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Different Approaches to Create Story Wall

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Agile teams use information radiators in their workspace. A story wall is a kind of information radiator that displays the status of each card in the current iteration or sprint. For new agile teams setting up a story wall is quite challenging.

Ryan Mckergow, senior consultant - agile business analyst at Elabor8, described different approaches for setting up story walls, in his recent blog. He explained some basic aspects of designing story walls, which include deciding rows, columns, avatars and colors of story cards.

Ryan says that team can use basic columns of “to do”, “doing”, “done” or can also use more columns than the basic ones, to visually indicate story card status. Columns could be product backlog, iteration backlog, analysis, development, testing, signoff, done, ready for analysis/development /testing/ signoff or deployed.

Similar to having various columns, story wall can also have various rows or swimlanes. Swimlanes can represent different feature groupings or streams and different statuses like unplanned, blocked etc.

Ryan mentioned that, team can use avatars on the story cards to share the information about who is currently working on the card. Avatars could be any of the following formats:

  • A real picture of the team member
  • The first name of the team member in a bold, readable font
  • An avatar sized in proportion to the story card size

Furthermore to increase the visualization of the story cards, team can use different colors based on work categorization. For example white for story card, red for bug, blue for spike etc.

Fiona Siseman, agile coach at Luna Tractor Australia, uses avatars to categorize user stories. She shared her experience in a blog post on Agile Board Hacks.

We set up dummy email accounts associated with icons in Then we could add them as members to our Trello board and use the icons as status stickers for our cards. We gave them all the same prefix as board member names (“z_blocked”, “z_kicked_off”,“z_walked_through”) so that these icon accounts all together in any listing.

Team can use physical or electronic walls. For collocated teams, physical walls are good to use, however virtual card walls have some advantages over physical card walls. For instance, information is not lost if an index card gets knocked off the wall, distributed teams can see a central virtual card wall and interact with it, different team members can use filters to create relevant views, project tracking is easier.

However, teams can use both to get the benefits of both the approaches. As per Ryan:

Co-located teams that want benefits that come with an electronic wall (i.e. detailed documentation), I’d suggest configuring it to store documentation without the need to update which column a Story Card is in. Your physical wall can then be the primary source of project truth. Distributed teams might be best served by duplicating their Story Wall in both physical and electronic formats. I believe the benefits of having a tangible board backed up by an electronic wall far outweigh the cons of duplicating effort across both boards.

Ryan shared various ways to create story walls, but he said that try out with some practices and modify them as per the suitability of the team.

There are many tools out there that provide electronic versions of team story wall. Mingle is a tool that allows team to create a virtual story wall. Just like a physical card wall, team can create columns and cards, and drag and drop cards as team completes their work. Similar to Mingle, team can use other tools as well like Trello, Jira etc.

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