The first rule of the Agile Manifesto is “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” People are the ones that actually create a product. Tools are just a means to an end. Your selection of tools should not dictate how workflows or decisions are made. Rather, tools should support the needs and skillsets of your team. Such tools aren’t always easy to find, however.
This article provides guidelines for selecting tools and a review of ten tools that promote agile methodologies.
Tips for Selecting Tools
Before you can begin selecting tools, you need to evaluate your current workflows. Create a list of the tools you are already using. Indicate which features are beneficial, which are detrimental, and which you don’t even use.
Investigate whether these tools might provide an added value to your current or desired workflows. Once you have an assessment of the tools you currently have, and where the gaps lie, you can begin your search.
As you evaluate tools, aim for keeping your workflow as simple as possible. Adding complexity by building toolchains with a large number of tools is unlikely to improve productivity. The more tools you select, the more workflows your team needs to learn and the more interfaces they have to interact with. Integration between tools is key to centralizing functionality and processes.
No matter which tools you choose, your final toolchain needs to include at least these core capabilities:
- Comprehensive planning and collaboration features
- Customizable dashboards and reports, including agile metrics and KPIs
- Change management features for bug, task, and version tracking
Methodology supporting features, such as Kanban boards and retrospectives
10 Best Tools for Agile Dev
Once you’ve evaluated your team’s needs, you’re ready to start choosing tools. The tools introduced here are a good place to start.
Jira is an issue and project tracking tool designed by Atlassian. You can use it in the cloud or on-premises via a subscription or free tier. Jira includes features for scrum and kanban planning, product road mapping, reporting, retrospectives, and backlog management. It integrates with pipeline tools, like Bitbucket, to allow you to tie issues to the code to be fixed. Through the Atlassian Marketplace, you can add a host of third-party features and integrations.
Miro is a tool for collaboration in distributed teams. It is cloud-based and available on a subscription basis with a free tier. Miro includes features for user story maps and retrospectives, as well as built-in agile and scrum templates. With Miro, you can screen share and present directly from the tool. It integrates with many services, including Jira, Slack, Google Suite, and Zapier.
Parabol is a free, open-source tool for retrospective meetings. It is cloud-based and includes additional features via a subscription. Parabol can be used for local, distributed, and mixed teams. It includes features for automatic generation of meeting summaries, anonymous feedback, and either real-time or asynchronous viewing. Parabol integrates with Jira, GitHub, and Slack.
Taiga is a free, open-source project management platform. You can use it in the cloud or on-premises with additional features available via a subscription. Taiga supports scrum, kanban, and epics methodologies. It includes features for dashboard-based reporting, wikis, issue tracking, and tracking hierarchies or relationships between projects. You can import projects from Trello, Jira, Asana, and Github directly into Taiga.
Gitlab is a toolchain for Continuous Integration/Continuous Development (CI/CD). You can use it in the cloud or on-premises with additional features available via a subscription. GitLab includes features for audit and value stream management, issue tracking, source code management, wiki, unit and usability testing, and environment configuration. It integrates with a variety of third-party services, including Jira, Jenkins, Kerberos, and Gmail.
Loggly is a tool for log analysis and management. It is cloud-based and available via a subscription with a free tier. Loggly includes features for centralized log management, automated log summaries, data filtering and search, built-in alerting, analysis and reporting, and API access. It integrates with a variety of third-party services, including Jira, GitHub, Slack, and PagerDuty.
FeatureMap is a tool for creating story maps from product backlogs. You can use it in the cloud or on-premises via a subscription with a free tier available. FeatureMap includes features for task priority setting, task duplicate detection, real-time updates and notifications, and API. You can export data in JSON, XML, and CSV formats for use with other services. FeatureMap integrates with Jira and Zapier.
YouTrack is a project management tool designed by Jetbrains. You can use it in the cloud or on-premises. It is available via a subscription but is free for use in open-source projects. YouTrack includes features for tracking tasks and bugs, creating workflows, and planning sprints and releases. It includes customizable agile boards for the scrum, kanban, or a combination and predefined reports for progress tracking and timelines. YouTrack integrates with Jira.
OpenProject is a free, open-source project management tool. You can use it in the cloud or on-premises with additional features available via a subscription. It includes features for project planning, timelines and roadmaps, bug tracking, cost reporting and budgeting, wikis, and backlogs. OpenProject supports kanban and scrum methodologies.
Your team members should not have to struggle to use the tools you’ve selected or have to sacrifice productivity for the sake of integration. The tools you’re using should streamline workflows and add measurable value.
During your retrospectives, take the time to discuss the impact of the tools your team is using. If your team and measures reveal no issues, you’re in good shape. If, however, there’s evidence that tools are standing in the way of productivity and product quality, it’s time to consider a change.
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.