What is the best Agile (Scrum,XP) tool? How to select one?

By | October 1, 2013

What is the best Agile (Scrum,XP) tool? How to select one?

Many people quest for the best agile project management tool in the market. If you browse through websites of agile tools, almost all of them seem to offer similar features that can make quest even difficult. First of all “the best agile tool” is very relative term. Every Agile team is different; its dynamics, culture, needs, demographic and many other factors can play an important role in selecting a suitable tool which could fulfill majority of team needs. So you may have to try a few of them before deciding which on suites your team best.

Let us take some of the basic features or qualities you should look at before selecting a tool for your team.

1) UX/UI

UX and UI are vital factors in selecting an agile tool. The tool you select should be able to support to perform all the user story and bug management related actions quickly and smoothly. The feature that may improve may involve following actions.

-          Inline User Story/Bug creation

When planning is in full swing, during the release planning and sprint planning meetings you got to perform certain task quickly and one of those tasks is User Story and Bug creation. Having the tool which does not support inline user story and bug creation could make the whole planning process quite cumbersome.


-          User Story/ Issue Search

At times as an agile tool user you may need to look for a specific User Story, tasks or issue. Without having an efficient search available it may take you long time to find your object of interest. Preferably search should be available on all the pages and should have option of searching using different criterion such as Search by US ID, Bug ID or Task ID etc.


-          Filtering and sorting

When you are working on a project you might prefer to view the items in certain order. It’s a must have feature of an agile tool. Your tool should be able to provide you enough filtering option to cover your needs; it could be filter by severity, status, personal responsible for, priority etc.


-          User Story/Bug Status change

There are certain actions which need to be performed many times a day, and changing status of user stories, bugs and tasks are a few of such actions. You should be able to perform these actions easily without making an effort of too many clicks.


-          Multiple Person assignment

In real life user stories and bugs are assigned to some specific person of agile team. Depending on the complexity of the problem or user story, you might want to assign multiple people to a user story. Your tool should able to support this commonly needed feature.


-          Changing severity and priority

We sometimes need to change the severity or priority of an issue or user story, your agile tool should be able to provide the functionality of changing the severity of a user story or bug without making too many clicks.


-          Estimating/Sizing

As mentioned earlier that an agile tool should support inline user stories and bugs creation. You may also like to size the user story in-line with minimal effort. That makes a huge difference during your estimation sessions, you don’t want to open each story or bug in a popup and close it and open next one you want to size, agile tool of your choice should provide you possibility of estimating user stories or bugs in-line, and that for sure save a lots of teams valuable time.


-          Reporting

There are certain measures that keep you cognizant about the progress of the project and the team. Such measures are supposed to be visible to entire team. For example velocity and burn-down/burn up charts are examples of such measure. They are also called information indicators and agile tool should make them visible to the team.


2) Secure and Reliable

You need to know the level of your agile tool security. The last thing you would want is to see your data wiped out. Make sure that cloud service used by the tool has up time above 99%. Worst thing would be to wait in your planning meeting for your tool to be up.

3) Collaboration

Agile’ s manifesto states that it values Individuals and interactions over processes and tools, and when your team is not located at one place you need to have a tool where you could interact with each other effectively. Having a chat tool is one thing and having a tool that helps you save your discussions with the references is another. Preferably an agile tool of your choice should have project based and groups based chats available to help team and groups to make your communication personalized.

Discussion module and wiki is another feature that might help to improve communication among your team members.

5) Notifications

You want to monitor the progress of a particular user story which is very important for you, or particular high priority issue. You need to be notified for any status change made to the user story or bug of your interest.

6) Reporting

As a product owner, scrum master or even as a developer you want to see the progress of ALL the projects you are linked to. Do you want to see # of US, bugs, # of critical bugs by sprint or by release and by many other criterions? You need to make sure that your tool provides comprehensive reporting at project, team, and program level.

7) Issue Tracker

We have seen many teams which are using separate issue tracking system with agile tool. Ideally your Agile too should be able to handle the bugs as well. Having issue tracker within agile tool saves ton of agile team’s time. Agile encourage continuous interaction with the customer to get frequent feedback that also brings a lot of changes and issues to be fixed for the team. An agile tool with a good build-in issue tracker not only saves time and money but also reduce complexity for your team.

8) Integration and Import/Export

Before deciding on a tool, make sure that it allows you to import data from other system and let you take (export) your data out of its system. Also your agile tool should provide you to interact with other commonly used tools such as Github, SVS, Pivotal, Jira, Dropbox, Box, Conceptly, Uservoice etc.

9) Customer Service

Last thing you want is to wait for the customer service response when you really need help. Our experience shows that not many tools have great customer service. Before making the final decision, try to contact with the support team of the tool and see how quickly and efficiently your query is answered.


Best Agile tools in the market

Based on our criteria above we tried many agile tools and came up with the five best in the market.

Yodiz – The best All in one agile tool, includes issue tracker, chat and 3 free users. Check price here.

Rally – Good training services and material. Check price here.

Version One – A lot good training material. Check price here.

Jira – Provides good integration with other components such as Jira, Bambo etc. Check price here.

Pivotal Tacker – Lite version does not have enough features. Check price here.


Author: Mobeen Siddiqui – PMI ACP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *