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VersionOne Publishes Agile Tool Evaluator's Guide

VersionOne Software has recently published an Agile Tool Evaluator Guide intended to help organizations in choosing software to support their Agile teams and processes.  Although obviously a marketing tool for their own Agile product, the Guide can serve team leads and other decision makers by pointing out areas to consider during tool selection, whether or not VersionOne is under consideration.

To maximize value from an agile deployment, VersionOne states that six key criteria should be considered when selecting an enterprise management tool:
  1. Iterative, Feature-driven Development
    Although it may seem to be an obvious mismatch, many teams attempt to use a series of traditional tools that complicate their work because they don't support basic Agile practices.

  2. Integrated Lifecycle Management
    Tracking project information in multiple tools can inhibit accurate, real-time visibility.

  3. Cross-Functional Teams
    True support for cross-functional teams means consolidating and facilitating the project planning and tracking needs of customers, product management, project management, programmers, testers, etc. in a single environment for improved collaboration and consistency.

  4. Flexible Configuration
    A scalable management tool should allow organizations to define, organize, and plan according to their unique organizational requirements.

  5. Simplicity
    Like agile development, the more simple the tool the better. Most importantly, tools should never replace the benefits achieved by using the Agile practices - an Agile lifecycle management tool is only as good as the process it facilitates and the people that use it.

  6. Enterprise Scale
    An agile tool for deployment within an enterprise must be able to handle a sophisticated project structure and thousands of features and defects. 

With these criteria in mind, the Evaluator Guide outlines a detailed set of features an enterprise Agile management application should enable for scaling Agile planning, tracking, and reporting across an organization.  It includes both functionality needed as a team begins to implement an Agile management tool as well as longer range functionality associated with overall project and reporting structures, program management and integration as the Agile process matures.

InfoQ interviewed Michael Leeds, co-founder and VP Sales and Marketing at VersionOne, about their Agile Tool Evaluator Guide.

Deborah Hartmann for Who is the intended audience for this Guide?

Michael Leeds for VersionOne:  It's intended for anyone involved in examining Agile development and enabling tools to help maximize the value Agile delivers to their organizations.

InfoQ: How did you compile this list? Is it simply a list of V1 features?

VersionOne:  A little background is important:  VersionOne has been built from the ground up to support agile teams.  Although I have lost count, we have likely spoken with more than 3,000 teams since 2002. Based on this feedback over the years, we developed the “Key Criteria” which you see in the evaluator guide [editor's note: excerpt listed above], to highlight areas important in delivering value to teams of all sizes.

The “Top 10” checklist in the Evaluator Guide is something for every team to look at, but is not a list of things ALL teams need.  For example, some agile teams do not track defects separately from other work items – they simply treat defects as work to be done just like any other work.  For these teams, the defect management functionality in VersionOne is not a top priority in their selection.  But, if those teams need the defect functionality in the future, it is something they will be able to take advantage of as the need arises.  

InfoQ: I understood that this list was partially the product of talking to conference participants at Agile2006? How did that change the product?

Yes, we did receive a lot of excellent feedback at Agile 2006.  I would say the feedback has more to do with depth than breadth.  For example, let’s look at resource planning:  VersionOne handles all of the agile things you would expect, so the requests we get are for more depth, for example: around resource planning.  As a general rule, we hear more from teams that are trying to further hone their processes rather than trying to add more and more functionality.  A key thing we focus on is simplicity and we try to help teams not get in the situation where the tool adds so much overhead to the process that is does not continue to add value.

InfoQ: I notice that V1 has a check mark beside every item :-)  Still, if people use this to evaluate other tools, they may find that there are features missing from V1, which therefore don't appear on this list.  Are you open to input for rounding out the Guide, by taking suggestions from our readers?  (Of course, they might want to discuss ways to improve the list here, as well).

VersionOne: Suggestions? Absolutely – we welcome feedback!  People can contact me.  We have learned quite a bit from our customers over time and use feedback to continuously improve our product and services. 

VersionOne is an Atlanta-based provider of enterprise project and lifecycle management solutions for agile development, with more than 1,000 teams in 30 countries using their software, including 20 of the Fortune 100.

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