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Using the Right Agile Tools the Wrong Way

Tags: Agile Enablement

Agile software development tools like JIRA, Trello, or TFS are helpful for organizations to retain visibility into the work being done, stay organized, and track progress. However, these tools have a habit of becoming a crutch, or even a replacement to the principles behind agile software development. Below are some tips to successfully utilize agile software development tools while remaining loyal to the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.

Tip 1: Put People First

While digital story cards seem like a modern agile practice, too many times they can become a road block. Teams rely on the story to tell them everything they need to know. If questions arise, they are documented and answered in the story; people and interactions are forgotten. These tools are supposed to promote visibility, not remove the need for collaboration and conversation. Instead of spending time documenting questions and answers, have conversations with team members and stakeholders. When we put people first, software development tools such as JIRA, Trello, and TFS become less of a dependency.

Tip 2: A Little Goes a Long Way

How many times have you seen a digital story card with tons of notes, acceptance criteria, and attachments? It looks more like a novel by George R. R. Martin than a story written to create a small piece of working software. Remember, the idea behind story cards is that all information fits on a single Post It note, and the goal is working software over comprehensive documentation. While there are circumstances where additional written details are appropriate, dialogue can be more effective. There is less room for misinterpretation and more well-rounded communication when teams talk versus interpret details in a written format. Keep your digital story cards short and sweet, don’t forget to leave room for discussion and creativity.

Tip 3: Efficiently Respond to Change

There is usually a moment of panic when direction changes on a project, since we all know how much work needs to be done in the software development tool to reflect the new direction. A new epic, stories, and priority order are created sometimes taking hours to complete. One of the goals of agile is for teams to easily respond to change. Don’t let software development tools prohibit this. Use these tools efficiently to record changes so they are visible. Don’t forget, keep stories short and sweet, put conversation and collaboration first.

It is easy for organizations to rely on agile software development tools in ways which go against the guidelines in the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. These tools should not remove the interactions, creativity, and responsiveness agile was designed to promote. Put your people first, remember a little goes a long way in story cards, and use the tools efficiently when responding to requirement or direction changes. Using these suggestions should help your organization make the most out of agile software development tools, without them becoming a crutch on your agile journey.


About The Author

Project Services Consultant

Kelsey is a Project Services Consultant in Cardinal’s Cincinnati office and has been a Business Analyst the past 4 years. She has worked on a variety of projects for healthcare, retail, and transportation industry clients that include employee facing apps and websites, as well as back-end reporting and system maintenance.