Scrum-ptious Applications

One of the things I miss from my time at Jiva (apart from the team of course) is working closely with everyone to actually build the product and the way we used to Scrum in a relatively flexible way to give us a framework to work within.

Of all the myriad roles I’ve had over the years Product Owner in the Scrum sense was the one I felt fitted me best. I enjoyed the agile nature of things and also the user focus of creating stories, the collaborative manner that work was estimated and especially ‘show and tell’ element at the end of each sprint. The whole aspect of protecting the ‘doers’ from the ‘talkers’ suited me as well and all-in-all given the right product it is something I would very much like to do again.

I don’t really get to work that closely with projects these days but I do continue to maintain an interest in the area and over time have come across some tools that I would like an excuse to use one day soon.

Scrumy is actually something I looked at a while ago but had forgotten about. It allows teams to create story ‘cards’ online and drag’n’drop them according to their status. At Jiva we went old school with a great big wall, lots of drawing pins and stacks of index cards – which was brilliant (and also a great visual) but perhaps something like this is more practical especially with remote teams. Even office based using a projector could give you the big wall effect when needed! PivotalTracker is a similar tool and one I enjoyed using in the past. As far as I can tell there isn’t much to split them on features but I enjoy the sense of fun that Scrumy exudes (though I also appreciate the fact that Pivotal is entirely free!).

MeetingMix got a bit of coverage this week on Techcrunch and it is a simple idea done well. Essentially it just aims to improve the planning and management of meetings. Recently we started to look at structuring meetings at work slightly differently based on this article about how Google run meetings and I’m pretty sure at least some elements of this app were inspired by the same thing. The ability to easily collaborate on an agenda is obviously possible via something like Google Docs and the same is true of live note taking during the meeting but this pulls these things together in a very elegant manner and the clock letting you know how much time has been expended on each agenda item is nice. I do think this is the sort of thing that could really help meetings but I do wonder how many organisations would be in a position to have a spare projector to allow this to be visible independently throughout the meeting which is how it would make the biggest impact.

Planning Poker is a nice little site that helps remote teams quickly handle the estimation of stories for the upcoming sprint or beyond. A moderator enters a story (this is another reason where tools like Scrumy and Pivotal come into their own above the old school index cards – copy and paste!) and the dev team gets to vote on score to give it for the coming sprint (I’m not going to explain estimating etc for Scrum here – lots of articles about it out there..) This should speed up the process considerably with discussions taking place around ‘poker’ to give the stories context (this can be via Skype, Campfire or anything else). It has pedigree as well as its developers are major evangelists for Agile development.

All of these tools obviously are only there to support you and your project and don’t do much to help if things are not going well elsewhere but I think they could be useful and are well worth considering amongst any suite of applications used to manage agile projects.