When you’re working as part of a team on a project with multiple moving parts, the tools you use are either an enormous asset or a great hindrance. We’ve been around long enough to discover some promising project management tools that turned out to be more trouble than they’re worth—and they didn’t stick around for long.
But we’ve also found some terrific Agile PM tools that we couldn’t live without. These tools help make our agile development process go smoother, quicker—and frankly, make it more fun.
Here are the Agile PM tools we’re in love with.
Team Foundation Server (TFS)
Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server is the “big dog” in our toolbelt. TFS has it all:
- Project management tools. These are specifically designed for Agile management, but they also support many other methodologies, including backlog management, story writing, collaboration and progress reporting.
- Rich source control system. The system supports branching and shelf sets to support parallel work, but it also integrates well with Git for distributed source control.
- Integrated bug and issue tracking. Tracking is integrated into the workflow so we can easily move between new development and bug fixing.
TFS is tightly integrated with Microsoft Test Manager (another powerful tool), so our dev and QA teams can work as one. And it’s a subset of Microsoft Visual Studio, our primary integrated development environment (IDE). So our dev team has just one tool to work with.
We love how configurable and customizable TFS is. We’ve been able to create custom workflows that model how we build our software.
Visual Studio Online (VSO)
Microsoft is essentially moving TFS to the cloud in the form of Visual Studio Online. We enjoy working in the cloud because it’s much easier for us to collaborate with our clients. That’s huge for us.
Transparency is something we feel very strongly about, and the ability to collaborate with our clients is the most important thing we look for in a tool. But VPN is a pain. It requires a lot of management on our end to ensure security, and it requires our clients to install and use tedious VPN clients.
But with VSO—which is hosted on Microsoft Azure—we can use Microsoft’s identity management and security infrastructure. Our clients only need a Microsoft ID to access their projects.
When the Microsoft platform isn’t an option, our favorite alternative is Jira by Atlassian. Jira is a terrific PM tool that’s flexible and scalable. It’s not a fully integrated solution like TFS—source code repository isn’t included—but it provides a rich and well-thought-out Kanban environment for Agile management. Jira was one of the earliest tools in this space, and it does a terrific job of supporting the work we need to do.
For smaller efforts with teams of just two or three developers, tools like TFS or Jira can be a bit heavy-handed. When a couple of developers can get together and work out an app with lists of features on a whiteboard, it’s just a bit much to force an all-out Agile tool on them. That’s when we use Trello. Trello lets us capture those lists for better management, analysis, and posterity. And it makes it easier for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate.
Trello has all of the advantages of a cloud-based management platform, with just enough sophistication to establish some process but not so much as to feel like a burden to a small team.
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