9 agile development tools for working at warp speed

Agile everywhere: Powerful, intuitive tools are spreading the agile gospel from software development to the business at large

Agile tools for working at warp speed
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9 tools primed for agile development success

Agile has not only caught fire among software development teams, but is seeing its principles and practices being applied to other parts of the business. Fueling this adoption of agile in software development and beyond is a rich landscape of tools for supporting agile processes that run the gamut from behind-the-firewall installations to SaaS-based offerings.

Besides those from better-known companies like Microsoft, Rally, and Atlassian, tools from companies like Liquid Planner, Active Collab, and Agilo Software, among others, are filling out a wide selection of agile options for organizations to choose from. The following nine tools are being leveraged by businesses adhering to agile methodologies in executing software development projects and more.

Active Collab
Active Collab

Active Collab’s flagship product provides project management and time-tracking, with features targeted at task management and team collaboration.

“We started to use Active Collab 2.0 in 2010. The team behind the Putovanja.info website tested it first, and after the positive experience, everyone else at Infostud started to use Active Collab,” writes Infostud’s Ivana Tomas in an Active Collab case study.

Active Collab, which Infostud has installed on its own server, has enabled the company to move beyond basic task management. “Before that, we used a task manager that only had basic options, such as setting up a task and receiving email notification when a change occurs. But it couldn’t respond to our organizational needs: every IT company needs to monitor a large number of projects, big and small, and a simple task manager isn’t enough,” Tomas writes.

Active Collab enables organizations to track project progress, check the status priority, know when a project has been completed, and ascertain how much time it took to complete.

“When we switched to Scrum, we kept using Active Collab and adjusted it to our new workflow: milestones were sprints, tasks were stories, and for assessment of story points we used the Estimate field,” Tomas writes.

(Pictured above: Active Collab’s My Work screen tracks updates to tasks, logged time, and project activity.)

Agilo for Scrum
Agilo for Scrum

Agilo Software’s Agilo for Scrum helps manage the workflow of agile projects, providing the means to visualize processes in real time from the beginning of a sprint to completion.

“Agilo for Scrum follows very closely the scrum process,” says Stefano Rago, a software engineer at Agilo. “Its push system allows users to receive updates from other members in real time, becoming a constantly updated information radiator.”

As a SaaS tool, Agilo for Scrum can be accessed online from anywhere, enabling it to support distributed teams. Workflow in Agilo for Scrum is broken out by a variety of roles, including team member, scrum master, product owner, and stakeholder, and it can be used for any project that lends itself to a scrum workflow, not only software, according to Rago.

“In fact, there is no strict connection to the specifics of software projects, and its interface has been designed striving for ease of use and intuitiveness, hence not only for technical persons,” Rago says.

(Pictured above: Agilo for Scrum features a panel to create or edit user Stories, shown in foreground. In the background is a glimpse of the main Agilo for Scrum screen showing how the navigation follows the scrum workflow.)

Aha
Aha

Aha is product road map software, helping teams visualize what’s coming up as far as product development goes. It supports both agile and traditional product management needs.

CooperVision, which manufactures contact lenses, not only uses Aha in its scrum-based software development processes, but elsewhere throughout the organization. “The tool is really more than a software development tool,” says Shaun Schooley, vice president of global marketing at CooperVision. “It’s really a product-planning tool. It’s got strategy elements that are useful to the commercial business.”

Aha, Schooley says, is a “phenomenal tool for release planning.” With Aha, CooperVision is able to connect four teams and keep everyone aware of timelines, deliverables, and general objects without having to share files over email. “It’s an incredibly valuable repository for us for the products we work on and the strategy we’re pursuing.” Schooley also says Aha has helped with CooperVision’s adoption of devops principles, uniting the company’s development and operations teams.

(Pictured above: Aha provides a product portfolio road map. Users have the option of customizing which part of the portfolio is visible.)

Dapulse
Dapulse

Dapulse’s project management tool enables teams to track the status of their high-level goals while offering fine-grained management capabilities that makes project collaboration faster. While Dapulse can be used in software development, Australia-based Rescon Builders uses it to manage construction projects.

“We use Dapulse as a task management, project planning, and company portal,” Rescon’s Timothy Cocaro says. “Having different boards, we can easily create tasks that are department-specific, e.g., ‘administration,’ ‘construction,’ etc.”

Rescon has been using Dapulse for the past two years to track the overall status of projects and approvals for its granny flat construction projects. “Given the application is so visual and easy to understand, it acts as our company portal. All our staff can easily view, contribute, and comment on those boards they have access too,” Cocaro says.

“Like any app, there are always things you wish the application did that it doesn’t currently do,” Cocaro says. “However, many of the tweaks I hoped for in the early days have since been implemented [in Dapulse].”

“As a construction company it’s been a long-held view that traditional sequential development done typically through Gantt charts was the only way,” Cocaro says. “However, let’s face it; if it worked so well, projects would be delivered on time, on budget, and to specification.”

(Pictured above: Users can see an overview of all projects, comment on statuses, and search to get different views.)

Liquid Planner
Liquid Planner

Liquid Planner’s SaaS-based management tool creates schedules based on project priorities, predicting the most likely completion dates of projects while accounting for portfolio-level planning and workload factors to ensure that team members won’t be overbooked.

