[We review Agile tools. Have you seen our Agile tools list?]
The AgileScout covers a lot of ground when it comes to Agile and Scrum tools. He also likes to speak of himself in the 3rd person. Sometimes, he likes to be surprised. He was.
I was pleasantly surprised to find an easy-to-use, intuitive yet feature rich and enterprise-class agile tool. No bloat, just the basics. Sometimes, isn’t that enough?
[Enter]: AgileWrap – No bloat, just agile and scrum tools
AgileWrap has comprehensive list of features to plan and track agile projects effectively in a SaaS based system yet there is no learning curve for the end-users. AgileWrap supports agile methodologies including scrum, XP and hybrid.
I signed up for 5 users free account, and received an email with account information. Within few minutes I logged into AgileWrap got started. Not to shabby.
The user interface and look-n-feel of AgileWrap has a somewhat… ‘easy’ feel to it. I mean, it just seems pleasant to stare at. No harsh colors, links are easy to see. I felt somewhat at ease staring at this tool. Seriously.
Quick Links menu (in dark blue) on left provides instant access to frequently used pages and views – Active Sprint, Active Release, Taskboard, ToDo etc. You can also access User guides, video tutorials and FAQ from Quick Links menu. Quick Help provides context sensitive help and video for the page on screen.
Setting up project and users
My account came with sample data. Perfect. Sometimes I like to start out fresh, sometimes it’s just easier to see how things work when data is present. Top level tabs are intuitive and align with the agile process of planning, tracking and analyzing. I created a new project on Set Up tab and added few users to my account.
When I added a new user, I was able to assign him a role and specific projects. AgileWrap offers four predefined roles: Administrator, Manager, Member and Visitor.
Adding User Stories and Prioritizing Product Backlog
There are 3 tabs under Plan tab – Backlog, User Stories and Plan Product. I started adding user stories on User Story tab. I entered a story name, clicked Save and boom, default values are loaded:
In AgileWrap you can:
- Write user stories in rich text editor. Upload specifications, mockup; and add links to external documents.
- Estimate stories in ‘story points’ or ‘hours’. Break user story into tasks.
- Post and share comments while uploading files.
- Add (tags) and filter user stories by tags. View story audit history.
- Assign a parent user story (epic). AgileWrap allows to define parent-child user stories up to any level of deepness.
- Sort, filter, search, in-line edit and print user stories.
- Copy, move and split user stories.
- Import and export user stories, tasks and defects.
- Associate defects with user stories.
As I started entering user stories, AgileWrap started building Product Backlog. User Story page showed all the stories for the project in hierarchical view while Backlog page showed only unscheduled stories in a flat view. I was able to sort, group and filter stories by various columns. Since in-place editing is provided on most of the columns, I was able to edit and change attributes of a story directly on the page. When I had a good number of stories added in AgileWrap, I clicked on Backlog tab. Here I dragged and dropped user stories to prioritize my product backlog.
Alrighty, now on to planning my first iteration…
Planning Iterations and Releases
Planning is pretty flexible: I can create entire product plan by planning many releases in one go. I can move user stories among product backlog, releases and iterations easily using drag and drop controls. View of entire project plan in one place gives me ability to change iteration and release plans quickly should priority and scope change.
Plan Product page is split in 2 parts – left side pane shows Product Backlog and right side pane shows Product Plan (you’ll get used to it).
I clicked on project name and added one Release and one Sprint within that release. As I started dragging and dropping stories from the Product Backlog pane to Release and Sprint nodes on right, the system scheduled stories in the Release and the Sprint.
To estimate user stories in story points, I just clicked and traded off numbers.
I really liked that during sprint planning AgileWrap tells me if my sprint is 100% full or not. AgileWrap shows fullness indicator visually in red (over allocated) or green (under allocated) color.
Tracking Iteration Progress
2 Views: Taskboard and List View – On the taskboard view you can update task status by dragging and dropping the task cards in different lanes. I can assign an owner, update remaining hours, post comments and upload files for a task. I can also add new tasks for a story, and filter the Taskboard by an owner to see only his or her tasks. Any updates I make to the tasks are reflected in the Burn-down immediately.
An interesting note is that AgileWrap updates Burn-down chart every hour. Don’t like that? Then refresh it manually.
Analyzing Charts and Dashboards
Story Cumulative Flow, Burn-up, Velocity chart, Defect Cumulative are few charts that I find invaluable. Most of the charts provide flexibility to generate line/bar chart for user-given date range, iteration, release or team member. For example If you have many iterations going on concurrently in your project then you can view Story Cumulative Flow chart for each iteration separately and a single chart for the entire release. You can also view stories by status and dates for the entire project for a given time period.
Personal Dashboard and ToDo are undoubtedly valuable tools for individual contributors (developer, tester) as they can plan their work better by checking out blocked items status, open tasks (and defects), workload status every morning. AgileWrap displays real-time alerts on their Dashboard to keep them up-to-date with the important events: when somebody assigns a story/task/defect, when somebody changes priority/due date/status of their item, when a user adds a comment to their items etc.
Rebalancing Workload – Oh this is cool.
A key differentiator is the ability to view and rebalance workload of users across all the projects. AgileWrap shows team members hours in green (under allocated) or red (over allocated) for each iteration that they are working on.
A manager can click on an iteration, and assign the tasks of overloaded member to the people who have bandwidth to take more work. This is especially useful for the organizations where a member is expected to take care of urgent (adhoc) customer requests along with the work he has already committed for a sprint. A manager can look at workload metrics of all team members and make an informed decision about the change of scope, tasks reassignment or change in delivery date whatever seems the best option.
AgileWrap is a pretty intuitive, easy-to-use, feature-rich system with no bloating of unnecessary features (though some would call the project management stuff bloat…) Key things to note are:
- Planning and provides ability to quickly create iteration and release plans. You can also change plans quickly when scope, priority or resources change.
- Adapts easily to your agile, scrum and custom processes. It allows to estimate stories in points and hours. It allows to track and rebalance workload.
- Quick Links allow to access important pages instantly. Easily navigate from top level views to the detail. Search stories, tasks, defects, comments by keywords and Id.
- Use ToDo to plan pending work and update status when done. Receive automated email notifications, and alerts for impediments and important status updates.
- Near real-time charting and rich reporting. Flexible reports with the ability to generate charts by filtering data for many attributes.
- Extensive help for starters – user guides, tutorials and videos. You can send email and receive response from support staff for any question.
- API/Web services available for custom integrations. Connectors for Subversion and Git are available.
- AgileWrap (hosted) is now offered at a very attractive and unbeatable price – AgileWrap is Free for 5 users, $10 for 10 users/month and $75 for 15 users/month. See details here http://www.agilewrap.
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