Monday, December 6, 2010

What is the best Scrum tool from Google Apps Marketplace?

In the first part of these series we reviewed 5 Google Docs templates for managing your Scrum team. In this second part we will review Scrum tools from the Google Apps Marketplace.

Searching for "Scrum" in the Apps Marketplace returns 4 products. TaskPoint however doesn't have any integration with Google Apps services so I decided not to review it.

This is not an in-depth review. Based on my experience with Scrum, I wanted to get an overall idea on how well each tool could support distributed Scrum. My personal ratings are shown in this table.

Google Apps Integration Scrum Kanban Pricing Rating
Bright Green ProjectsSingle Sign-on
Universal navigation
Free for 3 users
$20/month/per additional user
Acunote Single Sign-on
Universal navigation
Free for 5 users
Other package start at $49/month
Gravity Single Sign-on
Universal navigation
Free for 3 projects
Paid version not yet available

What did I like and what do I think can be improved on these tools.

Bright Green Projects
Bright Green Project Visual Wall
  • Like
    • Visual Wall
    • Supports release planning
    • Help by chat
  • Could be improved
    • Limited Help
    • Unclear use of terminology for Scrum users

You Tube introduction to Bright Green Projects

Acunote Current sprint overview
  • Like
    • Straightforward Scrum
    • Burndown charts
    • Good help
    • Integration with bug tracking tools (Mantis,..)
  • Could be improved
    • No support for release planning
    • No visual wall
You Tube introduction to Acunote

Gravity Visual Task Board
  • Like
    • Very intuitive
    • Straightforward Scrum
    • Visual wall
    • Good support trough email
  • Could be improved
    • Still in Beta
    • Limited online help


  • Gravity is my personal favorite because of its simplicity. The only tool that got me going in seconds.
  • I particularly like the visual walls in Bright Green Projects and Gravity. This kind of wall comes close to a white board and is much better in giving an overview of the tasks then any other list.
  • Overall I'm a bit disappointed in the integration with Google Apps and its collaborative features. Hopefully these features will be further exploited by the makers of the tools.
So what is your opinion on these tools?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Choosing a Scrum tool for your distributed team: review of free Google Spreadsheet templates

Let me start by saying that I prefer whiteboards for co-located Scrum teams. A whiteboard way outperforms software tools as it enhances team collaboration (principle 1 of the Agile Manifesto remember).

However distributed teams need tools to run their Scrum project.

The Googe Apps platform is a great tool for distributed teams because it embeds realtime collaboration on documents, chat, blogs, wiki style intranets etc..

In this two series blog we will review two kind of tools: templates and Google Apps Marketplace tools. We will kick off with templates.


The template gallery from Google Docs contains all sorts of templates. It can be found on the Google Docs List page. Just enter "Scrum" in the search box and hit the "Search Templates" button. I narrowed it down to Google Spreadsheets and got 17 different templates.  I've compared the top 5 most used Scrum templates showing the Scrum artifacts (documents) they support.

"Most users"
Google Docs Template Sprint backlog Sprint burndown Product backlog Product burndown
1 Simple SCRUM Agile Project Management
2 Sprint and Product backlog by Scrum Toolbox
3 Scrum Artifacts Story Points
4 Wicker Man
5 scrum - product backlog & sprint backlogs

As you can see these templates support basic Scrum. In my experience starting with a simple template is a good strategy for tool support. It forces you to get the job done with the bare minimum and be focused on delivering software. As the team advances throughout the sprints they can adapt these templates based on the their findings during the retrospectives.

Note: to try these templates out, you'll need a Google Account and activate Google Docs. More info on creating a Google account.


The big advantage of these templates is that they embed the collaborative features of the Google Apps platform. You can:

  • invite as many people as you want to work on the Scrum team, potentially from around the globe.
  • make copies for as much projects as you want, for free
  • integrate  with other Google apps products like Sites (for project spaces), calendar, YouTube, ...
  • further enhance them to your needs and wishes 
  • start using your Scrum tool in seconds,

One of the shortcomings is that these poorly scale beyond the project scope. If you have several teams in your company working with Scrum and delivering features from a shared product backlog, you would need to wire the product and sprint backlogs of these teams yourself.

Next time

In the second part of this series we will review Scrum tools from the Google Apps Marketplace. These compare to tools like Rally Software and Scrumworks.

Have an experience to share? Just comment, looking forward to hear from you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Get to know your customers' priorities for your Scrum project using Google Apps

The product owner in Scrum ensures the ROI of the software. Getting the right priorities on what features to include in the next release is an important element in optimizing that ROI. Often the product owner will seek the help of customers & prospects in getting the priorities right. Google Apps offers some great "out of the box" tools to reach out to your customers. In this blog entry we will set up a simple system to get their priorities on features. If you're familiar with Google Docs and Sites it will take you 5 minutes. If not this is an opportunity to explore these tools.

Step 1: publish the list of potential features for your next release on a Google Site (see Google Help Creating a Site). For each feature, we add an image, a user story and some reference documentation. A Google site is like a Wiki so therefor you can add whatever information you want to explain your features to your customers.

Step 2: create a Google Form. With Google Docs, you can quickly create a form or survey, email it to your friends, family, or colleagues, and keep track of the answers in one spreadsheet (see Google Docs Help Creating a form). We create a simple form with just one question. The question is a grid in which the rows contain the features and the columns their desired priority. Click the image to have a closer look at the form.

We also added the link to the Google Site in the header section of the form. Customers can review the descriptions before voting on their priorities.

You can add an email notification that alerts you whenever someone votes.

Send the url of the live form to your customers and prospects and await their votes.

Step 3: reviewing the results of the voting is easy. Google integrated some greating looking graphics to review the responses. At a glance you can see what features your customers really want.

You can pick up the template for this form in the Google Docs template gallery.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scrum tools for distributed teams

We've been working with geographically distributed teams over the last couple of years. The following quote from the World Finance magazine is summarizing something we have experienced and witnessed at customers and peers in the European software industry.

"There is a fundamental imbalance in the global economy; in the post-industrial nations, capital is cheap, but labor is expensive. Conversely, in the developing world, capital is scarce but labor is plentiful. Economically this would suggest the huge potential for mass immigration. Yet politically with today's pressures on emerging multicultural societies, it is a total non-starter.

That's why off shoring could be seen as the most acceptable route forward to politicians and businessmen who embrace globalization. Thanks to the advances in low cost digital communications, the world economy is on the verge of Offshoring 2.0 - a revolutionary new paradigm in the way we do business.

In the very near future, for small and medium size businesses, having partners in Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa will no longer seem exotic, but the norm". (1)

By talking to customers and partners we have seen them experimenting with a lot of different tools to create virtual teams.

2X2To boost this, we developed a Scrum template for Google Docs. The template supports the Scrum development process.

The Google platform allows for real-time collaboration between software team members around the world, without installing any software or additional hardware, giving you the time to do your job (instead of administrating tools or hardware).

Add to this Skype or web conferencing tools and your distributed Agile team is ready.

The template is completely free and documentation is provided. Get the template on

Hope it helps in creating your software products!