[We review Agile tools. Have you seen our Agile tools list?]
Having worked with some of the major players in the Agile ALM market space, it was about time for me to try out something new. Building an enterprise Agile tool isn’t something to laugh at, frankly, it’s almost impossible to get right (*More on this later). Every client is different, every scenario and environment is different. For large enterprise development shops with multiple teams, you need a tool that won’t get in the way. Something that will scale with your workload. I decided to check out one of the players in this enterprise space. I was pleasantly surprised.
[Enter]: Telerik Team Pulse - A Fluid Enterprise Agile Tool
Make no mistake, this baby takes some time to master.
It’s a good thing, though, that they give you plenty of opportunities to follow online tutorials, watch videos, go through the walkthrough, and hey, you even get your own personal Team Pulse Consultant. My personal Team Pulse Consultant was “Petar.”
Since it’s almost impossible to make a tool perfect, the thing that stood out to me was that there were opportunities to give feedback to the developers on what was working and what is not. For this reason (as well as speaking with the team myself) I knew that Telerik is more than actively engaged in making this tool kick ass.
Since this is an enterprise tool, with so many features, my review is from the standpoint of how easy it is to get started. I can’t cover every single little detail, but I can tell you whether it’s easy enough to get in, get started, and get productive. So, let’s jump in:
I first spent about 20 minutes in the example project, just to get a feel for the flow as well as understanding some of the nuances. It’s nice to see a full project in motion, with actors, burndowns, schedules, bugs, and actual stories being worked through. After that I created my own:
Step 1: Set your project information. Remember that Telerik has completely outfitted this tool with videos, articles, blogs, and personalized help if you have questions. If things get too hairy, you can always hit up your personal consultant. I wouldn’t think you’d need it unless you’re diving deeper into things.
Step 2: Set up your template – I went with Scrum.
Step 3: Set up your iterations. I went with 7 day iterations.
Step 4: Create your team. I already had some team members filled in.
Step 5: View your summary of your project, a great review point before you dive headfirst into the system.
After you’ve created your project you’ll find yourself smack dab in a jungle of text. No worries here, again, the system created gives you absolute freedom to start where you want to, but it recommends that you start with stories:
The steps it recommends are:
- Define Requirements – This will be where you’ll do your sprint planning/backlog grooming/etc.
- Schedule and Plan Work – A secondary start where you’ll plan out where the backlog stories/tasks go.
- Manage bugs – As they crop up, you can add them into a sprint or triage, however you desire
- Track and analyze progress – I didn’t have enough information to create a burndown, but they look pretty good
The product enables you to easily capture ‘user stories’ (high-level informal statements of requirements), associate them to personas (end-user profiles), create relationships between stories and much more.
- Write a description using the rich text formatting
- While writing a story description, add personas and other stories on the fly by using the unique Quick Linking feature
- Use tags
- Set priority, estimate, status and assign to team members
- Leave comments
- Subscribe to get notifications when the story is modified
- Breakdown the story into tasks
- Add acceptance criteria
- Attach documents, mockups or video files
I created a couple stories and added them into the system. Pretty easy to do, nothing big here. Remember though, you have lots of options at your disposal. It could seem overkill to some, but for many these are crucial for completing stories with the right amount of details:
After you’ve created your backlog, and filled that all up with great stories, you’ll want to start scheduling your releases, or sprints.
TeamPulse offers a highly intuitive UI which makes planning your Agile projects more effective and easier. You can quickly establish start and end dates for releases and iterations, set capacity and start moving work items from the product backlog to the iterations. In addition to scheduling work, in your plan you can also account for risks and issues to help your team be better prepared to manage change.
You’ll find, that after you’ve created your sprints, you’ll have a pretty little visual on where your sprints lie, and what will be completed when.
In the Schedule area you can easily create your release plan – set start and end date for the release, breakdown the release into short iteration, set their durations, set the capacity, and create predecessor relationships among the iterations.
If your team breaks something, it’s easy to enter it into a bug tracking system, you can:
- Write a description using rich text formatting
- Use tags
- Set status, estimate, severity, priority, and assigned to
- Leave comments
- Associate bugs to areas and iterations
- Specify steps to reproduce the bug
- Define resolution criteria
- Define acceptance criteria
- Relate bugs to User Stories
- Add links and attachments
What I liked:
- BEST PRACTICES ANALYZER – By far the biggest differentiator for me. Click on the “Best Practices Analyzer” and you’ll come up with a dashboard that shows you everything that is missing, needs more information, needs assigning, or needs resolution. Not many tools will tell you what you’ve missed. This is a BIG plus.
- This tool is fully featured – Almost too much so. There is so much you can use. You probably won’t need it all, but it’s there for the taking.
- Ideas & Feedback Generator – Loved the fact that there was a section for a product owner (or anyone) to put down ideas for the project. Capture extra information, or just collaborate. You can have two flavors of this: Internal and External. The external feedback module allows you to get real-time feedback from your people in the field. Giving them access to what is being built is a huge plus for me. The portal looks snazzy as well.
