hours
and so on [S1-2, S6, S9, S13-14, S16-17, S19-20]. Some
Scrum teams used strategies to avoid the need of increased
overlap time. For example, a Scrum team used strict time-
boxed meeting (e.g. two hours planning meeting) to avoid
late night meeting at some sites [S6]. To make the meetings
short and effective, team members post their three daily
Scrum questions or develop backlog (feature list) before
attending the distributed meetings [S8, S10, S12, S15].
Local Scrum team: Due to the lack of overlap time, Scrum
teams are formed locally and each site conducts their own
scrum [S6-9, S10-11, S18]. The meeting practice Scrum of
Scrums is attended by a key touch point member for each
team to ensure inter-team communication. To form such a
Scrum team, the local team should be autonomous and
should also allocate independent architectural subsystems
with well defined interfaces to each team to reduce inter site
communication [S6- 9, S13]. To establish multiple
communication lines, Scrum team allows additional
distributed meetings along with Scrum master meeting
attended by technical lead or design architect of each local
Scrum team [S9].
Modified practices: In some cases, Scrum team modifies or
extends Scrum practices to address the communication
challenges. For example, Berczuk reports that having a local
“mini-scrum” in the morning after a distributed scrum
meeting can be very effective to reinforce the value of the
Scrum within a local team [S17]. Scrum teams also use
strict communication policy (e.g. E-mail reply within 12
hours) to avoid delay due to the temporal distance of a
distributed team [S9]. Instead of whole team presence in the
late night (or early morning) Scrum meetings, only key
members of the team attend the meetings with distributed
teams [S5, S7, S13]. Moreover, the distributed daily Scrum
meetings are usually cut down to twice-a-week meetings
[S16]. We also found other modified practices such as
asynchronous retrospective meetings (e.g., posting
comments and results on Wikis, emailing the minutes of
local Scrum meeting to the onshore team), conducting sprint
demo by onshore team only (later onshore team briefs
offshore team) [S1-3, S9, S13, S16].
Team Collaboration: Our SLR revealed that socio-cultural
distance in GSD projects substantially impacts team
collaboration processes and may cause ineffective Scrum
meeting practices (e.g. daily Scrum meeting). GSD project
managers use a number of practices that facilitate better
team collaboration while using Scrum practices.
Team Gathering: To increase a project’s domain knowledge
and reduce the cultural distance, a Scrum team gathers and
performs few initial sprints at one site before distributed
development starts [S13, S15-19]. The members of a
distributed Scrum team are also gathered quarterly or
annually for few days [S1, S6, S10, S18]. During this
gathering, a Scrum team can perform scrum planning,
review meeting, retrospectives, sprint and various
socializing activities, which can help to reduce cultural
Visit: To reduce the cultural distance and increase project
vision, a Scrum team adopts the practice of exchange visits
for example Product owners regularly visit offshore team
throughout the development. [S15-16, S19]. Cultural
exchange is also performed by maintaining planned rotation
among offshore and onshore teams and cross-location visits
[S14-15]. Practices like product owners organizing quarterly
product roadmap meetings were also proven effective for
helping team’s members to fully understand a project’s
Unofficial distributed meetings: For increased team
collaboration, along with formal meetings, distributed
Scrum team members may also use frequent informal
meetings for clarifying various issues [S1]. These unofficial
meetings may involve leadership meetings, testing, and
architectural meetings, distributed team lead meetings, peer
meetings, and socializing meetings (for example, virtual
party or games) or even “coffee talks” for the collocated
team members [S14].
Training: Our SLR also found that Scrum teams use some
practices that can be categorized as “training”. Practices
for example “initial Scrum training,” “technical Scrum” to
clarify new technology issues, reinforce the value of Scrum
and improve team collaboration while using Scrum practices
in GSD projects [S9, S16].
Key documentation: Maintaining valuable documentation
may also improve GSD team collaboration processes while
using Scrum practices [S7, S9, S16, S19]. For example,
supplementing user stories with Use Case diagrams in
globally accessible backlogs helps reduce
misunderstandings and improves team collaboration
processes [S16]. Scrum teams use a number of tools, for
example, issue tracker (e.g. Jira), enterprise wikis (e.g.
Confluence), and project management tool (e.g. Scrum
works) to maintain better documentation and project
transparency [S9, S16].
Mandatory participation: To reduce “offshore silence”
challenge, Scrum team can assign each site a thirty-minute
mandatory demo presentation during retrospective sessions
[S18]. The participation in these sessions helps make an
empowered distributed team [S16]. To reduce cultural
impediments, offshore teams are also encouraged to provide
useful information during daily Scrum meetings [S1].
