Dirty Agile

January 2, 2010

I attended the Rally Agile Success Tour a few weeks ago. I didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be remarkably good. As I listened to the speakers talk about their experiences implementing Agile projects, I was reminded of just how tough this work is. I think that often, as leaders (project managers, scrum masters, coaches, dev leads, managers, etc.), we tend to harbor idealistic visions of what an Agile team looks like and how it performs. It reminds me of the “Retro-futurism” that I think Brian Marick refers to in his ARxTA presentation at AgileRoots 2009. We harbor these notions of a future where the team possesses the ideal tools, the ideal solutions, the ideal environment. There is certainly nothing wrong with all that. We need these goals. We need to have that expectation that Brian characterized with the question, “Where’s my jet pack?”

But the reality is anything but clean and ideal. There is no jet pack. The reality of working with teams is dirty and messy. We don’t have the ideal team, we don’t have the ideal requirements, we don’t have the ideal schedule. In fact, we never will. That’s OK though, it’s the imperfection that provides the team with the creative tension needed to make the job interesting.

Happy (Dirty) New Year!


Rally vs. Scrumworks

December 4, 2007

My first impression is that these are two applications that have come from very different backgrounds. ScrumWorks started off as a java based desktop application. Rally is based on an ASP model where the application and data are all hosted at a remote site. Both applications have grown their feature sets over the last two years with what appears to be 2 different objectives in mind. Rally has taken the approach of adapting to a wide range of customer needs, both Agile and traditional. Their goal seems to be to reach the high end customer and integrate with existing high end systems on the market. Their feature set is very broad and has been adapted to fit in a variety of different scenarios. In addition, Rally has also significantly beefed up their integration support in the last two years. There is no doubt in my mind that when it comes to integration and customization, Rally is the clear winner.

ScrumWorks, on the other hand, has kept focused on a goal of serving just the Scrum and XP community. As a result, they have a much narrower feature set that is easier for the typical Agile team to understand. This is just speculation on my part, but I think it doesn’t require as much training to use ScrumWorks. I would describe the ScrumWorks product as more fit for a specific use – in this case for Scrum and XP projects.

In general, when it comes to ease of use, ScrumWorks benefits from the fact that it has a thick client that can take advantage of OS features that web based applications can’t do quite as easily (Drag and Drop, etc.). So in terms of usability, ScrumWorks is currently the clear winner. However, Rally is not resting on their laurels, and they are implementing new usability enhancements that will quickly come to rival those of ScrumWorks in short order.

When we look at reporting functionality, ScrumWorks comes out ahead. ScrumWorks has a custom report generator utility that allows you to create your own customized reports. All of Rally’s reports are fixed and can’t be changed or added to. Once again, Rally is acutely aware of this issue and not likely to let it rest for long.

Cross Team & Program Management – Both products claim to have some cross team and program management features. Neither product really possesses a strong feature set in this domain. Rally defines a program as a combination of a specified product and a specified release – a very loose definition. ScrumWorks uses a separate mechanism that is completely orthogonal to the Stories and releases – instead you can create arbitrary groupings of features which can represent programs. This is a more flexible approach, but it still doesn’t provide the financial tracking features that I would expect from a full fledged portfolio management tool.

Detailed Feature Comparison

Feature

Rally

ScrumWorks Pro

Desktop (Fat) Client

No

Yes

Web (Thin) Client

Yes

Yes – Not all desktop features are available on the web client

Local Database

No – hosted by a 3rd party

Yes – Built into the default installation

Impediments Log

No

Yes – Tracks dates, resolution, and responsibility

Records blocking issues

Yes

Yes

Burn Down Charts

Yes – Sprint Burndown/Cumulative flow, Release burndown/cumulative flow, Bug & Test Tracking

Yes – Mike Cohn style ‘enhanced burndown’, Sprint & Release burndown

Customized Reports

No

Yes – Customizable report builder GUI

ROI and EVA

No

Yes

Time Tracking

Yes – optional

Yes – optional, but supported with custom reports

Supported Object Types

Release, Sprint, Story, Task, Test, Program, Defect, Defect Suite

Release, Sprint, Story, Task, Theme, Program

Supported Methodologies

RUP, Scrum, XP

Scrum, XP

Drag n’ Drop UI

Limited to certain screens

Used almost universally

Hierarchical Relationships

Yes

No – Uses themes instead

Built in collaboration features

Yes – Wiki & IM integration

No

Test management

Yes

No

Defect management

Yes

No

Program Management Features

Release Status – not really configurable

Release Status + configurable feature sets, Good cross product functionality

Sprint Task Tracking

Yes

Yes – nice web based task board UI

Assign Business Value

No

Yes

Product and Role based permissions

Yes

Yes

LDAP Integration

No

Yes

Import/Export

Yes – Excel, XML

Yes – Excel

Supports Use Cases/Non-functional requirements

Yes

No

Notifications

Yes – RSS, email

No

Detailed Change History

Yes

No – very superficial

Product Integration

Eclipse, Mercury, Salesforce, Bugzilla

Bugzilla, JIRA

Pricing

$65/person/month

$249/person/year ($21/month)

Admin functions

User accounts, Roles, Custom features, Workspace management

User accounts, Roles

Hardware Requirements

None – externally hosted

Server must be allocated for clients & web app to connect with

Frequency of Updates

Quarterly

Quarterly

Built-in Support for pairing time management

No

Yes – There are “Team hours” and “individual hours”

Usability for teams

OK, some complain of delays and there are complaints about charts

Good, The thick client offers more natural DnD style of interface – good web interface for task board – natural for teams to adopt

Multiple Teams/Common Backlog

Possible, but awkward

Pretty well thought out

Support

Online, Forums, Coaching, Training

Online, Forums

Integration Technical Options

REST, SOAP, Others

SOAP