Finding The Best Project Management Tool

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Being active members of project management community we often encounter questions on what is the best project management software, how to find the perfect solution and what would best fit in one situation or another. And while sometimes a recommendation can lead to a gem in a sea of tools, more often it provides an option that is just okay, but not great. Therefore, it is important to realize that finding the perfect tool is a job you and your team will have to do on your own.

The good news is we are here to help guide you towards that perfect option and have some simple tips on how to get there.

1.       It is not a popularity contest

When looking for your next company tool, you will inevitably want to do research online, ask for opinions and statements from other teams that have tried it. And while this is all great, you should always take the opinion of others with a grain of salt. A tool may fit one company perfectly and be completely wrong for another. So before looking into the vast array of options online and trusting the most popular tool is the best, you should lay some groundwork first.

2.       Analyze your processes

Instead of jumping online and reading hundreds of reviews, the first thing you should do is analyze your team and company processes. If you already know them by heart – great, if you need some time to get the hang of it – do it. By making yourself familiar with what happens on a daily basis you will be able to see how a tool can help your team and better understand what it needs to be instead of making presumptions based on the opinions of others.

3.       Create the Must-have list

After cracking the processes, turn your focus to the list of functionalities your tool must have. It can be anything ranging from the technical side of the operating system up the actual features like time tracking or the project management methodology used. Make sure to only add the features that are absolute must-haves to the list and create a nice-to-have list for other features you want to take note of. These two lists will be your best guide in weeding out the large array of possibilities and the true start of finding the tool for you.

4.       Take note of the tools you currently use

Before taking a look at the possible solutions, take some time do one more thing – analyze the tools your team currently uses. Observe, which tools are popular and which are forgotten and take note of their characteristics – is it a community or an individual tool, how is it accessed, what graphic design it has, etc. Try to get all of the details that are important to your team or better yet – ask them to paint you the full picture. After all, no tool will be successful if your team does not accept it and use it.

5.       Find the potential candidates

Once you get all of that, it is time to move on to the search. Go online, ask colleagues, read forums and find the potential candidates for your needs. Make sure to keep in mind the must have list for the initial search and then narrow it down to around 10 options based on the team preferences. Once you have this list, share it with your team, decide which you all like and try it out. It is best to try only one tool at a time and give it at least a week, but if you are in a rush, make adjustments that best fit your timeframe.

6.       Make the final decision

Once you’ve tried all of the candidates and chose your favorites, look at the nice-to-have list and other final factors such as the price to make the final decision. No matter which tool you end up using, this process will ensure that it fits your essential needs, goes well with your style of working and will be accepted by your team.

Happy hunting!


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Waste in Agile – Are We Truly Rid Of It?


As true Agile enthusiasts, we strive to eliminate all of the waste in our processes. Cutting the production time, looking for the best practices and asking for frequent client feedback are just a few of the methods we use. However, the focus is usually on the waste of time and money, but another very important aspect is completely forgotten. Should the physical waste of our product be considered a part of the Agile cycle?

While this is mostly not relevant in the software development field where Agile has originated, it is quickly becoming something that has to be talked about. As Agile spreads into other fields and industries, the amount of physical wastefulness is becoming more and more apparent. One of the most obvious examples of this can be found very close to each and every one of us. Most likely, you have even visited this business today or plan to do so later on, as it is something we simply cannot go without – the food stores.

Food Industry

Food is essential to our survival and there is no surprise that the food industry has mastered the art of putting it onto our dinner table. We are used to getting those cold drinks on hot summer days and curling up with soul food when it’s raining out. The food industry collects massive amounts of data on our eating habits, holidays, weather, health situation, etc. and does everything else possible, so that we could all find exactly what we are looking for at the right time. Think about it – when was the last time you couldn’t get something you wanted at the grocery store?

