Choosing an Agile Project Management Tool for your Agile Organization

Sep 12, 2016 10:17:07 AM / by PaulG

 How do you know what tool to choose? JIRA, VersionOne, Rally, DAD, LeanKit... the list goes on.


If I were going to develop this software, as a product owner, I would begin to develop the personas of the users of the system.  And then write stories from those users’ perspective. Let’s eat our own dog food and write some user stories that will help drive the selection from the most critical users of the system - the team.

  1. As a product owner I need a place/way/method to store and visually radiate the product backlog so that stakeholders and team members can see what is a priority and why.

Acceptance Criteria: 

Given that I am prioritizing user stories to be groomed and estimated by the team

When I place them in the order of priority for this work

Then that order is reflected visually to the team and it is clear to the team and to the product stakeholders which story should be groomed next by the team


Given that I am prioritizing stories to inform the team on preferred order for execution

When a story is placed in order on the ready state backlog

Then it is evident to the team and to stakeholders what the order is and how that order was determined.


Given the I am presenting at sprint review

When I discuss the items that are next up in priority for the next sprint

Then I have a clear list of the likely candidates from which to drive the discussion with stakeholders


  1. As team member I need a way to visualize our work so that is becomes evident to me and my team members what we should focus on.

 Acceptance Criteria:

Given that I am in daily stand up and reviewing what I have completed and declaring what I will do today help the team reach its sprint goals

When I look at the current work in progress

Then it is evident to me which stories or tasks I can pick up to move them closer or to done to help team.


Given that I am working on a story or task

When I get blocked or need help from someone

Then I can easily signal to the team and those that can help me unblock the work


Given that I have completed the last task on a story and it ready for acceptance

When I mark that story as ready for acceptance

Then the there is a visual indicator to the product owner that the story is ready for them to review and accept.

  1. As a scrum master, I need a tool that helps me facilitate team ceremonies so that I can help the team gain a common understanding of the work to be done, plan effectively, and continuously improve.

 Acceptance Criteria:

Given that I am facilitating a grooming session for the team

When we discuss the story and refined acceptance criteria and estimate the story

Then all of these items are reflected in the story for team member to reference in the future


Given that I am facilitating sprint planning with the team

When we plan a story and identify tasks, tests and other activities

Then these items are reflected in the story for any team member to reference during the sprint


Given that I am facilitating sprint planning with the team

When the team commits to a story for that sprint

Then the story and all associate activities are moved into the sprint backlog and the remaining capacity for the team is reduced appropriately


Given that I am supporting the team with daily stand up

When we examine progress to date

Then we have a visual representation of Sprint Burndown, WIP, and Impeded items that drive actions from the team, product owner and me towards meeting sprint goals.


Given that I am facilitating sprint review

When we review what was completed and what was not completed for the sprint backlog

Then we have a visual representation of those items and the items still impeded.


Given that I am facilitating a retrospective

When I need to collect data about the sprint

Then I have the following metrics:

Stories Committed

Stories Completed

Story Cycle time

Number of Impediments raised

Number of Impediments cleared

Cycle time for Impediment resolution

Ready State Backlog depth

Number of defects identified

Number of defects remediated

Cycle time of defect remediation

WIP or Cumulative flow of work in process during the sprint


So, now that we have the stories, how do we leverage them for selecting a tool?

Do what any agile team team does with ready state stories: 

  1. Write test cases and identify what the demo would look like to stakeholders.
  2. Build/ configure some working software or a prototype that meets or mocks up the test cases.
  3. Get feedback from users and stakeholders.

If you already have a team working, I would start with a paper prototype to learn what data you need to capture and display to meet each of the stories acceptance criteria, and what visual representations work best for the team and stakeholders. There are certainly more stories to consider from each of these perspectives and you may find one through this exercise that is more critical. 

Of course - these stories are written form a perspective of one type of user. There are many other user personas you need to consider.  Leadership perspectives, Business Stakeholders, program leaders, portfolio leads and many others. I started with the team perspective based upon my assertion that if the tool does not work well for the team, then it likely won’t’ be valuable to anyone else in the organization. 

Another topic for another day is: “Why selecting and ALM based upon management needs is a mistake." 


Good Luck!

I would love to learn about your experience with Agile Lifecycle Tools, comment here and share.


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Topics: Agile, JIRA, Training, Lean, Agile Training

Written by PaulG

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