Agile development and low tech tools

I just recently started working on large software development project that the management team decided to use SCRUM over some of the existing waterfall process used throughout the rest of the organization. When I first heard the news I thought great now the team can focus on building working software rather than following processes that only make the leadership team feeling like they have control over the project. The problem is that the team is spending large amounts of their time keeping information up to date in VersionOne the tool that was chosen by the management team to manage this project. VersionOne is a very popular tool that many successful companies have standardized on for SCRUM or XP, but from my experience effective agile development teams always choose low tech tools for managing the development.

What do I mean by low tech tools? Low tech tools are tools that do not require the team to sit in front of the computer to use; simple things like big visible charts or information radiator and index cards. Why is this so important? Because the team already spends a large amount of time sitting in front of the computer developing and testing the software, why make them spend all their remaining time updating and managing user stories, burn down charts, and tasks chained to the that same machine.

Low tech tools have a way of connecting people with the ideas and concepts in a much more clear, tangible, and meaningful way. For example, a team can sit down and write all the user stories on index cards then with some large wall space tape the index cards to the wall to create a product backlog. From that the team can do sprint planning by simply moving cards from the backlog section of the wall to the next planned sprint; all with no dual core’s required!

In a large organization or working with some remote team members the low tech way can be difficult and the organization may require that the planning be documented in a more formal project management or tacking tool. To address this have the PM on the team be responsible for keeping the low tech tools in sync with the high tech tools. They are the ones that need to communicate the status of the project to many different types of stakeholders so it makes the most sense for them to manage the communication; and leave the team to focusing on the code…

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