I’ve enjoyed working with a number of diverse organizations over the years and one question I’m regularly asked, is : “Which electronic scrum board should we use for managing our Scrum implementation?” My answer is almost always the same, with a couple of caveats.
My advice for the best scrum board? An expanse of wall, a healthy amount of index cards, endless sticky notes, blu-tack, a large amount of flip-chart paper and a multitude of different coloured sharpie pens. It’s quite common that, when I propose this, I’m met with a blank stare and silence. It’s so quiet, you can hear the grass growing outside. I can tell that the questioner is unimpressed.
There are many good reasons for my proposed solution:
- It’s an “always on” solution
- It’s an information radiator that draws other people in to what we’re doing
- You don’t need a network connection, computer or electricity to get the information
- Information is available at a glance
- It’s a tightly focused solution. It does one thing supremely well
- You don’t need to learn a software tool to use it
- It bends to how scrum should be done and not the other way around
- It’s transparency in practice (one of the pillars of empiricism)
- It encourages people to meet and talk rather than email or IM
But despite all of this, many organisations still want a tool. Of course, there are some good reasons for needing an electronic scrum board, including:
- The scrum team are geographically dispersed
Ok, so I can only think of one good reason for seriously considering an electronic scrum board. But that still doesn’t stop organizations wanting to use them. Somehow, we feel more professional using a software tool rather than bits of paper, coloured pens and sticky-backed plastic (or physical scrum board, as I like to call it).
There Can Be Only One
So, despite good advice, many organizations use a scrum tool anyway. Sometimes they’ll use one in addition to the physical scrum board. There are a few important things to consider though:
- If you have multiple product backlogs, agree up-front which is the primary one. Like the film Highlander, “There can be only one”
- Don’t let the tool guide your adoption of scrum. Make the tool follow the rules of scrum (and if it won’t, discard it)
So, are electronic scrum boards good or evil? I’d say it depends on the situation. If you have a geographically dispersed team, they’re incredibly useful. If you have a collocated team, I’d say you’re better off with a physical scrum board.
If you absolutely, positively HAVE to use an electronic scrum board, then do subscribe to the site as I’ll be producing a series of articles devoted to electronic scrum boards and how to use them. You’ll also get a free copy of my Scrum Aide-Memoir!