16th century poet George Herbert said that “a bad workman quarrels with his tools.” And while there is practical wisdom in this observation, just don’t try and mention it to people in the 21st century who have been saddled with ineffective, limited, or just plain awful agile project management tools – because instead of a knowing nod, one is likely to be greeted with an icy glare.
Best Agile Project Management Tools
If inferior agile project management tools trigger confusion and chaos, then naturally it follows that superior agile project management tools drive efficiency, productivity, engagement, performance and success. But what, specifically, are these superior tools? There are five such tools that are found in leading agile project management software solutions: boards, Gannt charts, milestones, file management tools, and collaboration tools. We highlight each of them below.
Must-Have Agile Project Management Tools List:
Kanban and Scrum boards visualize work and workflows, so that agile teams can work more efficiently and effectively.
In order for this tool to be an asset instead of a liability, it should be simple and fast to:
- Create multiple boards to reflect different projects, teams, customers and/or products.
- Customize boards to align with specific team preferences.
- Adjust workflows at any time due to ongoing changes to priorities, plans, or any aspect of the agile project management process.
- Establish work-in-progress (WIP) limits to prevent task overload and team exhaustion.
A Gantt chart is a bar chart that provides at-a-glance information about task start and end dates, along with dependencies, scheduling, deadlines, progress, and task ownership. It should be straightforward to create Gantt charts for all workspaces, a single workspace, or a specific board.
Milestones are not in themselves tasks – i.e. they do not require resources, they do not take time, and they are not assigned to a team member. Rather, milestones are highly useful tools for tracking progress towards target dates, and communicating with stakeholders.
It is also important to note that some software – especially those that provide agile project management tools for free – have limited and flawed milestone functionality, in that task due dates cannot be set relative to milestone dates. As a result, when a milestone shifts, its related tasks do not automatically shift with it. This creates planning and scheduling nightmares. To eliminate this risk, it is vital to choose software that connects milestones to tasks so they move together as changes occur.
File Management Tools
Few things can derail an agile project faster than missing assets. File management tools make it fast and easy to attach documents, videos and links to tasks. They are essential for keeping team members focused – instead of frustrated.
It is an axiom across the business landscape that effective collaboration is valuable. However, on agile projects this is elevated to another level – because poor collaboration is the gateway to failure. High-performing agile teams avoid this disaster by using collaboration tools that:
- Use boards (as discussed earlier) to keep everyone informed in real-time.
- Store and organize comments and other related assets directly on each task, so that everyone is on the same page and team members can quickly follow-up as necessary.
- Rapidly and easily onboard new team members – and without the need for admin support.
- Provide secure guest access to keep customers, vendors, partners and other external stakeholders in the loop and up-to-date on progress.
Agile Project Management Software: Additional Features
In addition to the above, there are some additional core features in agile project management software that successful teams and organizations rely on. These include:
- Seamless integration with project and portfolio management (PPM) software. For example, projects can be planned in the PPM software, and then pushed to the agile project management software upon approval. This gives teams the freedom to work they want, while increasing visibility into their progress.
- Seamless integration with other platforms and business apps in the environment (e.g. Microsoft Teams, Gmail, Zoom, Zapier, etc.), in order to ensure that teams have rapid, reliable access to the data and assets they need to do their jobs.
- Robust enterprise-grade security on multiple levels, including application, infrastructure and physical.
The Final Word
Frankly, agile project management is tough enough on its own. The pace is frenetic, ongoing change is the norm vs. the exception, and achieving consensus across product owners, Scrum masters, and team members is difficult. However, when defective agile project management tools are added to the mix, an already difficult experience becomes unbearable. Using superior agile project management tools – which are built into leading project management software solutions – makes a world of difference between struggling and succeeding.