- Tons of helpful tips – Every page starts with a tip section. A fully HELPFUL tip section. Sometimes tips aren’t tips. They are just a nuisance. However, I actually read the tips before I got to workin.
- Reports – Tons of reports, with export functionality for the stakeholders in your life. The reports are good looking too. It helps when you have multiple views for metrics. Now, the real issue is whether the metrics are actually valuable or not… make sure they are.
- My TaskBoard - To help users stay focused and organized TeamPulse offers two views that provide a personal perspective of the assigned stories, bugs and tasks. The first view is the TeamPulse ‘My TaskBoard.’ It is a virtual taskboard that lets you perform most of your daily tasks like quickly review, move and edit tasks…
- My Perspective - The second view is called MyPerspective. There you can again see all the stories, tasks, and bugs assigned to you sorted by status, as well as see a history of the changes made to your work items. The guys have integrated this with their Best Practices Analyzer which means that you will get notified personally when you are not adhering to Agile best practices.
- OPTIONS! – See screenshot
What I didn’t like:
- Microsoft Silverlight – I ran this in Safari (Build 5.1.2 (7534.52.7)), Chrome (Build 16.0.912.63), and Firefox (9.0.1). I had spotty experiences between the three. Nope didn’t use IE. I’m running a mac!
- Tabbing – I expected that when I clicked on a tab, something would happen. Turns out, when you click on a tab, you have to then click on an option. Would be nice to have the tab default to something when you click it. But maybe that’s some feedback that the team got that people didn’t like…
- Too many default filters- Almost every page you go to has filters on the right side of the screen. They are too hard to read, too smushed together, and make the page way to “busy.” I would rather have it be closed, and given an option to open it:
In summary, I found this tool to be quite useful. It was fun messing around with it and I got pretty good at moving from tab to tab, inputting stories, finding out which sprints to put them into, and overall understand where my project was going (even with limited data). If I were a large company looking to find a tool for my enterprise I may just take a look at Team Pulse. It’s not on everybody’s radar, but it may just be worth comparing next to some of the bigger players. You may just be surprised at what you’ll find.
Check them out at Telerik.com and give them a shout. I’ve had a great experience with the team so far talking about this tool and corresponding with them. They are easy to access and more than willing to help out.
Need more video love? Take a lunch break and sit down for a good 45 minutes and see what Team Pulse is all about:
Full Features List Summary:
TeamPulse Supports Your Agile Process
TeamPulse is a project management solution based on Agile best practices. Some of Agile’s key aspects include delivering working software in short iterative cycles, active collaboration with customers and stakeholders, adaptability to changing projects requirements, tracking of progress and constant improvement based on feedback and real world experience. The diagram demonstrates how TeamPulse support the Agile development cycle.
Do you often find yourself wondering what is the status of the project and is everything going according to plan? In TeamPulse this information is readily available. It takes just one click to see real-time data on iteration burn down, velocity, progress of each team member, status history of stories and many other key performance indicators.
Do you feel your project requirements are not well defined and do not represent the initial concept accurately? TeamPulse helps you expressively define project requirements and make sure everyone on the team has a real understanding about what needs to be done and why.
Do you need better tools for planning your Agile projects? TeamPulse offers a highly intuitive UI for planning releases and iterations – you can easily prioritize your backlog, set start and end dates for iterations, set team capacity, decompose your user stories into smaller more traceable tasks, and schedule work into iterations. In addition, when planning you can also capture and take into account potential risks and issues, so that you are better prepared to meet challenges and adapt to changes.
Capture Ideas & Feedback
Are you working on the features that will bring the most value for your customers? TeamPulse provides an end-to-end solution for capturing feedback from customers, collaborating on this feedback with your team and then turning it into specific work items. The internal and external (web-based portal) TeamPulse Ideas & Feedback modules work together to give you a 360 degree view of the value that each work item brings to the final product.
Is collaboration time consuming and challenging for your cross-functional team? Are you constantly syncing up, but not getting the results you expect? Most collaboration problems in software development projects are rooted in the lack of a common system of record, no up-to-date view into the project, and inefficient communication. By addressing these key problems TeamPulse helps you bridge the gap between functional roles and uncover your team’s full potential.
Is your team looking for ways to manage bugs more effectively? Bugs are an unavoidable part of any software project, but what really makes a difference is how these bugs are tracked, prioritized and fixed. The TeamPulse Bug Tracking Module supports the complete process of creating, triaging, prioritizing, and assigning bugs. The workflow ensures that team members manage bugs efficiently and ultimately spend less time working on them.
Do you need a one stop place to manage your work?TeamPulse brings everything you need to manage your workday into one view – all the stories you are working on, your assigned tasks, as well as the bugs you are responsible for will displayed in your personal ‘My Stuff’ area. No more hunting around for the things that impact your day.
Synchronize user stories and tasks with TFS 2010
A feature that those of you using Microsoft TFS will really like is the synchronization of stories, bugs and tasks between TeamPulse and TFS. I wasn’t able to get this one going as I don’t have a TFS environment, but there is plenty of information and videos on the tool’s site.