What Criteria Do You Use When Choosing Agile Tool?

Marcin Niebudek

This question has been asked today on LinkedIn Q&A. I wanted to post an answer there in the first moment, but then I though that those Q&A’s tend to fade out very quickly and maybe answer to that question deserves some more attention.

Different criteria in different contexts

Well, the question was asked from a perspective of a tools reviewer. This in fact makes it more interesting. Normally I would say just choose the criteria that match your team or organization needs. But here its different.

What one should do to review a few dozens of tools on the market? Is it possible having a “generic” reader/tool user in mind? Is there someone like “generic” tool user seeking for an advice in choosing the agile tool? Sure there isn’t.

There are many agile flavors. Even if we choose to call some of them “methods” which would suggest they consist of more strict rules to follow – they don’t. Teams or the whole organizations choose different practices to be applied. Even same practices or ideas are applied in different ways.

Tools usually will do better in some aspects and stay behind in others. This is natural effect of different influences and experience their creators have. So each of those organizations needs a different set of criteria.

So let’s turn things upside down

What if the reviewer tried something different and yet something we perfectly know (at least in agile world)? How about taking the tool under the review and finding a set of user personas that this tool is going to be best for? How about creating something similar to a persona but for the organization? Maybe some kind of imaginary company profile that the tool would fit the most.

What goals the tool will satisfy? Who may have such goals (in a software company for instance)?

Maybe it will be Jack the Geeky Developer who works in a 5 people team and have a remote Product Owner. Jack works on 3 projects at the same time (two of them are in the maintenance mode) and wants his current assignments and commitments to be easily accessible for him. He may be able to switch between them easily and the Tool X will do the best for him as it’s good in organizing the work in many projects.

The Tool will be also good for Alice – the Scrum Master of a few teams in her organization. Alice shares her time between those teams and needs to be up to date with each one instantly. Which would be satisfied by features A and B.

But Bob, who likes extensive reports full of charts and KPIs, may be disappointed with the Tool X which provides only basic data exports. There are more data hidden in the Tool’s API but Bob will not even care to dig into this. He has simply no time for that.

Is the the organization where Jack, Alice and Bob work similar to yours? Then this may be a good tool for you, but only when you are able to convince Bob that the information he will get is enough to run the company.

I’d love to see some reviews like this. I think it might do more good than assigning some points in various categories and publishing the overall score. This kind of criteria based evaluation can be done only internally where there is one organization and many tools.

But when you are on the other side and try to review the tool (of any kind), then no set of criteria will ever be relevant to a particular reader (or at least to just a few of them). On the other hand reader may see herself in one of the personas you will try to describe. If so, then maybe the tool is right for her. Otherwise she will know instantly that this is not her Bob and Alice.

How does that sound to you? Wouldn’t that help you more in choosing the tool (or at least choosing it for further evaluation)? Just an idea…


1 comment

  1. toolsjournal -

    Hi Marcin,

    I quite liked the idea of “Personas”. You may have given us a direction.

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    Sudheer


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