Andrea Keeble of VersionOne recently asked me a couple of pretty good questions about Agile maturity for teams.
- When is it time to move beyond spreadsheets, whiteboards and sticky notes?
- Pros & cons of free agile tools (versus high-end ones)?
- Is there a need for something in between, which extends visibility beyond the dev team and can easily scale as you grow?
When doing training or client work, I’m also often asked these same types of questions. Most often it revolves around:
“When can we move to a tool? What’s the best tool? Etc etc…”
Let’s discuss a couple of these, shall we?
When to go to an Agile Scrum tool?
I still believe with all my heart that wallboards are king for Agile. Plain and simple. But… as teams scale and departments need better tracking and transparency, tools have their place.
Simply put, the best time to move to a tool is when the following happens:
- Communication/reporting is needed to teams and management beyond local teams (geographically disperse)
- Dependencies/constraints are part of the environment (dev ops tools are good here too)
- When pretty reports mean a ton to management and stakeholders (seriously, sometimes this is a critical piece. If you have beautiful looking reports generated by a system… it totally beats making your own crappy powerpoint deck)
- When a team is mature enough to streamline it’s processes and using a tool is more expedient (and valuable) than a physical wallboard
- When a team is mature enough that a team is more efficient utilizing a high-performance enterprise tool (but does NOT replace collaboration)
Pros/Cons of Free Agile Tools?
You get what you pay for. This old adage is still true for tools. Sometimes it’s just worth paying $ for a great tool that work… especially if it has exactly what you need.
The problem though, is what I consider a typical enterprise tool conundrum… also known as a “Microsoft Problem.” — I mean, really… how often do you use all the features of Word? Excel? Powerpoint? = BLOAT
Most tools come with too many features that:
- Confuse teams
- Are unusable
- Are not configurable
- Beyond the team maturity
- Beyond the companies maturity
Ever read the Tyranny of Choice by Scientific American? Please read it:
Yes. Here is the problem. TOO MANY OPTIONS CAUSE US to be ineffective.
As Agile Teams Mature… Your Toolset Matures
What we need is a tool that has JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT of features that a team can use. No bloatware. No extra junk. What we need is a tool to help us as a team grow… we can always upgrade to an enterprise edition later…
What would I like to see?
- A tool that… if used correctly can help a new/beginning Agile team become MORE effective (after they’ve mastered the foundational elements of Agile)
- A tool that… can make work more streamlined… without being a bother
- A tool that… has just the right amount of features for a team
- A tool that… is NOT free… but priced just right
- A tool that… is supported by a solid company and will continue to iterate and grow
“A fool with a tool… is still a fool.”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Don’t be a fool with a tool. Agile ALM companies would take heed about being valuable to companies. Being smart about the features teams really use… and how to help teams grow.
As I’ve reviewed more Agile/Scrum tools than anyone else on the planet… I’m looking for a tool that helps teams grow… and grows as a tool as the team matures. Is that even possible???
Or… how about a tool that enables teams to use just the core functionality of what an Agile team needs… and then can upgrade (features/modules) as they grow and mature as a team???
What are your thoughts?