Pros and cons of Agile Project Management Tools and how to use them correctly

At the end of every sprint we run Agile retrospectives to discuss and analyze what went well in the sprint and what could have been done better. We have come to the conclusion that usually, poor communications, assumptions and failure in expectations management are the reason why things go wrong.

Although Agile is not about tools but about people working together and focusing on delivering things that add value, we can’t deny that tools facilitate communications among the team, specially if they work in a distributed environment, and it also help the team to be conscious of the progress and take decisions with the product owner to focus on high priorities and manage the backlog.

However, if used wrong, those tools can create more confusions and reprocesses. For instance, have you ever tried to discuss a user story over Google Hangouts (chat) or Slack? every time I do it, I end having mixed communications about multiple details, plus it takes longer to communicate. Then, what about just using your phone and go over that user story? I bet that the conversation will be more effective, but if you just hop on a conference call with your team and share screens to go over those requirements, at the end of that call everybody is going to be on the same page.

In order to avoid communication issues we identified the pros and cons of all the tools we use and decided how to use them right.

Tool Purpose Limitations Pros Great for
Slack Team communications, audio calls, reminders Only Slack users can access that environment
  • Usable interface
  • Creation of channels
  • integrates with other systems
  • Customizable (bots, etc)
  • Search for messages
  • Feature messages
  • Quick communications
  • Set reminders
  • Notifications from other systems that get intregated with it
Gmail Submission of messages Hard to track conversations.
  • No need to invite the recipient to be able to communicate
  • All messages are archived
  • Integrates with Google Drive to upload attachments
  • Long communications that need details
Phone Conversations Recordings are not supported
  • Recipient is very easy to reach
  • Quick communications
  • Critical communications
JIRA Project management, track status of tasks, coordination of tasks, time tracking Only JIRA users can access that environment
  • Usable interface for tasks
  • Integrates with other systems
  • Customizable (create own boards, own workflow, etc)
  • Quick check of status and priorities
  • Coordination of tasks
  • Delegation of tasks among the team
Confluence Documentation, wiki Only JIRA users can access that environment
  • Create tasks in JIRA
  • Creation of micro sites / wikis
  • Integrates with other tools
  • Documentation
GoToMeeting Video calls, sharing screens
  • Only one meeting per account
  • Requires of a launcher to use it
  • It can affect the performance of the computer that is using it, therefore call can be affected.
  • You don’t need an account to join a call.
  • Use your phone for voice
  • Screensharing has high resolution
  • Allows to record meetings
  • Recordings are considerably small in size
  • Integrates with mobile devices very well
  • Sprint demos
  • Sprint planning
  • Pair programming
  • Pair review
  • KSR
Hangouts Team communications, video calls, screen sharing
  • Only Google accounts can access that environment
  • Hard to track conversations per project.
  • Screen sharing has low resolution
  • It doesn”t record meetings
  • Integrates with mobile devices very well
  • It allows all the team to do calls simultaneously
  • Very quick video calls
  • Jumping on a call quickly
Google Drive Store and share documents
  • Only Google accounts can access that environment
  • Hard to find content
  • Share folders and files with other Google accounts
  • Ability to move files to different locations without losing original link
  • Integrates with OS to upload/download information from OS folder
  • Handles big files
  • Good storage limit
  • Allows colaboration and version control
  • Sharing files with Gmail accounts
  • Collaborating on a document
  • Storing documentation
Dropbox Store and share documents
  • Only Dropbox users can access that environment
  • Hard to find content
  • Share folders and files with other Dropbox accounts
  • Integrates with OS to upload/download information from OS folder
  • Handles big files
  • Good storage limit
  • Sharing files with Dropbox accounts
  • Collaborating on a document
  • Storing documentation

Based on that analysis, we defined communication protocols to ensure that our projects are well documented and the team use the right channel to reach other people when they are teleworking or located in a different city.