While the co-creators and other thought leaders debate the roles of team members in a Scrum team and the way to adopt the methodology, software vendors continue to make tools that help you do Scrum, your way.
Here are seven tools, ranging from software-as-a-service programs to privately hosted software, to help you customize your teams, sprints and Scrum adaptation.
Acunote, according to its CEO Gleb Arshinov, is a SaaS project-management tool that can be used for free with teams of five people or fewer. Although the tool guides teams through the Scrum process, it doesn’t force the principles on them.
“We work with your company; the software doesn’t force you into a strict process. The tool shows you the progress of the project, and you can see all levels of work in order to make informed decisions,” Arshinov said, adding that visibility can be altered on the enterprise level should a company need to fulfill compliance requirements.
This tool integrates with most tools on the market, according to Arshinov, including most source-control tools and bug trackers. It also integrates with Google Apps, which he said is something many customers requested.
Acunote, also provides open-source components of the software and allows open-source projects to use it for free, according to Arshinov.
The tool generates data on project status and individual team workload, and it allows managers to view multiple projects and teams through the same tool. The business team can also use the tool in order to determine the progress of the software development team, and the business team can manipulate the tool as necessary to fit their needs, Arshinov said.
According to Jack Milunsky, owner and founder of Agilebuddy, this SaaS Scrum tool focuses on being simple and easy to use.
Extreme Programming, Milunsky said, also fits into the tool for the engineering needs of the development team. XP, as Jeff Sutherland, cofounder of the Scrum process said, naturally goes with Scrum and is often absorbed by mature Scrum teams after their first few successful sprints.
Milunsky said agile is a “brand new way of doing things; it requires a new philosophy.” In agile, the team matters more than the individual and is required to self-manage in order to be successful with Scrum, something he said is difficult for new teams to grasp. Agilebuddy can be used to help these teams adopt Scrum and then scale it out to other parts of the company.
A cumbersome tool won’t be used, according to CollabNet’s customers, said David Parker, vice president and general manager of the Scrum business line.
He said CollabNet’s customers want something that is simple to use and easy to scale. “A suitable way to do Scrum is on a whiteboard, so any tools have to be more efficient than that,” he said.
He added that while Scrum adoption is growing, the uptake within the enterprise might be slowed due to common misconceptions. Parker and Victor Szalvay, CollabNet’s CTO of its Scrum business line, both agreed that managers need to support Scrum adoption and help developers feel comfortable with the transition. Szalvay said the most important implementation strategy is to get to cross-functional teams early by rearranging offices and setting up team rooms.
Both agree that tools are more useful for distributed teams, since if you’re in different time zones or different offices, it is quite difficult to view the whiteboard in a team room in real time.
Additionally, Szalvay said some team managers view hundreds of team members’ statuses and several different projects at once, and then customize each dashboard in ScrumWorks to determine which team members have access to different projects.
A Scrum tool should use the terminology of Scrum, such as user stories instead of requirements and shouldn’t be rigid, according to Todd Olson, vice president of products at Rally.
“Pick an agile-focused tool so the language of the tool matches the terminology of the agile methodology and helps the change propagate,” he said. “Rally allows for customizable reports and can be extended via applications. Customers are given an application catalog and have access to the APIs to write their own applications.”
These customizations help teams make the transition to agile from other methodologies, and allow distributed teams to work together to create their own version of Scrum.
Rally’s SaaS solution, with an on-premise option for larger enterprises, allows for bidirectional integrations and is free for teams of 10 or less.
“We know we’re not the only vendor in the enterprise, so we need to integrate with non-agile tools like bug trackers or support trackers,” Olson said.
The dashboards in Rally can be customized for members of the executive management team as well to provide for using agile methodologies beyond development teams, which in Olson’s opinion is the future of agile adoption.
ScrumDo is a SaaS tool that allows teams to manage a backlog, estimate user stories and create iterations. It uses the Scrum terminology throughout the process and, as an open-source project, is free for most teams.
Marc Hughes, cofounder of ScrumDo, said the company aims to provide a simple solution.
“We offer a hosted solution with different pricing options, and then an open-source solution that can be used by different organizations. Large organizations can use ScrumDo if they split up their teams,” he said, adding that, in his experience, if a team has to wrestle with the tool (i.e., getting it to work with the team structure), the focus on the Scrum process is lost.
Hughes also said that most teams who fail at Scrum often don’t have a strong understanding of the methodology.
“You can’t just turn task lists into backlogs,” he said, adding that while some changes need to be made to the process to adopt Scrum, there is a possibility of too much overhaul.
Hughes said Kanban can be used with the tool, but he believed that Kanban and other Lean methodologies can sometimes take away too much of the process. Because of this, he believed that teams shouldn’t jump right into it, nor did he believe that it will be the future of the Scrum movement.
Tools, Hughes said, are sometimes a natural progression for a team, but if they’re not distributed, simple tools still do the trick.
“If it works for your team, having a big wall of sticky notes will work,” he said.
Joel Semeniuk, executive vice president of Telerik, said tool adoption depends on how teams are located. However, he added, it is rare to see a team adopt Scrum without a tool.
The Team Pulse tool, used internally at Telerik, includes a prioritized backlog, analytics and a best practice analyzer, which allow users to define their own Scrum processes based on the requirements of each project.
“Co-located teams can use whiteboards but then often move to Excel or another backlog organization tool,” Semeniuk said. “Generally, [teams] navigate to a tool as they progress through Scrum adoption. Tools that give the ability to prioritize and manage the velocity are often used.”
Additionally, Semeniuk said teams almost always bring XP into the Scrum process as their adoption evolves. More teams are adding Kanban and Lean techniques, in his experience.
“Kanban started off in a maintenance project, and is built around flow and being reactive to need,” he said. “Teams are realizing they need to get to ‘done’ and limit the work you do, which naturally fits in with the Scrum framework.”
The Agile Management software by VersionOne was created nine years ago, and it incorporates Scrum and other agile methodologies.
“The product brings visibility outside the team room,” said Ian Culling, CTO of VersionOne. “Scrum is intended to be a lightweight, iterative process and was very much about management and roles, but it is a bit wider now. It is easy to digest.”
In Culling’s opinion, Scrum is very much about incorporating the engineering principles behind XP. “A lot of trainers will emphasize engineering practices,” he said.
The VersionOne tool, and others like it, can help teams adopt Scrum by keeping the terminology consistent throughout the development process, Culling said. He added that many teams use the tool to increase traceability to predict business value.