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3 Essential Tools in Agile Software Development

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 28/03/2016 Brian de Haaff

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Agile teams pride themselves on moving fast. They work with a sense of urgency that drives everything they work on each day. So, it is important that teams stay on the same page. And that involves knowing which tools Agile teams rely on for software development.
The following are common tools used by Agile practitioners as identified by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson, authors of The Elements of Scrum. The tools below are most often associated with Scrum -- the most popular of the Agile methods -- but are commonly used for other methods as well.
The product backlog is a list of desired deliverables, or to-dos, for the product. This encompasses features, documentation requirements, bugs, and anything else of value that must be done as part of delivering a new product or product updates. A best practice for backlog items, commonly referred to as user stories, is to focus on the product capability -- or the "what" that is required -- instead of the "how," and to sort backlog items in their order of prioritization.
The sprint, or iteration backlog, represents the team's work tasks for a planned sprint or iteration. A sprint has a finite timeframe usually spanning two weeks to a month, and represents a commitment to what the team can deliver during that time. Work tasks are commonly broken into user stories representing the "what" that is being delivered and tasks representing the work required to deliver the user stories.
Burn charts represent the relationship between time and scope. They are a common method for tracking progress on an individual sprint or iteration or across an Agile project that is planned to take a number of iterations. Some teams use burn-up charts to show how much work has been completed over a period of time.
The more common use is the burn-down chart, which shows work that remains. When work or scope is added or removed, the vertical line on the chart moves up or down accordingly to reflect the amount of work added or removed. Aside from scope changes, the burn-down chart will show work being completed and work that remains.
Agile teams will also use some form of task board to represent work that is to be done during an iteration. The visual board is used to facilitate Agile planning meetings, reflects the prioritization of tasks, and aids with brainstorming how tasks will best be executed.
The board clarifies the work that must be done as part of the iteration backlog; helps with managing team capacity and assignments; and prevents tasks that must be completed from being lost or overlooked. This is where Agile teams often opt to use a Kanban board to manage tasks through the different workflow states.
Using the right tools empowers Agile teams to build the best software. When everyone on the team knows which tools to use -- and where each one fits into the dev process -- the team is able to work fast and build what matters.

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