The word ‘agile’ has very broad meaning. It is important to note that it is considered more as a mindset or philosophy that most teams and organizations follow rather than a set of specific tools.
In general, there are many SW tools to support agility of the organization, usually named as agile project management tool or SW tools for agile project teams.
SW tools for agile project teams can be defined as a project management tool that utilizes the agile methodology to manage teams across various departments and automate processes to increase workflow and productivity.
These are key common features of such tools:
- Query / ticket tracking – this feature means that the tool allows to track the future work (backlog) and current work, status of the work and the type of work (e.g., issues, defects, features, request, user stories, etc.).
- Progress visualization – in general means to visually see the work of each member of the team and / or the flow of the work. The most well-known used methodology for this visualisation is Kanban or Scrum board.
- Collaboration – to stay agile (yes, puns), you’ll need to eliminate barriers to the information your team needs. Tool must support smooth collaboration. This means that you can easily add any comments, documents, tasks to the relevant ticket. Also, you can tag your colleague and notify though preferred channel (email, chat, sms, etc.).
- Estimation – this feature is meant to help project managers to calculate work effort for the specific requirement and help to plan the scope of the iteration / sprint.
- Customer portal – instead of waiting for the feedback after each iteration, this allows to ask for feedback anytime or ask additional information to the specific assignment. This also helps to make the progress of the work more transparent to the customer.
- Project portfolio – organization usually works on the multiple projects. This feature allows to jump between projects, see projects dependencies and share the capacity of developers or other agile team members between projects. This supports good decision making to manage the portfolio.
- Knowledge management – agile teams’ members usually work more closely with each other, which allows natural knowledge transfer, but still it is essential to capture the knowledge of the teams of about created products. This knowledge should be easily transfer to the customer (e.g. through portal) and other teams which will take care about products and services after development (operation teams, service desk, monitoring, user support etc.)
- Service management – in many cases there are no pure development teams, but the same teams also ensure some level of support, usually 2nd or 3rd level of support. However, if this situation appears and SW tool is not capable to support service management processes like incident management, problem management, change management, configuration management and many other (see ITIL practices), team members usually use 2 different tools – SW development tool as well as Service management tool. This usually cause many troubles like inability to manage capacity of the team and properly plan the work of the development.
How to choose the right SW tools for agile project teams?
Firstly, take holistic approach. Recognize the whole nature of the work for the teams, not only for the one purpose – manage agile project.
If the teams are pure development teams, you can look (search) to the many lists and articles where agile project management tools are listed. Unfortunately, currently there is no independent assessment of agile management tools to compare it how they really support any agile methodology.
If the teams also support developed products as a service, do not look to the pure agile project management tools. These tools (like JIRA) are designed around projects and service management features are very weak. Look to the ITSM / ESM tools (e.g., 4me, GLPI) where a vendor or implementation partner claim that they also support agile project management. They probably have all the above-described features. Customization of the agile project management tool for the service management is costly and nearly never-ending development with many compromises. Also, you can look at some independent assessment for ITSM / ESM tools e.g., https://certified-tool.com/