When do you NOT need an agile tool?

Posted on May 26th, 2007 in Agile, Tool by siddharta || 1 Comment

Yesterday I wrote about the times when you need an agile tool. Today I’ll look at the opposite case: Situations where you do not need an agile tool.

Everyone is co-located

In the previous post, we saw how the main purpose of an agile tool is to improve communication between distributed teams and stakeholders. Taking that a step further, if everyone, including the team members, management and customer, is co-located and can talk face to face, then there is no need for a tool to perform the same job. Face to face communication is vastly superior to communicating through a tool, so if you have that option, try to maximize it.

You want to calculate metrics

There are only a handful of important metrics in an agile team. These are the burndown rate, the team velocity, and the number of acceptance tests that pass. All three can be easily calculated by hand, so there is no real need to have an agile tool just to do this. With co-located teams, calculating the metrics is an interesting group exercise that can be done during the daily standup (for burndown) or retrospective (for velocity and acceptance pass).

You want to manage historical data

This can be a good idea, if it is used for the right purposes. If you want historical data in order to calculate developer productivity or see who are the top superstars, then it is a bad idea.

If you use it to help in future estimates, it can be helpful.

You don’t always need an agile tool for this. In one of my projects, at the end of the iteration we would take the sticky notes for that iteration from the chart, stick them on a piece of paper and file them in a book along with the retrospective notes. If we wanted to see anything, we would just open the file and check. The one disadvantage was that the data was not easily visible to anyone else in the organisation.

The main improvement a tool can add is to make the data visible to others and allow you slice and dice it. If you really need to do something like that, you may need an agile tool, but be sure the data is used right.

Managing developer load

If you have a small co-located team, you don’t need a tool to manage the load. You already have a feel for it from interacting with the team, or you can just ask everyone at the planning meeting.

So there you go. Some reasons why you don’t need a tool. As mentioned in the previous post, the biggest single reason for needing an agile tool is when the team or stakeholders are distributed. Otherwise, for the most part, you will do better without one.

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