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Simple Tools Preferred in the Agile Tools Space

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Agile does not necessarily mandate or recommend the use of tools. Ideally, the development could also be done on a command line interface with requirements present on index cards. However, in the last few years, several tools have emerged and have acted as a catalyst to successful Agile development. Migan and Gaia recently conducted a survey to find out the use of such tools in the Agile space.

According to them one of the reasons for them to conduct the survey was to evaluate the reason Agile teams would like to work with simple tools.

A large percentage of companies are still using traditional project management tools, such as MS Project, and spreadsheets (MS Excel) for their agile development. After having interviewed some companies, we discovered that the reason behind this is that many Agile tools, offer a wide array of different customizable options and are thus harder to use and less intuitive than plain tools such as spreadsheets, pen and paper.

The survey was conducted with 100 representatives spread over 35 countries including UK. Sweden, Egypt, United States, France, Canada, India, Spain, Poland, Ukraine, Malaysia, Brazil, Netherlands, Romania, Italy, Australia, Germany.

The results showed an interesting mix of use of simple tools along with the software Agile project management tools.

  • 25% of all responses included physical wall and paper, and 23% included spreadsheets along with other Agile tools that they were using.
  • Though the software Agile tools have virtual storyboards, 62% of the collocated teams still used tangible tools like physical walls and paper.
  • The most desirable aspect of an Agile tool was the 'ease of use' followed by 'customizability' and 'price' as close seconds.
  • Least satisfactory aspect of a tool was 'lack of integration with other systems' followed by 'lack of custom reports'.

Though a detailed analysis of the survey would be published later, according to Migan and Gaia, the preliminary analysis showed significant use of simple and tangible tools.

Agile tool usage survey highlights the fact that a large majority of companies adhere to simple tangible tools, and that usability is the most valued aspect of tool usage.

The results, were in line with the a similar study done by Michael Dubakov and Peter Stevens from TargetProcess.

The study results revealed that tangible tools like whiteboards, cards, big visible charts got a score of 57 ahead of 52 for web based Agile tools and 43 for spreadsheets. Keeping to the inherent philosophy of Agile most teams wanted to keep things simple.

Michael and Peter combined their results as recommendations for teams based on their setup. They concluded that based on the team set up and status reporting required, either tangible, web based or a combination of the two might be required.

              No Status reporting required             Status reporting important
Small Collocated Team           Tangible tools            Mix of tangible tools and web based Agile tools
Large Collocated Team            Mix of tangible tools and web based Agile tools            Web based agile tools
Distributed Team            Web based agile tools            Web based agile tools

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