Entry 9, Day 16
“The product backlog is an ordered list of everything that might be needed in the product and is the single source of requirements for any changes to be made to the product.”
– Scrum Guide
Being recently in the tools department, let’s continue the topic and look for something to manage The Product Backlog. But wait, what’s that?
As I’ve said, I’m not going to do full fledged Scrum here, because there is no point in that. However I will keep some of Scrum elements. For example, Scrum defines so called Artifacts. There is the Product Backlog, there is a Sprint Backlog and there is an Increment. I’ll keep the Product Backlog. I will probably not need Sprint Backlog. And we will see about Increments later.
So, the Product Backlog (or simply the Backlog from now henceforth) is where the idea of the product is kept. The idea might be more or less clearly and precisely defined, usually the higher the priority, the better the definition. The Backlog is composed of Items. Single Item might be a requirement, feature, enhancement, bugfix or anything that is going to change the product. Changes may be indirect and be without immediate value, say “Setup Tomcat” is actually an internal task, but it is required to proceed for me.
My needs are simple. I need a tool where I can add items in at least three categories – to do, ongoing and done. I need to be able to easily change priority (distance from top of the list), move between categories (say it’s ongoing / done) and edit Items. The tool should be cloud based (fancy term recently), free and publicly accessible.
In my work, we have mostly used Excel with quite advanced scripting (hi Kamil ;)) to help with moving, changing and calculating stuff. Sometimes we would just take a pin board and stick notes to it (It is common with Sprint Backlog, but not really with Product Backlog). Or simply there was no public Backlog whatsoever (well…).
But Excel has drawbacks. First, it is a desktop tool, and I want to share stuff in the blink of an eye. So, I could go for Google Spreadsheets, but still manipulating Items would require some effort. Let’s look for something more dedicated then. Quick research convinced me that there is an overwhelming number of tools to choose from. You can check out Wikipedia’s comparison of project management tools, You can then narrow the criteria to Agile tools. I’ve taken a look here and there. I’ve decided to give some of them a try.
So first, there is Jira. It was used by some teams around me. But apparently, it is not free, and is too big for my needs. We need simplicity. Out.
Someone mentioned Any.do when I was sniffing around. Unfortunately, while it’s simple, it’s also more of a calendar tool, not really good for me. Out.
Then, there are quite a few tools (I’ve checked iceScrum), that are open source, but there is no free hosting. Either you download and host by yourself or you pay. I want it quick, I want it now, I want it free. And I don’t have a hosting department operational yet. Out.
There are also promising tools closed source, but they are paid (e.g. Agilo for Scrum). Well, out.
There was one tool that was free and looked nice. The AgileFant. I’ve played with it a bit, but it turns out to be too cumbersome for me. There were some UI glitches and manipulating items was not that simple as I wanted. Still it might be a valid option for fully Scrum team.
And finally there was Trello. Few friends actually recommended me this and it turns out to be perfect for my needs. It’s simple, intuitive, adorable and it is flying free above the clouds. As a welcome, you get three boards: to do, doing and done. You can quickly add Items, move vertically and horizontally, edit, add categories and make the board public. I’m not going to give you full review, that’s not what I’m here for. But you may want to check article here. The Wired had an article about coolest 7 startups you haven’t heard of, and Trello was one of them.
So, I have a lingering Product Backlog. You may check it out here. The link will be always available from the BookSentry, the main project page.
Huh, that was a long one. In the next episode, I’m going to talk about the environment. Namely the Server and the Database.
p.s. I’m using Wikipedia links a lot. It’s not because I’m a noob. My intent is to give you some quick and neutral overview of the subject at hand. You can get easily to subject’s home page (if it has any) from Wikipedia page for further, official details.