Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Project management tools for Agile projects

This is a post by guest blogger Steward Copper

A few days ago I was attending the IT Project Management Conference and participated in a survey. All the attendants were asked one question: "What project management tool or solution do you use for the Agile projects?" Among the Top-10 Agile tools there were the ones I'd used to manage, plan and track my projects and processes - MS Excel, Pivotal Tracker, Comindware and VersionOne. So, let me share my thoughts and experience of using them for task management, sprint and iteration planning, daily meetings, burn-downcharts creation, project tracking and other Agile techniques.

MS Excel

The tool is a standard part of the MS Office package. The main general advantage of choosing it for your next project is that almost everybody is familiar with it and you don't need to spend time for the team training. It's used by many Agile PMs because it:

 - allows to create a product backlog while listing user stories, placing estimates and deadlines;

 - allows to plan iterations or sprints (it's good to create a template on a specific sheet);

 - allows to group tasks into sprints using a using a standard group tool;

 - allows to add any kind of comments for the tasks, stories and other entities using a standard commenting tool;

- allows to support daily stand-ups while filling a sprint progress data;

- provides very high level of flexibility while drawing graphs including burn-down chart, creating custom reports including digital dashboards and so on.

Excel helps many of us to manage projects but it's not so good for remote teams and big projects. Some managers don't use Excel because it doesn't provide the set of predefined processes.

Pivotal Tracker

The tool was created as a SaaS issue tracking system and evolved into a complex solution to support all the main processes of an Agile project. It's chosen thanks to the following:

- it's developed especially for Agile projects and uses Iterative Management Workflow approach;

- it allows to create iterations or sprints including tasks (tickets) of different priority;

- user-friendly dashboard provides one view of theentire project allowing to see the real time information for all the project stakeholders;

- it's good for the team collaboration including daily stand-up meetings and remote teams management;

- it automatically creates charts, including release burn-down, iteration burn-up, story type breakdown, and historical velocity;

- it is available for the iOS platform (iPhone andiPad) and so on.

The tool is recommended by many Agile evangelists including those using Kanban, Scrum Lean and XP. But it's not the only solution on the market. New solutions appear with new additional features. Comindware is a good example.


The tool is little bit more than just an Agile software. It combines collaborative task management with workflow automation capabilities. The main feature that allows Comindware to compete successfully with the other solutions is its 100% flexibility (or better to say agility). Project or process manager may create a specific workflow or edit predefined processes even in the middle of a project. The other interesting features used to manage Agile projects are:

- creating and assigning tasks (auto-generated tasks from workflows andtraditional task lists created manually), setting up their priorities;

- project team collaboration which is very essential while managing remote and virtual teams;

- real time status reports including priority, deadline and other reports that are very helpful during daily stand-ups;

- customizable visual dashboard that is perfectly used not only to create all possible types of charts and graphs but also to provide visual information to project stakeholders;

- portfolio management feature allowing to manage multiple projects and generate aggregated reports;

- easy integration (if necessary) with the other tools like SalesForceCRM and MS Outlook.

The Comindware solution may be used as a cloud-basedservice (more cost-effective option) and as a on-premise software (to get the maximum control). It's really a good solution with plenty of different useful features that go far over just an Agile project management. But for those who feel that it's too flexible and has too many features there is a VersionOne.


The tool is better known as a Scrum project management solution, but thanks to a big amount of functionalities it can be used for all Agile methodologies. I've listed the main reasons why managers prefer VersionOne nowadays:

- it allows to manage multiple projects and iterations at the same time;

- it allows to plan sprints and to manage requirements, user stories and epics using very user-friendly interface (I've even heard that some experts named VersionOne as the tool of the best usability);

- it may be used for the team collaboration (sharing files, ideas and messages);

- it allows to create visual burn-down charts, so as storyboards, trackboards,testboards;

- it may be connected with other tools used in software development projects like CruiseControl, Jira,
Bugzilla, TeamCity and etc. allowing better flexibility;

- it provides almost everything for a good reporting andanalysis because there are more than 50 agile metrics and reports, so as a custom analytics platform.

Instead of a conclusion:

Today we have so many software tools that even a very professional project manager may face a problem of choice. So, while choosing the best solution for your next Agile project don't forget the golden rule: a tool is nothing more than an instrument that has to serve the goals of your project and to help you and the team to be effective. As for me for my current projects I use MS Excel (simple on-site projects and to-do lists) and Comindware (middle-size and big projects, processes, managing remote teams).

Hi, my name’s Steward Copper and I am the owner of Project Management Insights. While working as a project coordinator and BA, I have tried almost all possible PM tools, BA instruments, collaboration programs, including tracker and hr system solutions. I also write for different blogs sharing my knowledge and observations.


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Gracie Christina said...

"These are very useful tools for Project Management and team collaboration. Thanks for sharing. We will like to use them for our company. We are working on many projects and facing some problem to manage project data. This tools are very helpful for us.


Gary Mitchell said...

Great post. These seem like some fantastic tools to use for agile products. My company uses MS Excel for a lot of what we do internally, plus more recently we've been using GDocs.

One of the more recent tools we have begun using is DCIM software called AssetCentral. It really helps us organize our data center management operations and streamline our processes. Take a look when you have a chance.

Matthew said...

Project management is even more challenging when it involves construction or engineering works. You have to use what you know and work what you have to in order to achieve your goals. On top of it all, you must make sure that the entire project runs with sufficient budget as you have agreed on with your client.

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