Open Space Notes: Merging physical and e-tools

Topic

The Development Team wants to use the physical Task Board, and the Product Owner insists on using an electronic tool to manage the Product Backlog: can these two needs co-exist?

Discussion

  • One participant suggested that the Product Owner try a new release from Hansoft.se for Product Backlog management, but cautioned that Hansoft is in the process of including a Planning Board in its product.
  • A representative from VersionOne offered that his company will be releasing a lightweight version of their product in May which can be effectively used for managing Product Backlog and doesn’t burden the Product Owner with a lot of functionality ‘overhead’ that he/she may not want or need.
Should teams be convinced to use an electronic tool?
  • A suggestion was made that at the Daily Stand-Up meeting, each Team member could sit at a laptop whose screen is being projected onto a wall and he/she could update the tasks they have been working on along with those he/she will be working on.  But this was viewed as taking away from the human interaction that is vital to successful Team meetings.
Do electronic tools just introduce more ‘noise’ into the project?
  • Participants felt that just because the burn-down chart, Product Backlog, and other artifacts of Scrum are available electronically doesn’t mean that anyone is actually going to view them or use them.  Rather, the artifacts may be viewed as just so much additional electronic ‘noise’ that will be ignored and add little value.
  • One participant cautioned that simply using an electronic tool will not make a team agile.  The VersionOne representative said that their sales people actively warn potential clients who are just starting out using Agile/Scrum practices that purchasing and using their tools alone will not make their Teams agile and that if the effort fails, the client may view it as a failure of agile/scrum practices. VersionOne encourages clients to seek training as well as coaching as key steps in becoming successful with agile and scrum practices.
  • A suggestion was made that, in order to use an electronic tool for Product Backlog management while retaining the physical Task Board, that the e-tool can be used to print the user stories for the physical Task Board and then, at the end of the sprint, the Scrum Master can enter into the e-tool the status of the user stories that were ‘Done’.
  • Several participants agreed that managing the Product Backlog in Excel has limitations, particularly for Product Owners whom manage multiple Product Backlogs but want to ‘roll-up’ information regarding the products for a ‘Big Picture’ view and planning.  However, none of the participants offered any strong recommendations for specific tools that lent themselves to Product Backlog management without also introducing additional functionality that may not be used and could actually represent ‘overkill’ for the Product Owner.

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