Your daily standup should be asynchronous. Here's why
The first time I joined a team that did an asynchronous daily standup meeting – or daily Scrum – I admit I was sceptical.
The idea of not having a fixed time for checking in with everyone seemed counterintuitive (at best – at worst, maybe a recipe for chaos).
Were big updates falling through the cracks? Were people staying aligned without their regular, scheduled, synchronous interactions?
The answer turned out to be a resounding “no”. Here’s why.
Traditional vs asynchronous daily standups
The traditional standup emerged in the early 2000s and has been a go-to strategy for years.
But the realities of modern development – particularly for remote teams and distributed teams, and the flexible schedules that characterise modern software engineering teams – demand a new approach.
We don’t use tech from the early 2000s – shouldn’t our approach to building tech also be changing?
Option 1 – The asynchronous stand-up
Instead of logging in for a live meeting, team members share their updates within a dedicated platform or tool (more on this later) at a time that works for them within the day.
These get shared automatically. You get concise updates, visible to all (whatever their timezone or availability) that persist indefinitely.
Option 2 – The hands-free solution
What if you didn’t even need to summarise your work? What if an AI agent just did it automatically based on its complete knowledge of what happens and what matters? Updates become less biased, more complete, and closer to omniscient. You get time back.
My opinion is that augmenting collaboration with AI is how we bring daily information-sharing truly up-to-date.
The tech is here, and it can be used either instead of, or as well as, an asynchronous tool. More on this later.
The case for the asynchronous stand-up
With the benefit of hindsight, many daily stand-ups end up either:
- Being a mundane recital on autopilot
- Routinely descend into full-blown technical discussions
Both defy the spirit of the standup. We’ve got to say goodbye to unproductive meetings eating into our productive hours.
Even then, the flexibility and efficiency gains, especially for distributed and remote software development teams, are worth it. Flexibility should be encouraged anyway. I made the case elsewhere that it makes an enormous difference in wellbeing, mental health and preventing burnout. You don’t need to lose out on live contact – you’ll still meet to discuss things that really matter.
I see these as the main benefits:
- Stand-ups for all working styles. Asynchronous standups enable equal participation for everyone, irrespective of their time zone.
- Flexibility. Asynchronous standups respect personal rhythms and allow the freedom to schedule updates around work, not vice versa.
- Efficiency. Asynchronous standups nip those never-ending meetings in the bud, eliminating the risk of interrupting the day’s workflow.
- Automatic documentation. With asynchronous standups, you have an automatic log of updates, making tracking progress a breeze.
- Update quality. The asynchronous approach encourages more thought-out, clear, and concise updates.
But asynchronous standups may not be the silver bullet for all collaboration challenges.
Today, AI is ready to integrate with all the communications tools you already use, track and understand your projects and goals, along with the decisions and activities that shape them.
Humans just aren’t wired to keep track of everything that happens and pick out what matters. Our memories are limited, we lose sight of goals, we miss things, we’re limited by time.
AI isn’t limited by any of those things.
That makes it a much better candidate to summarise what’s happened every day or answer questions about anything that’s going on.
Making asynchronous stand-ups work
If you choose to run asynchronous stand-ups, everyone has to be on the same page about how they work.
Setting expectations and guidelines
- Follow a format. Encourage your team to keep it simple, clear, and concise. Focus on what's been done, what's in progress, and any blockers.
- Go live when needed. Asynchronous standups may not offer the immediacy of a live conversation, but they're far from being antisocial. Key issues can, and should, be flagged for prompt attention. Need a quick brainstorm? Or need to take an issue mentioned at stand-up to a meeting? Make that the norm.
- Set ideal response times. Set an acceptable timeframe for responses to queries or comments to avoid delays.
- Define escalation. Establish a clear path for urgent concerns or issues that need immediate attention.
Succeeding with AI-driven stand-up alternatives
Because there’s no human input required, AI alternatives are straightforward to set up and likely an out-of-the-box solution.
Following standard collaboration best practices will give the tool all it needs:
- Communicate openly. It’s never a good idea to have the majority of conversations in private channels or DMs, unless there’s a good reason (i.e. confidentiality or data protection)
- Use existing tools correctly. Whether writing good commit messages, keeping Jira up-to-date or documenting processes in Notion – encourage people to use tools properly. Though the great thing about AI is that it can intelligently infer things, anyway.
If you choose to keep an asynchronous daily standup that your team contribute to actively, you can benefit greatly from an AI-driven tool to surface activity that matters and answer any question about what’s happening.
Choosing a tool
I will share three options, each fulfilling a slightly different need.
But there are loads more.
1. ClickUp – The DIY standup templates option
Let’s start with a tool with templates for asynchronous stand-up meetings.
ClickUp, while traditionally viewed as a project management tool, doubles as a standup enabler for remote and distributed teams.
If this is what you’re after, it has templates for daily standups and is a reliable choice if you want a central hub to manage all kinds of tasks, meetings and so on.
2. Stepsize AI – The AI-driven alternative
Stepsize AI is an AI-driven alternative to manual daily standups that I’m building with my team at Stepsize. It monitors project activities across all your communication platforms, such as Slack, Jira, GitHub and more, and develops a long-term memory of your projects.
It distils the crucial details from each day, and delivers digestible summaries automatically.
It observes and categorises activities and can reflect on them to help it deliver insights humans don’t spot.
Add to that its innate ability to answer complex questions about your projects and activities, and you have an astute observer that updates, informs and answers.
Plus, it doesn’t require you to add any new tools. It can deliver updates and answer questions in tools you already use, like Slack.
3. ScrumGenius – The daily standup tool
ScrumGenius is a daily standup app for asynchronous scrum ceremonies. It’s notable as it’s the only tool I’m aware of that integrates with Cisco Webex, as well as Teams and email.
This tool allows you to gather asynchronous daily standup reports from each team member (along with surveys and meetings), and offers features like progress tracking.
This is great if you’re happy to rely on human updates (or want to use it in conjunction with an AI tool for total coverage)
Daily standups are from the early 2000s. It’s time we brought them up to speed for a remote-working, distributed, tech-assisted world.
You gain far more than you lose when you do standups asynchronously. What’s lost can easily be regained through good practice. Even more so when paired with the power of AI.
AI doesn't miss a thing and can become an indispensable companion for your agile process.
I’m building Stepsize AI, the AI companion for software projects, with my team. It integrates with your tools and platforms, keeping a long-term "memory" of the context around your projects and offering insightful summaries, actionable suggestions, and quick answers.
I think it’s a game-changer, but don’t take my word for it – I’d love to get your feedback.