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Overview of Scrum Tools
Most people who practice scrum use some rather low-tech methods: whiteboards, stickies or notepads. And, there's nothing wrong with these methods. On the market, however, are several software tools meant to make your life easier. Two of these are ScrumWorks Pro 3.2 and Version One. Both of these are very popular but each comes with their own set of pros and cons.
Basically, both versions help you streamline the scrum process by allowing you to input your values into templates that are set up for you. Once these values have been inputted, they automatically create charts, including the burn-down chart, for you. These software tools were made to make your life easier by giving you a structure to work with and doing the scrum basics for you.
For an overview of the scrum development method, please read Scrum Development: Help Your Team Adapt to Ever-changing Environments.
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ScrumWorks Pro 3.2 has been out the longest. This version was designed to eliminate many of the bugs from the previous versions. You can keep track of and manage your logged-in users and it can be used with 64-bit Windows Edition now. You can handle multiple projects using this software so that you follow the progress on each. ScrumWorks was strictly meant to be used as a scum tool.
However there are problems with this software. The Web interface can be slow. You cannot split up tasks between sprints. If you don't finish a task, you have to migrate that task to another sprint. And many people have trouble with the amount of required information that is needed before you can proceed to the next screen or task. For certain sections, including the backlog, you have to enter a lot of required information before you can save it or move on to something else.
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The other major tool on the market is VersionOne. VersionOne just released their V1:Agile Team last fall. For a complete review of this release, please see Ronda Levine's article VersionOne Launches V1: Agile Team.
VersionOne was not specifically built to be a scrum software tool, but it can be used for that purpose. You can keep track of your work with the taskboard function. You can also manage your backlog. Plus, you can create your own electronic whiteboard for your sprints.
The main problem with V1 is that it is not a specific scrum tool. It tries to fit into a variety of niches which could cause your teams to have some problem using the tool. If you do plan on using this tool, you will probably need a scrum trainer to teach your team how to adequately use this software. Finally, the templates that V1 uses are of a different type than are generally used in the industry.
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Pitfalls of Scrum Software Tools
The main problem with V1 is that it is not a specific scrum tool. It tries to fit into a variety of niches, which could cause your teams to have some problem using the tool. If you do plan on using this tool, you will probably need a scrum trainer to teach your team how to adequately use this software. Finally, the templates that V1 uses are of a different type than are generally used in the industry.
Besides the obvious glitches listed above, there are additional problems with using software tools.
1. The team spirit can fall by the wayside. Software tools can cause your teams to stop communicating. Since a particular team member is simply inputting his/her own work into the computer system, they may just focus on their own tasks and stop sharing with the rest of the group.
2. Software tools can break down. While it's true that whiteboards can accidentally be erased, whole software systems can break down on a dime. If you need a particular tool and it stops working, you could be ,to quote a cliché, up the creek without a paddle. What if it's the software administrator's day off or he/she is on a cruise to Africa? It could be quite a long time before you can get back to work.
A software tool could be a time suck. You could waste nearly half of your sprint trying to fix your tool as opposed to completing your main project. So, you should be careful when deciding to adopt a particular scrum software tool. The old whiteboard and sticky may still be your best bet.