Cloud infrastructure provider Redapt adopted Liquid Planner for project management and was able to use the tool on the first day. “There was no complex implementation to get involved in the software. That’s kind of how we started,” said David Cantu, COO of Redapt. Liquid Planner serves as the focal point of team communication and planning at Redapt, which uses Liquid Planner for projects like application modernization, in which Redapt’s applications are being converted to microservices or container-based software.

Software developer Dialogs uses Liquid Planner across multiple disciplines, including software development, marketing, and sales.

“We run absolutely everything that we do in our firm through Liquid Planner. This includes our actual development team fleshing out user stories and placing those in weekly sprints,” says Brett Barron, principal at Dialogs, adding that his team appreciates that Liquid Planner makes no assumptions about how it should be used. Because of this, Dialogs “can plan resource availability across multiple projects easily in Liquid Planner.”

(Pictured above: Liquid Planner enables planning out of sprints by building tasks and dependencies and assigning of team members. Teams also can switch from a waterfall [as shown] to a kanban view.)

Pivotal Tracker
Pivotal Tracker

The Pivotal Tracker agile project management tool from Pivotal Software simplifies collaboration and help teams focus on priorities. It features a project page; stories, which are small, actionable components of work; notifications; charts; workspaces; and story workflow. Stories can be organized into “epics,” to build a bigger road map.

Moffitt Cancer Center uses Pivotal Tracker for managing day-to-day operations in Moffitt’s Collaborative Data Services Core, which provides clinical, tumor, and biospecimen data. “Services by the CDS Core range from providing aggregate counts of patient or biospecimen availability to supporting significantly more complex queries involving multiple source systems requiring input from a variety of subject matter experts,” said Craig Comperatore, a Moffitt project manager. “Pivotal Tracker is used to estimate and prioritize these requests, ensuring that our team is committing to the right amount of work, and providing our customers with realistic estimated completion dates.”

“Pivotal Tracker provides our team with a single, prioritized backlog of work, and the automated velocity-based planning provides a realistic estimate of the work that we can commit to each iteration,” Comperatore says. “One of the issues we had prior to using Tracker was that analysts would over-commit and set unrealistic expectations for our customers.”

(Pictured above: Pivotal Tracker’s Reports and Analytics dashboard displays project metrics and overall health.)

ScrumDo
ScrumDo

ScrumDo’s online project management tool supports agile processes, including kanban, scrum, or an organization’s customized processes, keeping teams informed of a project’s progress.

A user who has deployed ScrumDo at nonprofit organizations says she likes the look and feel of the product. “I once went looking for other tools and found myself unwilling to give up the elegant ScrumDo scrum board,” says Anna Marshall, director for digital media at AdoptUSKids. “At AdoptUSKids, on the content and engagement side, we use ScrumDo to whiteboard our ideas for campaigns, website content updates, development of brochures or posters or infographics. Then we decide which ideas are worth pursuing, and we either add them to our ‘to do’ list to kanban across the scrum board, or we make a new board and start a project.”

ScrumDo, she says, “is a great tool for introducing agile. I’ve used ScrumDo to learn agile myself and help teams at two different nonprofits begin using agile practices. Using ScrumDo, people catch onto agile quickly.” She also lauded its technical support and ease of use but said she has not gotten the hang of storing files in ScrumDo.

(Pictured above: ScrumDo’s reporting functionality includes lead-time histograms.)

Yodiz
Yodiz

Yodiz’s online agile scrum project management software supports issue- and bug-tracking and offers a centralized repository to manage project requirements.

“Yodiz has helped us streamline our workflow and has increased our overall efficiency,” writes Dawit Lessanu, chief architect and technology director for Associated Press, in a case study for Yodiz. AP has been implementing agile software practice for several years, and Lessanu cites Yodiz as offering a centralized environment and offering spring and release management as well as backlog management, issue tracking, and team management. The tool integrates with Git and other platforms.

“Yodiz provides a much greater degree of visibility into our team’s progress,” writes Lessanu and Robert Farr, AP principal technology research analyst. “The tool complements our daily calls and project meetings in an efficient manner.”

(Pictured above: Yodiz’s Dashboard comes with various widgets in the form of tables and graphs that can be used to track team efforts in real time.)

ZenHub
ZenHub

ZenHub offers project management inside of GitHub. It features kanban-like task boards, burndown charts, and project management features, such as Slack integration. ZenHub.io is a cloud-hosted Web product working directly with GitHub.com, while the on-premises ZenHub Enterprise works with GitHub Enterprise. The company counts Docker, NBC, Sony, and Microsoft among its users.

Germany-based health care company Royal Philips uses ZenHub in developing its enterprise clinical workflow knowledge management system, says Flippie Coetser, program manager at Royal Philips, which uses a hybrid of agile and waterfall development approaches.

ZenHub helps Royal Philips facilitate collaboration among geographically dispersed teams in San Francisco, the Netherlands, and three locations in Germany. “We had to implement a somewhat complex and very unique process that spans across these functional units,” Coetser says. “ZenHub, through the use of their configurable pipelines, made the implementation deployment of our process possible.”

The added advantage of having its agile project management software deeply integrated within GitHub, which Philips uses for codebase management, “should also not be underestimated,” Coetser says.

(Pictured above: ZenHub’s ToDo list is a personal task manager built for GitHub. Users can add GitHub Issues and Pull requests as personal tasks and organize tasks in ToDo lists.)