Recommended Tool(s) to manage Scrum Product Backlog
Hope you are doing well and staying safe with your loved ones.
I wanted to find out your recommendations for a tool (or tools) that you have used or using now for managing Scrum Product Backlog purposes. I see there are one or two very old threads on this but since then a lot of things changed - new technologies, tools, apps etc., so wanted to start this inquiry fresh.
I was told there are tools e.g. Jira, SharePoint sites, Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Planner, and some others could be used for managing Product Backlog.
What're your recommendations?
In Scrum, tools don't manage a Product Backlog -- a Product Owner does. What problem or challenge would the Product Owner hope to overcome by using a tool?
Understood but the PO needs a tool to manage his/her Product Backlog items; e.g:
- maintaining a list of all the items in Product Backlog
- sorting them out based on need/priorities
- show a sperate list, maybe a sublist for every Sprint Backlog items
- delegate someone (maybe to the development team) to manage the list on behalf of PO
- display the Increments as a dashboard so the Scrum Team and the stakeholders can view all the accomplishment achieved with a click
I heard some folks use Excel, but not sure that's a great a way to manage these at this time where there are so many tools out there...
Electronic tools are available and you've listed some already. I've seen organizations use Jira, VersionOne, Excel, Rally etc.
As far as any specific advantage is concerned, other than allowing teams to collaborate, especially when they are distributed, I personally see no advantage.
Is there anything specific you were looking for with these tools other than ordering the Product Backlog?
I just wanted to see if there could be any recommendations based on practical experiences, and best practice perspectives. I wanted to get some ideas on these so I could advise the best way I can.
Collaboration certainly is a major focus along with other things, such as easy to use, easy to manage, access control, delegation, etc..
After having this quick discussion, I think I'm leaning toward using Microsoft Teams on this (if the team has access to Microsoft Teams), due to various reasons:
- it comes with a SharePoint site to be used for managing the Product Backlog items
- multiple lists can be created for sublists (Sprint Backlogs)
- it can be used to store other artifacts
- separate channels can be created to dedicate to each Sprint and access can be provided based on the needs
- it is mobile-friendly (iOS, Android) so those items/lists can be accessed from anywhere and can update as needed
- Teams can also be used for scheduling meetings (Sprint Events, Daily Scrum etc...if needed) with audio/video
- and there are other benefits ...
The best way I have ever used was using painter's tape to build a workflow board on the wall and using sticky notes. But that only works when everyone is physically located together and that is becoming less and less of an occurance.
I suggest that what ever tool you use, it needs to be able to visually represent your workflow. Being able to see an item progress across your workflow from To-do to Done is an element of transparency that helps teams. If you can't see this, it will be possible for things to stall in workflow stages and not be noticed. Microsoft Teams and the related tools does not do this easily. My teams usually have a tool for their visualization of the Product and Sprint Backlogs while complimenting them with other tools such as a chat client and artifact repository. Some tools such as Jira, Rally will provide the means of attaching artifacts to the items in the backlogs.
It appears you are a Microsoft shop based on your comments so you might want to look into Microsoft Azure or even their help desk solutions. Ticket systems are very easy to adapt for backlog management.
We need the like button feature here in this community :-)
Yes, you're very much correct - I've used Microsoft 365, Azure quite a bit, and very familiar with Microsft Teams and their other products, so my comments included those when I referenced tools.
Your suggestion of using/leveraging workflow with task management is insightful. I agree, we need to visually show the progress, it's crucial for the team. so just to mention - MS Teams has Planner/To-Do (it integrates with Planner task management) features that can be used as Kanban boards. I've seen people using that for this purpose. It also has chat functionalities (private chat or group chat). Just mentioning these so we know of these. Yes, there could be many other tools out there ,e.g.Jira, etc... so wanted to get some idea...
Unless I am told to use a tool because we bought it and now we must use it, I stick to Excel and the wall/super-stick post-its. All those other tools add unnecessary complexity to the work of the Scrum Team who should be able to see the Product Backlog Items they have selected for their Sprint without having to learn and administer the software. Tools also have a way of turning Scrum Masters into Tool Administrators.
Yes I hear you and thanks for sharing your perspective.
However, at this time, working remotely is becoming a norm and this phenomena will just continue and continue. So, getting all the team members in a room at the same time to go over the sticky post-its on the wall might be very challenging and this is where a good tool would be helpful. But yes, if you can get all the folks in the room then that is definitely very effective. Some modern tools for collaboration and team meeting purposes are really good and has all the features needed for good meetings/documentation/task management purposes. So at the end, looks like it's a personal preference for what works best for your needs.
Once you decide on a tool, you are bound by its limitations; so you either have to accept its limitations, or change the tool. Even post-its have such limitations. There is a finite amount of space to write on, which is sometimes a drawback, and sometimes a deliberately imposed constraint.
One aspect I would always encourage Scrum Teams to consider when choosing an electronic tool, is whether it assists with the collection of continuous improvement metrics. This does not necessarily mean the tool has to do the calculations for you.
For instance, Jira produces various reports, but my teams rarely use those. Instead we use our own internally constructed charts, based on data that we extracted from Jira's API. We look at the specific items in Jira in order to get the context behind such metrics.
We also use the ActionableAgile plugin for Jira, which helps us get a headline Cycle time figure; but more importantly allows us to get more context about what is happening in our teams.
My advice is. Can everyone see the information at the same time? If so then that is the right tool. As mentioned previously transparency and collaboration is key. If you cannot see the work and work on it collaboratively than it is not the correct tool. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.. If your tool of choice restricts or hinders Individuals and interactions than it's time to look at a different tool. (ps, paper tape and a wall are a tool)
I hope that helps.
I agree that transparency and collaboration are key. However, it can be a challenge if you work in different time zones. My organization uses Jira. It's a commonly used tool; however, it does not provide all necessary workflow management features. Therefore we use it with an all-in-one Jira plugin like e.g., BigPicture that provides workflow visualization, tracking items progress, and generally team’s work streamlining.
Jira is a great tool I use currently where you could also add plugins like planning poka and agile story mapping to help with estimations and mapping of stories