Gradual team distribution: Scrum teams may move from a
collocated project to a distributed project gradually through
several stages (i.e., evaluation, inception, transition and
steady state) [S13]. The gradual transition helps deal with
the challenges caused by cultural distances and also helps to
increase project domain knowledge. Our SLR reveals that in
one specific Scrum project, during initial three stages of
gradual team distribution (i.e. evaluation, inception and
transition phase) only a representative of an offshore team
participated with onshore team in Scrum meeting practices.
However, in steady state stage, all the Scrum team members
located in onshore and offshore teams participated in the
distributed Scrum meetings [S13]. In another project, one
onshore Scrum master facilitated offshore Scrum meetings
for few initial sprints and came back to onshore when the
offshore team became familiar with Scrum practices [S15].
Communication bandwidth: To provide a rich
communication environment and also to avoid slow,
unreliable, and poor transmission, Scrum teams use the
practice “multiple communication modes”. The practice
ensures that a Scrum team with distributed project
stakeholders is supported with various options of
communication tools such as phone, web camera,
teleconference, video conference, web conference, net
meeting, email, shared mailing list, Instant Message (IM),
Short Message Service (SMS), and Internet Relay chat
(IRC) [S1]. Hence, Scrum team can choose appropriate tool
from a wide range of communication tools suitable to the
communication bandwidth. For example, if a Scrum team
found videoconferencing is not supported by the existing
communication bandwidth, they may choose a
teleconference in their distributed meeting sessions.
Tool Support: GSD projects that consider using Scrum
need a wide range of tool support. Tools may include
communication, collaborative, project management, issue
tracking, bug tracking, globally accessible backlog, and
burn down chart etc. We found the practice “proactive
resource management” helps ensure that a Scrum team has
the necessary tools and skills to support their Scrum
practices in distributed settings. Our SLR revealed that
along with communication tools, Scrum teams also use a
number of collaborative tools including Wikis, Blogs, social
book marking, expertise finders, whiteboards, electronic
work space, desktop and application sharing, photo charts,
knowledge bases, experience databases, lesson learned
repositories, while using Scrum practices [S1-20]. An
enterprise wiki (e.g. Confluence) has been found to be very
effective while using Scrum practices [S20]. Distributed
team members can communicate and publish the results of
various Scrum meetings minutes in wiki [S20]. To increase
project transparency and visibility and to support the Scrum
practice “Backlog”, our SLR has also revealed that
distributed Scrum teams use a number of tools including
globally accessible project management tools (e.g. “Rally”),
issue tracker, bug tracker (e.g. “Jira”), backlog management
tools (e.g. “Scrum works”), and tools for supporting the
Scrum artifacts “Burn down charts” [S1- 4, S7, S10, S17,
Team management: we have also found that a commonly
used strategy for managing a large distributed team that
considered using Scrum is to split into small manageable
sub-teams [S1-2, S5]. Thus, a large GSD project may
contain a number of Scrum teams (or sub teams) and some
of the Scrum teams may also be geographically distributed
[S1]. Scrum teams use a number of strategies to form sub
teams. An autonomous sub team can be built and allocated
based on features, functions and so on that ensure each sub
team is allocated independent architectural subsystems with
well defined interfaces [S6-8, S9, S13]. For example, highly
volatile features need frequent interaction with business
users and such features can be developed with a sub-team
close to the customer [S3, S13]. In some cases, a sub-team
has its own product owner and Scrum master and conducts
their own Scrum [S1, S3, S5].
We also observed that GSD projects used following
Scrum team models suitable to their development
environments while considering Scrum .
Isolated Scrum team: GSD project teams are geographically
isolated; in most cases offshore teams are not cross-
functional and may not use Scrum processes. There is less
empirical evidence of using this type of team model while
Distributed Scrum of Scrums team: In this team model,
Scrum teams (or sub-teams) are formed based on local site
and each team perform their site based own independent
Scrum. The meeting practice, Scrum of Scrums that is
attended by the key touch points (e.g. Scrum master) from
each site based sub-team ensures effective inter-team
communication [S1]. If the number of sub-teams increases,
in some cases, a nested Scrum of Scrums meeting practice
(e.g. Scrum of Scrum of Scrums) ensures effective sub-team
Fully Integrated Scrum team: In this team model, Scrum
teams are cross-functional with team members distributed
across geographical locations. This type of Scrum team
should consider the risks due to geographical, temporal and
socio-cultural distances. In this model, all team members
should attend and participate in every Scrum meeting
practice. We found in some cases, a GSD project that has
several fully integrated Scrum teams follows the practice
“centrally located management team” in which
management persons of each Scrum team are located in a
central site (e.g. onshore) [S1-2]. In this case frequent
meetings among a centrally located product owner team, a
team of Scrum masters, and architects from the sub-teams
ensures effective multiple sub-team communication and
Office space: Our SLR has revealed that to support a better
communication and collaborative work and meeting
environment, Scrum teams use following practices:
Single room: This practice ensures each Scrum team is
allocated to a single room so that they can communicate
with each other [S1, S9, S11]. In this case if a person
switches teams, he or she is also relocated to the new team’s
room [S1]. If the Scrum team is divided into multiple sub-
teams, then all co-located sub-teams are able to work in a
single room should be ensured [S1].
