What Tools Does Your Agile Development Team Use?

There are dozens of agile project management tools. How do you choose which one is right for consultants and agile coaches?

Jira

The tool of choice for many agile project managers is Atlassian’s Jira. Born in Australia as a way to manage help desk ‘tickets’, this tool has grown into a way for software developers to code, test, and release their digital products. Built right into the product are agile tools to manage the Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog, visualise the work with a Scrum board or even Kanban.

The Good

Collecting metrics is time consuming. Jira takes the pain out of it agile project management metrics providing coaches with a detailed picture of delivery metrics, including:

  • Burndown charts – Showing how much of the Sprint Backlog is left throughout the Sprint.
  • Release burndown – Highlighting the amount of work remaining across Sprints
  • Velocity – highlighting the amount of Product Backlog the team can turn into an Increment of Done each Sprint.
  • Control charts – highlighting the cycle time of individual items – the total time from “in progress” to “Done”
  • Cumulative flow diagrams – highlighting potential bottlenecks in each of the states of the team’s work between “to do” (the Sprint Backlog), “in progress” and “Done”.

These delivery metrics enable agile coaches to see and identify capability areas that need training and coaching:

  • Done or not Done? Are the teams able to create an Increment of Done each Sprint?  
  • Quality and Done – Is the Definition of Done sufficient to help the team reduce bugs and improve product quality and health?
  • Bottlenecks – Flow diagrams provide insights into what capability areas need support. Is testing lagging behind development? Are developers taking on more than can be tested in the Sprint?

The Bad

In Twitter, a small discussion has come about over the past few days, started by GeePaw Hill that agile veteran Ron Jeffries participated in:

A lot of companies do what they call “Scrum” or “Agile” which is actually a thing that should be called “Jira”. Sadly, the Jira methodology is catalytic to any incipient fearfulness it finds in its host. It turns wobbly teams into paralyzed and unhappy teams almost without fail.

To which Ron Jeffries responded:

Jira is an example of a tool that is far easier to use badly than well. as such, I consider it harmful.

Ron highlights that a lot of companies do what they call “Scrum” or “Agile” which is actually a thing that should be called “Jira”. Sadly, he highlights, the Jira methodology is catalytic to any incipient fearfulness it finds in its host. It turns wobbly teams into paralysed and unhappy teams almost without fail. 

When agile coaches foocus on the tool and not on behaviours that create agility it turns them into the “Jira admin” – managing tickets over helping their teams to become cross-functional and self-managing. Jira will ultimately give you activity metrics to tell you whether the team and individuals are fully utilised and being efficient, but it won’t tell you whether the team is truly agile or how to fix wobbly teams.

Azure DevOps

Microsoft’s Azure is good but not great, and it may be a jack of all trades and master of none. Its cloud hosting gets the job done for teams, but speeds can be a concern, and it lacks some of the advanced features of other specialist cloud hosting providers like Hostinger and Interserver.net.

The Good

Like Jira, Azure DevOps takes the pain out of the tedious elements of software development and collecting agile project management metrics through simple to use dashboards.

  • Product Health through bug status and bugs by severity.
  • Productivity and work priority by counts across tasks, features, user stories and bugs.
  • Product burndown and burnup charts – Showing planned versus completed work across Sprints.
Azure DevOps Sprint Management

The Bad

Originally, DevOps was a focus on helping agile coaches and consultants to work with the business to remove the barriers between traditionally siloed teams, development and operations.

As development teams began adopting agile practices in the 2010s, the system administrators who deployed and supported the software typically worked instead with ITIL practices. Whose responsibility was it, though, when bugs, errors and system crashes occured — the person deploying the code or the developer? Developers often didn’t know much about deploying and systems administrators don’t know much about how the code is supposed to work. Unfortunately, this behaviour was the same antipattern that led to the QA team.

Today, DevOps has become synonymous with tooling and managed services for continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) and not about managing the wasted time and effort created due to handovers between teams. Where DevOps should really be a culture for agile coaches to help nurture, Azure turns DevOps into tooling.

Agile IQ®

Not many agile assessments focus on enterprise outcomes. Typically, they use team surveys and allow people to compare responses to individual questions over time. 

Agile IQ is a behavioural assessment tool that helps agile coaches and consultants understand the strength of key agile behaviours and uses these to communicate the effectiveness of their coaching activities, including:

  • Productivity improvement and effectiveness.
  • Cost reduction through supporting teams to reduce re-work through attention to quality, and reducing overtime through supporting a culture and mindset of sustainable pace.
  • Delivery risk profile due to the transparency that agile behaviours, practices, and artefacts create.
agile-iq-behaviours-and-enterprise-metrics

Because Agile IQ focuses on behaviour and not team-specific metrics like velocity, whole programs and teams’ behaviours can then be easily compared to others of a similar age.

agile iq data model 2021-10-15(sm)

The Good

Agile IQ uses a statistical model to measure the strength of behaviours based on industry-standard practices, including:

  • Scrum Guide.
  • Agile Manifesto.
  • Kanban and Lean.
  • Extreme Programming (XP).

The model relates these behaviours to team maturity stages, provigin sufficient metrics for agile coaches to understand:

  • How the team’s behaviours compares to others of a similar age.
  • What behaviours need nurturing and strengthening.
  • The types of coaching and learning behaviours that will take the team to the next level of capability maturity.

 

The Bad

Dunning-Kruger effet and other biases can get in the way of accurately reporting whether a team’s behaviour is agile or not. Agile IQ overcomes cognitive bias through applying an optimism bias scale.

Learn more about agile metrics for coaches

Agile IQ® helps agile coaches and consultants measure the behavioural strength of teams, programs and Agile Release Trains.

Conclusions

The market is full of agile project management metrics tools. These tools focus almost exclusively on activity metrics that help Product Owners understand whether they are delivering on-time and on-budget. While useful, these metrics only provide a picture of what has happened with the team. They don’t provide coaches with insights into:

  • Why are some agile teams more successful?
  • What will make teams agile?
  • Recommend actions to make agile repeatable?

To answer these key questions, coaches need tools that look to metrics based on data analytics: tools that use behavioural and statistical models as well as rules engines based on AI and big data.

Agile IQ® provides coaches with behavioural assessments, data-analytics, and a robust way to link their coaching engagements with enterprise outcomes that scale agility and help make the capability repeatable.

Learn more about Agile IQ® at: agileiq.com

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