Step 3: Upgrade your tools to coordinate communication
Worst case scenario: your project is managed in Microsoft Project, your scope is captured in static Word and Excel documents, your source code is stored in an instance of TFS, and your quality assurance team logs defects in an HP enterprise quality center. This is an ecosystem that provides zero transparency, no integration, and disconnected communication among teams. Hence one reason why projects cost twice as much and deliver half the value.
A better scenario: Take a look at Jira, the gold standard in the industry of software product delivery that helps team members stay connected and current. There are other tools, but none have the maturity and breadth of functionality offered by the Atlassian family of products (e.g., hipchat, confluence, etc.)
User Story Acceptance Criteria
You can get started by licensing a cloud instance of Jira if you don’t want to get your infrastructure folks involved and that’s a great way to move lean. Once you’re more comfortable and need a more granular, configurable instance you can opt for the enterprise package and set up a dedicated application within your own data center.
Regardless of the tools you use, the objective is to promote individual communication and interaction—another cornerstone of the Agile manifesto. Jira works because it gets out of its own way and allows teams to have meaningful conversations unburdened by busywork, documentation, and disconnected sources.
Through Jira, or another tool, the team can manage backlog, define user stories, capture acceptance criteria, upload and attach visual design assets, collaborate through comments, and monitor dependencies and blockers. Added benefits include a living audit trail of all activity within the project (e.g., how did the acceptance criteria change through time on this user story?), in-depth reporting on delivery, roadmap planning, and more.
If your organization’s Enterprise Delivery Framework team states that Excel documents are necessary to stay compliant, know that Jira can be customized to accept all of your custom fields that your EDF teams wants you to track. We recently went through an exercise with a Tier 1 bank, mapping its Excel-based user story document to a user story in Jira and had to make absolutely no compromises. In fact, the versioning and tracking in Jira was far superior to versioning a static spreadsheet meant to be used by accountants.
In this section, I’ve only skimmed the surface of what a shared toolset offers. There’s reporting, transparency, delivery KPI’s, and a ton of other metrics that help businesses make better, just-in-time decisions when building software.