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How to Know if a Popular Tool Used in Agile is Any Good

25 Apr 2019

Some agile teams keep it old school and stick with physical boards and post-its for their visualisation needs. Others have discovered that digital agile tools support their efforts better, for one or more reasons.

For teams that decide to go digital, choosing the right tool can become an ordeal. One of the reasons for this is that not every popular tool used in agile is really that good. Some of them have been around for so long that they sort of became part of the usual tech stack, especially in large organizations.

In this article, we will try to provide a few tips on how to know whether that popular agile tool you are considering is really that good.

Get your Priorities Straight

A tool either works or it doesn’t. That’s all that matter.

Alas, figuring out this answer is more complicated than it may seem. Just because some companies had a great experience with a tool is no guarantee it’ll do the same for you.

In other words, think about your process and how a tool might support it without becoming a burden. Try to order the list according to priorities. For instance, you have to have the ability to maintain your Product Backlog easily and visibly, but you do not really need an invoicing feature.

If you’ve already completed a few Agile projects, you have some invaluable insights to factor in.

Some of the most common functions businesses decide to prioritize are:

  • Agile planning and monitoring
  • Customizable templates
  • Work item history 
  • Communication capabilities
  • Customizable dashboard and Agile reporting
  • Collaboration functions
  • Review and approval features

making a choice agile tool
How to choose?

The Angle of Agile Approach

Establishing key functions is just the first step.

Namely, the tool must also support a specific Agile model you follow. As you probably know, there’s no single path to Agile. Some of the most common choices include:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Lean Software Development (LSD)
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Crystal

Scrum and Kanban are two of the most commonly used Agile approaches which is the reason as to why there are so many tools out there catering to teams that use them.

On the other hand, when applying Agile to enterprises, one has to choose a scaled approach like Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). And make no mistake. Agility at scale is a different ball game that requires advanced functions. For example, you may need to rely on enterprise-ready web server and database.

In some other cases, organizations choose hybrid Agile models. There are specific solutions that cater to this kind of approach as well.

The takeaway from this stage is clear: make sure the tool you are eying up is compatible with your approach to Agile. This rule applies even to solutions that are marketed as general Agile project management platforms.

A Centralized Dashboard

Ideally, your platform should integrate all core functions into a single resource.

What this means is it has a united arsenal of all tools needed to get the job done. Moreover, there’s also searchable central storage. One can use it to stockpile, view, and share all key project data.

Furthermore, the tool should let you monitor multiple projects simultaneously. Integrated planning is conducted with the help of customizable traceability tools.

Statistic and some analytics are high on the list of priorities too. They allow both real-time tracking and retroactive evaluation. After all, a lot of Agile revolves around inspection of past work and statistics make this possible.

Fostering Teamwork and Communication

The next question to ask is whether the tool facilitates communication and collaboration.

These activities are integral to Agile implementation and transformation. They are prerequisites for the culture of transparency and knowledge sharing.

But, let us not forget Agile puts people and their interactions first, not processes. Due to these reasons, it’s preferable to have a solution that keeps everyone within the company on the same page.

Stakeholders need to have easy access to data on projects and their progress. Ideally, users are given a chance to their feedback throughout the project’s lifecycle (from inception to delivery).

Team members are in-the-know and able to contribute to projects at all times. They are also well aware of how their actions affect the project as a whole.

Moving on, you also have to think about deployment and accessibility. Overview of the entire discussion history is a great selling point.

Finally, stick to tools with an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface. A steep learning curve hampers smooth implementation. It only stands in the way of teamwork and open collaboration.

Importance of Scalability

The best kind of tool is one that evolves together with your processes and operations.

After all, Agile core practices call for constant refinement. You are simply forced to improve your practices, tools, and procedures over time. You do it according to set criteria, acquired data, and performance indicators.

Thus, a tool you pick must be part of the solution, not the problem. It braces you for what is to come.

For instance, imagine other departments ask to utilize the tool at one point in the near future. Or, what if you need to gradually increase stakeholder/user involvement?

Well, a tool with broad capabilities bolsters your ability to embrace changes as they come. They are versatile enough to be customized to your specific needs. You are able to tackle rising complexity and project maturity.

At the end of the day, you have to produce a working, market-ready product. That’s hard to accomplish with a tool you grow out of too quickly.

Kick Your Game into Overdrive

The best way to approach popular tools is to ignore the buzz around them. You must commit to a platform that suits your project journey.

And no, there is no best agile software project management tool (not even VivifyScrum). Like it or not, you must weigh the pros and cons before making a call.

Likewise, assess your current processes and the way your development team performs. Put together a detailed requirements list and narrow it down gradually.

Remember that ultimately, the tool must empower the team and enhance performance across the board. It connects all the little dots that determine outcomes.