Tech project management is involved. But if you use the right techniques, it shouldn’t be mind-boggling. Thousands of companies now use Agile to simplify their development workflows, with:
- 60% of agile companies using Scrum
- 20% combining Scrum with a second framework
Given the numbers, there must be significant value in the approach — today, we’ll cover the six scrum tools that make the method so impactful.
The product backlog is arguably the most important of the scrum tools. It lists every product feature required to make the final product work as intended. In essence, it’s the single point of truth, covering every item in depth (alongside defects and bugs as they crop up).
The sprint backlog is a boiled-down version of the product backlog. It lists items pulled from the product backlog to work on this sprint. Some project managers use a simple spreadsheet. Others prefer purpose-built tracking software.
Whichever you choose, you should update the sprint backlog every day of the sprint: letting both the scrum master and the development team edit it throughout the project to reflect real-time progress.
The sprint backlog contains the high-level work items for the sprint. User stories sit within these items and deliver the detail. Product managers typically write user stories from the perspective of the product end-user — with the user story describing the individual requirements the development team needs to complete within the sprint.
Teams can break stories down into sub-tasks, allowing the scrum master to assign either complete stories or smaller elements to team members. In doing so, it becomes easier to monitor progress and add resources to a task depending on the complexity and skill sets needed.
Release Burn-down Chart
The release burn-down chart shows the progress achieved during a sprint. Different teams chart progress in different ways. But one popular approach is to track completed story points. Typically, using days on the X-axis and story points on the Y-axis (with scrum masters hoping to see a steady downhill trend in the chart, suggesting the team will finish the allotted work within the sprint).
Scrum masters should also update the chart following each sprint, resulting in a scrum tool that both visualizes progress and helps the team assess what’s possible in future sprints.
Where the burn-down chart depicts progress in a given sprint, the velocity chart shows progress for the overall project. As such, the Y-axis will still show completed story points — but the X-axis will now show the total number of sprints.
The velocity chart not only helps management ensure the project is running on-time. It also enables the scrum master to understand their team’s potential output, so when it comes to future sprint planning, they can adjust the workload based on what’s achievable.
The final piece in the scrum tools puzzle is the task board; or “work board.” It plays a central role in daily scrum reports, with teams using it as their guiding light. Anyone can access the task board — and add to it — during a sprint, letting it act as a repository for all known tasks and show the current status of each.
How you create your task board is up to the team: scrum boards, Kanban boards, or variations of the two work well. But often, it falls to the scrum master to determine what works best for a given team.
In the past, we’ve seen physical whiteboards acting as the task board. However, these days, you’re much more likely to find most scrum tools residing in a purpose-built scrum software application.