Agile Project Software Recommendations?

Here's a meeting from a previous company:

  • Project manager: we've chosen a new ticketing system.
  • Developers: which one?
  • PM: I'm not telling you.
  • Devs: What? Why not?
  • PM: Because you're just going to argue about it.

I can actually understand the business person's frustration, but this was a recipe for disaster. It was a blatant explanation for what actually seems to happen: the people who choose software are often not the people who use the software.

So today, while using the unholy project management software called JIRA, I discovered that I couldn't find my tickets in the "TASK BOARD" section. If there is one thing you need from software designed to help you track your tasks, it's the ability to find your tasks.

The project manager came over to show me how to find my tasks and then discovered that he couldn't find them. They're there if you link to them directly, but you couldn't easily navigate to them in from the task board -- the one area you absolutely must see them.

When I first started at the BBC, we had a different "agile" software package we were required to use. It was so mind-bendingly complicated that the developers on our team refused to use it. So now we have JIRA foisted off on us. JIRA seems to appeal to people who wear bow ties. They say it's "agile". So are contortionists.

One inherent problem with Scrum, XP or other agile project management systems is that sooner or later, things need to be on a computer. This means that you're duplicating stuff in the project management software and the cards on your project board. You have to do every task twice.

The problem is that you really, really do want this information in a system which makes it easy to track. You also need to be able to search and check historical information. Most of the time an experienced developer won't need this but, when they have to do need this, digital archaeology is invaluable.

Here's what I would love to see in such software:

Have iterations/sprints/whatever and start/end dates for them. Show columns for "todo", "in progress", "awaiting QA", and "done". Have separate rows for each story, with a card for each task in the story. Each card would list the ideal time and a brief implementation description. Developers take a card and when they're done, they enter their real time spent on the task. Add a backlog and a simple search and you're done.

In short, a task board in electronic form. Start a new iteration, select backlog stories and let developers have a sprint planning meeting where they create the task cards in the system.

Is this incomplete? Yes. Would it handle the vast majority of developer needs? Yes. Is it agile? Yes. Would people who like bow ties like it? No.

What do you use for project management software? Do you like it? Is it agile?

9 Comments

Have you check out Pivotal Tracker? Probably covers some of the requirements and from my [limited] experience it's pretty nice to use.

They market it as "lightweight agile management software"...

You know I'm a fan of the cards on the board as the primary tool - so I won't have that argument again now :-)

All that said - I've heard lots of nice things about Mingle from Thoughtworks.

http://www.thoughtworks-studios.com/mingle-agile-project-management

Not used it myself - but not heard anybody I know who has used it say nasty things about it. Which for a PM tool is a pretty good recommendation :-)

Cheers,

Adrian

While I'm no fan of Jira, what you're describing sounds very very close to what I see in Jira. Looking at the Task Board, I get all tickets for the current sprint, listed under "To do", "In progress", "To verify" and "Done". A drop down lets me jump to previous sprints. Sounds very much like your ideal software scenario.

/m

We've tried various different systems. The current one we are using is Pivotal Tracker and I'm really happy with it. One neat thing about it is it provides a nice rest api that you can call in your svn/git hooks. Jira and others may have that too, but Pivotal Tracker has a much less cluttered and more intuitive UI.

As a PM that uses Jira in the BBC, I can assure you that with some tweaking and using teh greenhopper plugin, you can get the system to do exactly what you describe - an agile electronic task board that actually works.

All we need now is to get that working on a touchscreen and we can do away with the postit notes altogether.

I like Jira, with the GreenHopper plugin to make it fit with Scrum methodology.

I don't mind JIRA more than I mind all the other bug tracking software (they all suck :-P) but I have found that JIRA's custom searches fix some of the issues you might have.

I use a custom search for each project and then put each custom search on my Dashboard. This way I can fine-tune what I see and the order and all that jazz.

Hey guys, I think I must have tried maybe 80% of free / affordable agile project management tools. And I must say http://www.agilesoup.com does it for our team, a solid but not overloaded feature set, simple, intuitive interface. Very highly recommended.

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About Ovid

user-pic Have Perl; Will Travel. Freelance Perl/Testing/Agile consultant. Photo by http://www.circle23.com/. Warning: that site is not safe for work. The photographer is a good friend of mine, though, and it's appropriate to credit his work.