The "need" for Scrum Tools

I got an email from Mike Vizdos about a blog post he was writing up. Mike is the author of a blog called Implementing Scrum. It's a great blog where he posts a cartoon to describe a Scrum concept in a very acceptable way (see below for an example). It's an excellent communication mechanism. I find myself printing out Mike cartoons all the time and putting them up around my office (aka the Scrum room) to hit home the Scrum concepts to people.

Mike recently blogged about Scrum tools and mentioned my own Scrum Tools Roundup post (thanks Mike!). His post talks about the value (or lack of) Scrum tools and I partially agree with him. There are times I've said exactly "Please make sure you update tool X so that we can report our burndown to [someone who is not even in the room]."

I personally just print out the burndowns (we use the Conchango Scrum Plugin for VSTS) and put them on the wall along with a splash screen for the project and the post-it notes that represent the tasks (our task board). We still use VSTS for tracking, but the wall is the conversation piece. Each morning (currently 2 Scrums soon to be 3) we get together and do our daily standup with everyone sort of huddled around the "wall" (a giant 14 foot wall I have in my office that holds all the post-its). People talk about what they did and what they're working on, move stickies around, and all is well.

I agree with Mike in that if you're burning 50% of your time in a project on maintaining a tool, a backlog in a tool (VSTS, spreadsheet, or otherwise) then you're spending about 49% too much time. However as the Scrum Master I keep the tool up to date, the PM uses it (constantly) to report progress to a heavenly body, and I personally try to get the team to not get hit too much with any administrivia tasks. The most any team member should do is to a) change the state of a task to In Progress or Done and b) knock down the work remaining on tasks as they're doing them say from 8 hours to 4 (or 0).

That shouldn't take more than a few minutes a day before the daily standup. Really.

If you're donig more than for sure you're spending too much time and you should read Implementing Scrum on a more frequent basis (and maybe change how you work).

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