Dedicated meeting room: This practice also ensures each
site has a separate meeting room with all necessary network
connectivity and tools while attending a distributed meeting
[S1, S3]. To make Scrum meetings visible to everyone, each
site can use a video projector [S15]. In some cases, a virtual
conference room can also be used as a dedicated meeting
room for Scrum meetings sessions [S5].
Multi sites: It has been reported that Scrum teams usually
use the following strategies while using Scrum practices in
GSD projects with multi sites development.
Local Scrum team: GSD project managers build
autonomous site-based local Scrum teams and allocate tasks
with independent architectural subsystems and well defined
interfaces to each local team [S6-8, S9, S13]. The practice
Scrum of Scrums attended by a key touch point (e.g. Scrum
master) of each site provides inter-team coordination [S14].
Restricted team distribution: In this practice, a fully
integrated Scrum team is restricted within a limited number
of sites distributions. For example, one of the studies
reported on a project that was distributed over multiple sites
but each Scrum team was distributed between two sites only
In this section, we review various findings of our
Systematic Literature Review (SLR) and draw following
Conclusion 1. There is a growing interest and literature
demands more empirical study to understand the use of
Scrum practices in globally distributed projects.
It is still an open debate whether or not the Scrum
practices can successfully be used in distributed settings
[. However, the increasing number of publications on this
topic, as shown in table 1, appears to be an indication that
there is an increasing interest in using Scrum practices in
GSD projects. We have found that most of the papers and
all the empirical studies have been published after 2007.
Among the reviewed twenty studies, all of the four
empirical studies and few experience reports have reported
some degree of success in using Scrum practices in GSD.
Despite these successes, the mechanics of combining Scrum
practices and GSD are not well understood . These
findings highlight a vital research gap that needs immediate
attention of GSD and agile communities. Hence, there is a
clear need of building empirically founded knowledge about
using agile practices in general and Scrum practices in
particular in the context of GSD.
Conclusion 2. The use of Scrum practices may be limited
by various GSD project’s contextual factors.
Our review has revealed that there can be several
contextual factors of a project that may impact the use of
Scrum practices in GSD. Some of the factors identified in
the reviewed studies are shown in Table 2. Our findings also
reveal that most of the distributed projects were within the
same company and the team distribution was limited by the
number of distributed sites. We also found that there is a
limited evidence of using Scrum for safety critical
applications. Though our findings reveal that the Scrum
practices can be used in a distributed project that has
multiple numbers of teams, very large project personnel or
even no overlap time between distributed sites, but the
actual process of using Scrum is not clearly understood yet.
We did not consider the impact of other project contextual
factors (for example: budget, complexity, criticality, team
experience, time constraints, contract nature and so on) on
using Scrum in GSD projects. Thus, we conclude that the
use of Scrum practices may be limited by various contextual
factors of a GSD project.
Conclusion 3. Globally distributed Scrum teams usually
face a number of challenges as project distribution impact
on communication, coordination and collaboration
Our review findings reveal that the temporal,
geographical and socio-cultural distances due to the project
stakeholder’s distribution cause a number of challenging
factors that impact GSD communication, coordination and
collaboration processes. The communication related
challenges are identified as vital. Any cultural differences
involved in a distributed team can substantially impact on
the team’s collaboration process. Managing a large team
distributed at multiple sites is quite challenging as well.
Lack of tools and insufficient infrastructure support may
also make use of Scrum practices in GSD difficult.
