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Which Agile Planning Tools Do You Like Best?

Stacey Ackerman

The agile space has evolved from sticky notes and note cards to elaborate planning tools and everything in between. With so many choices in the marketplace today, it’s hard to know which tool to use.

We recently asked AMC members to discuss the question:

*What is your favorite tool for planning agile projects? How has this tool made your organization more agile?

Keep it Old School

Some of our members think that keeping it old school is the best way to be agile.

“I’m old—I still prefer whiteboards, 3x5 cards, sticky notes and the smell of sharpies,” said a member.

Another member agreed with the ‘old school’ way as it helps focus teams on the big picture rather than being too reliant on a tool.

“One of my favorite tools in agile planning are user story maps using a pen, paper and the right amount of people and skills,” he said.

Another member added, “We use good-ole-fashioned paper. Yep—lots of Post It™ notes, sharpies, pretty colors, you name it. I take pictures, blog, and share with teams…it’s so nice!”

A third person chimed in, “For a co-located team, I really like physical cards on a wall.”

Tools for Remote Teams

While many of our AMC members prefer to keep it old school, the reality is that most teams are dealing with remote members and need to have a tool that everyone can see and use. So here our some recommendations for remote teams.

Trello Trello is a lightweight tool that mimics a physical board with sticky notes, so many members like its ease-of-use. You can also buy some plugins to closer align it to Scrum, if that’s what you’re using. There is a free version, so smaller companies or those just starting with agile tend to start here. Trello also works great for home projects!

JIRA Probably one of the most widely used tools among our members is JIRA.

“Our team uses JIRA. I like how it works—it does have some pitfalls, but for the most part it does what we need it to do. The team is all remote so doing this via a Skype session has worked for us,” a member commented.

A lot of members also commented that JIRA has a great plugins for building roadmaps.

Pivotal Tracker This is the tool that the Mountain Goat Software team uses to manage its work. Mike finds it user friendly for stories and tasks, but doesn’t like the automation feature.

Another member agreed: “I love Pivotal Tracker. It’s extremely flexible, and I’ve used it with a variety of teams for different purposes. But most of all, I love the Pivotal philosophy. Yes, you can do Scrum with it, but Pivotal has its own workflow (it’s kind of XP, kinda kanban-ish).”

Visual Team Studios While Visual Team Studios isn’t the most widely used tool, one member reported being really satisfied with its capabilities.

“We’ve been very happy with a move to Visual Studio Team Services. It has a great Kanban board that works great for user stories (PBIs) and the tasks underneath them. It ends up being pretty ‘physical’ in how you tangibly can move ‘sticky notes’ across the board, and has some good reporting available. It also ties up super tightly with Git and has a great pull request functionality. I was concerned when we moved over, but man, I wouldn’t want it any other way now,” he said.

Hive This one is even lesser known, but Mike and I experimented with it on a project together and found it to be very user friendly. When Mike suggested it to another agile guy, he immediately called the company and become an investor!

Slack The community had a lot to say about Slack and its reduction on their email inbox. On the con side was the idea that the tool interrupts people from what their doing and requires an immediate response.

A member in favor of Slack said, “While I don’t have a statistic stating that says email takes more time, I can anecdotally attest to time saved on the mountains of status updates, questions that are never answered, and discussions that are more difficult in email format from past companies that didn’t use Slack vs. those that have. I think Slack also leans towards brevity and email leans to ridiculously thought-out, long communication.”

To join the conversation and to hear more comments about preferred tools and more, join the Agile Mentors Community. Visit https://www.agilementors.com for more information on membership.

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