February 12, 2015

3 Benefits of Moving to a Virtual Task Board

Agile

Many Teams Already Kanban

Agile development is the new norm. And for many, being Agile means using a Kanban board.

How Kanban Works

Teams start off with a large sheet of paper on the wall. Or they steal a whiteboard from a conference room. If they're lucky, they'll convince management to splurge on a giant whiteboard. 

Then the team sketches out their columns and swim lanes. They buy a half dozen different colors of sticky notes. And they transfer everything onto the sticky notes. 

This type of Kanban board is easy to get started with. And it can help you be more efficient. 

But virtual Kanban boards are even better.

3 Benefits of a Virtual Kanban Board

A virtual Kanban board comes with many benefits. Here are the top three.

Visibility

A virtual task board enables remote workers to feel like part of the team. It allows them to contribute to stand ups and other status meetings in real-time.

Physical task boards are fine for co-located teams. A white board hung on the wall is great for the team's daily stand up. But it is kind of useless when management pulls everyone into a conference room to discuss project status.

Plus, few teams are 100 percent co-located.

Companies prefer to hire where the talent is. Remote team members are common. So, teams use technology to integrate remote team members into one cohesive unit.

It's hard enough for remote workers to feel like they're part of the team and culture. Getting status updates from the Scrum Master via email or chat just isn't going to cut it. A virtual Kanban board will help integrate remote workers.

Pro Tip: When using virtual Kanban boards, co-located team members should still gather in a common area for the daily stand up.

Flexibility

A virtual task board provides easy configuration options. It can evolve as the team's development process evolves. And it also allows the team to configure different views of the same work.

No team adopts Agile practices "by the book". There are always tweaks needed to support the culture or business needs of the company.

As time goes on, the team learns how they work best together. And they learn how to make tweaks and changes to create their flavor of Agile.

Continuous improvement is difficult with physical task boards.

Imagine you need to add a column to handle client acceptance testing. Essentially that means erasing and re-creating the entire board just to make room for one additional column. 

If someone on the team has an idea they want to try, there's no easy way to revert back to the old board layout if the idea doesn't work.

Virtual task boards support continuous improvement. And the best virtual task boards enable the team to configure different views into the same work effort.

The Agile team is interested in moving work from the Backlog to Done. And they can have a task board to manage that process. 

The project architect wants a board where the different phases of design are broken down. But he or she doesn't care about work that is in testing or completed.

Pro Tip: Find out what everyone on your team needs as you build your virtual Kanban board.

Metrics

A virtual task board is backed up by a robust database engine. This makes gathering project and team metrics a cinch.

Physical task boards are difficult to report on.

Compiling a burn-up chart for the current sprint — or measuring a team's velocity — requires additional work if you're using a physical task board. 

The Scrum Master typically has to track data in Microsoft Excel, compile it weekly, and disseminate reports. That sounds like a cheesy project manager training video from 1991 to me!

Virtual task boards compile all of this data on the fly.

With the right tool, that data can sliced and diced in a variety of ways. Then it can easily be made visible to the team, management, and even external stakeholders if necessary.

Pro Tip: Build virtual task boards that are easy to report on.

More Agile Development Methods...

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