Conclusion 4. Scrum practices need to be extended or
modified in order to support globally distributed software
Our findings reveal that to support the use of Scrum
practices in various distributed projects, Scrum teams need
to add a number of strategies suitable to their development
environments. A distributed Scrum team can choose
different Scrum team models to reduce its project
distribution challenges. A distributed team usually needs
some overlap time between them to carry out various Scrum
meeting practices. To support a distributed team that has no
overlap time, Scrum teams may use some supporting
distributed practices including synchronized work hours,
local Scrum, additional local team meetings, strict
communication policy, key persons attending all distributed
meetings, reducing number of Scrum meetings,
asynchronous retrospective and so on. To increase the team
collaboration processes, Scrum team can also use some
practices including team gathering, exchange visits,
informal meetings of distributed team members, mandatory
presentations, maintaining key documentation, and gradual
team distribution which also help to reduce team cultural
differences. A Scrum team can also use different practices
such as multiple modes of communication to address the
challenges caused by the lack of communication bandwidth
and tools. A distributed Scrum team also needs to be
supported by various tools for project management, backlog
management, tracking issues, and so on.
Like any empirical study, this study also has certain
limitations that should be kept in mind while considering
the reported findings. With the increasing number of studies
in this area, this review may have missed some papers that
address the use of Scrum practices in GSD. However, we
are confident that it would not have been a systematic
The papers included in this review have undergone a
thorough selection process and involved two researchers
cross checking the completeness of searchers and validating
the suitability of each paper for inclusion. However, the
findings of this review may have been affected by the
systematic bias in describing the use of Scrum practices in
various primary studies as some of the selected studies
describe the use of various Scrum practices along with other
agile practices (e.g. XP practices).
During the data extraction process, we found that several
papers lacked sufficient details about the reported projects’
contextual factors and the challenges faced and strategies
used while using Scrum practices in GDS projects. We
synthesized our data by identifying and categorizing the
themes from the papers included in this review. Since some
of the selected papers do not provide detailed information,
there is a possibility that the extraction process may have
resulted in some inaccuracies.
We have conducted a systematic review of the literature
on the use of Scrum practices in GSD projects. The aim of
this review was to identify various challenging factors that
restrict the use of Scrum practices in projects that are
globally distributed. Exploring potential strategies to deal
with those challenging factors were also another research
focus. We have presented our findings in two stages: initial
quantitative data presentation about the number of published
papers in each year starting from 2003, the types of studies
reported in the reviewed papers and the contextual factors of
the reported projects. In the second stage, we have analyzed
and interpreted the data extracted from the primary studies
included in this review in order to find the answers to our
research questions. Our analysis and interpretation of the
data have enabled us to draw some general conclusions in
Section 5 about the current state of practice of using Scrum
practices in GSD projects.
The results of this review provide information that can be
useful for GSD practitioners’ understanding the various
challenging factors that may impact on GSD
communication, collaboration and coordination processes
and restrict the use of Scrum practices. Moreover, the GSD
project managers can also benefit from the synthesized
knowledge about the strategies that are being used to deal
with the identified challenges. However, the strength of
evidence found in the literature about the identified
strategies is very low. That is why it is difficult to offer any
specific advice to practitioners solely based on this review.
This review has also identified several interesting research
challenges that need to be addressed in the future research
efforts by GSD and agile researchers. A clear finding of this
review is that there is an immediate need of increasing the
quantity and quality of empirical studies to describe,
evaluate, explore and explain the use of various Scrum
practices in GSD projects.
To enhance the findings of this review, we intend to
conduct a comprehensive survey of practitioners to identify
the key challenges involved in and the strategies to reduce
these challenges to support the use of Scrum practices in
GSD projects. In addition to this survey, we will also
conduct multiple in depth industry based case studies to
provide an empirically supported body of knowledge about
the use of Scrum in GSD projects considering various
Appendix A. Papers included in the review
[S1] M. Paasivaara, S. Durasiewicz, C. Lassenius,
“Distributed Agile Development: Using Scrum in a Large
Project,” Software Process Improvement and Practice, Vol.
13, Issue 6, pp. 527-544, 2008.
[S1a] (Excluded) M. Paasivaara, S. Durasiewicz, C.
Lassenius, “Distributed Agile Development: Using Scrum
in a Large Project,” in Proceedings of ICGSE 2008, pp. 87-
[S2] J. Sutherland, A. Viktorov, J. Blount, N. Puntikov,
“Distributed Scrum: Agile Project management with
Outsourced Development Teams” in Proceedings of the
Conference on HICSS’40, pp. 274, 2007.
[S3] J. Sutherland, G. Schoonheim, M. Rijk, “Fully
distributed Scrum: Replacing Local Productivity and
Quality with Offshore Teams,” in proceedings of the
Conference on HICSS’42, pp. 1-8, 2009.
[S3a] (Excluded) J. Sutherland, G. Schoonheim, E.
Rustenburg, M. Rijk, “Fully distributed Scrum: The secret
sauce for Hyperproductive Outsourced Development
Teams” in Proceedings of the Conference on Agile 2008,
pp. 339-344, 2008.
[S4] J. Cho, “Distributed Scrum for Large-Scale and
Mission-Critical Projects,” in Proceedings of the Conference
on AMCIS 2007, paper 235, 2007.
[S5] W. Williams, M. Stout, “Colossal, Scattered, and
Chaotic (Planning with a Large Distributed Team),” in
Proceedings of the Conference on Agile 2008, pp. 356-361,
[S6] B. Drummond, J. F. Unson, “Yahoo! Distributed Agile:
Notes from the World Over,” in Proceedings of the
Conference on Agile 2008, pp. 315-321, 2008.
[S7] M. Cristal, D. Wildt, R. Prikladnicki, “Usage of
SCRUM Practices within a Global Company,” in
Proceedings of ICGSE 2008, pp. 22-226, 2008.
[S8] H. Holmstrom, B. Fitzgerald, P. J. Agerfalk, E. O.
Conchuir, “Agile Practices Reduce Distance in Global
Software Development” Information Systems Management,
Summer, pp. 7-26, 2006.
[S9] M. Vax, S. Michaud, “Distributed Agile: Growing a
Practice Together” in Proceedings of the Conference on
Agile 2008.pp.310, 2008.
[S10] H. Smits, “Implementing Scrum in a Distributed
Software Development Organization,” in proceedings of the
Conference on AGILE 2007, pp.371-375, 2007.
[S11] B. Jensen, A. Zilmer, “Cross- continent Development
using Scrum and XP” in Proceedings of the Conference on
XP 2003, pp.146-153, 2003.
[S12] C. Kussmaul, R. Jack, B. Sponsler, “Outsourcing and
Off shoring with Agility: A Case Study” in Proceedings of
the Conference on XP/Agile Universe, pp. 147-154, 2004.
[S13] K. Sureshchandra, J. Shrinivasavadhani, “Adopting
Agile in Distributed Development” in Proceedings of
ICGSE’08,pp. 217-221, 2008.
[S14] A. Danait, “Agile offshore techniques- A case Study”
in proceedings of the Conference on Agile Development
Conference, pp.214-217, 2005.
[S15] M. Summers, “Insights into an Agile Adventure with
Offshore Partners,” in Proceedings of the Conference on
Agile 2008, pp. 333-338, 2008.
[S16] E. Therrien, “Overcoming the Challenges of Building
a Distributed Agile Organization,” in Proceedings of the
Conference on Agile 2008, pp. 368-372, 2008.
[S17] S. Berczuk, “Back to Basics: The Role of agile
Principles in Success with a Distributed Scrum Team,” in
Proceedings of AGILE 2007, pp. 382-388, 2007.
[S18] P. Karsten, F. Cannizzo, “The Creation of a
distributed Agile Team,” in proceedings of XP 2007,
[S19] M. Cottmeyer, “The Good and Bad of Agile Offshore
Development,” in proceedings of the Conference on AGILE
2008, pp.362-367, 2008.
[S20] M. Paasivaara, C. Lassenius, “Could Global Software
Development Benefit from Agile Method?” in proceedings
of ICGSE 2006, pp. 109-113, 2006.
Appendix B. Data Extraction form
1. Paper identifier: Unique id for the paper
2. Date of data extraction:
3. Bibliographic reference: Author, year, title, source
4. Type of article: Journal article/conference paper/
5. Paper aims: what were the aims of this paper?
6. Paper Evidence: empirical study/experience
1. Collaboration mode: inter organizational/intra
2. Number of Sites: ……./unclear
3. Number of Teams:……/unclear
4. Project personnel:……/unclear
5. Time zone differences:……/unclear
6. Application Domain: ……./unclear
1. Scrum team scenario (model): Isolated Scrum
team/Scrum of Scrum meeting used for site based team
coordination/Fully integrated ( e.g. Scrum team contain
onshore and offshore personnel)/unclear
2. Challenges: challenging factors that impact GSD
communication, coordination and collaboration
processes and restrict the use of Scrum practices.
3. Strategies: Used various strategies to reduce project
stakeholder’s distribution challenges to support the use
of Scrum practices.
4. Subjective evaluation: a small summary of the findings
from the paper.
M. Ali Babar’s research is partially supported by
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