Unless you are into those gourmet cheeses and wines, it has probably been a while. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, fishes and everything else year round just around the corner. From this point of view it would seem that food industry has truly mastered agility – getting us what we want when we want it. But now take a moment and think about what happens to the food that is not sold? How much food is thrown out every day because the store ordered too much, it did not look nice or had the wrong packaging?

You have an estimation? Here is the truth – United States alone throws out a third of the food it produces and the grocery stores are accountable for 10% of that number. Would you call that Agile? Even if lean methods are used for delivery of the goods, the practice of over ordering is still alive and creating massive amounts of waste in companies that call themselves Agile. Such stores are not only wasting money, they are actually creating physical waste that rots and pollutes our planet. And all this while there are still thousands and thousands of people starving.

The Agile Lifecycle

So when talking about Agility in fields that produce an actual physical product, we should not only be talking about getting it to the customer efficiently, but thinking about the whole lifecycle and how it could be optimized. As waste is created not only in our production cycle and processes, but also as a result of our actions. And as per the Agile standards it should be avoided at any cost.

Supermarkets and the food industry in general is just one of many examples were companies use Agile practices, but are not truly Agile. And by no means is this their fault, as Agile itself only talks about production optimization. But as the method is moving away from software development and into other fields, it is important to start thinking about the whole product lifecycle instead. So that there is no waste not only in the production of our products, but also as a result of our actions, creating environmentally responsible and sustainable practices.

In the case of food industry there are already several ways of avoiding wasted food. First and foremost is analyzing and trusting the data to order the necessary amounts instead of over ordering. Working with charities and giving away the leftover food to those less fortunate people. And educating the customers about the food industry and why the spotted banana or a bruised tomato is still perfectly good to eat. The important thing now is understanding that those practices should be part of the Agile cycle, not just a good deed a company can opt for.

As Agile is moving and expanding away from its original roots in software development, it is becoming more important to rethink how its values translate to physical products. Eliminating waste should no longer be understood as just making sure the company processes are effective, but should instead take over the whole product lifecycle from beginning to end. Thus making sure that not only our processes are waste free, but the results of our actions are as well. 


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5 Ways Of Getting There With Your Team

070516-N-1745W-001Last week I talked about the importance of getting to know your customers and collecting their feedback. This week, I want to bring the focus a little closer to home, to the employees. No matter how you slice it, your employees are the key in making everything happen. Without them there would simply be no company. However, we often forget that and observe a diminishing engagement and lack of morale. So what should you do to make sure your team stays as enthusiastic about the future as they were on day one? I am sure these tips will help put you on the right track.

  • Define the rules of the game

Before even talking about empowering and engaging employees, you should make sure that there are clear rules to define the processes. Not only that, but that you also take some time and talk these rules out with your team. Have an open discussion about the management practices and you will be surprised about the valuable feedback and insights that will be offered. This way, you will not only make sure they know the rules, but also have the team be part of their creation.
Genuine interest and open doors will put you ahead of the game.

  • Treat your team like adults

One of the biggest issues when keeping employees engaged and happy is micromanagement. It is understandable that you want to make sure everything goes smoothly and according to plan, but at some point it is imperative you let go. Your employees are professionals that you have hand-picked to represent you so make sure to treat them accordingly. Empower the team to make their own decisions, let go of the reigns and observe. Let them prove to you that they can perform and only intervene when it is absolutely necessary. You will have a more engaged and self-sufficient team than you would ever have micromanaging their every move.

Act the way you would like to be treated when asked to do a job – trust is your best friend.

  • Ask to explain the issues

Another big boost to morale and productivity is the ability to talk out the issues. Schedule a monthly meeting with each team where the sole purpose is to talk about the issues they are facing and to look for their solutions. Make sure this meeting is about the team dynamics and the processes and not about the current project or deadline. This way you will create a platform for the team to share their concerns in a safe space, a place to look for solutions and a feeling that everyone is heard and valued. It will be difficult to get the ball rolling the first few times, but asking the right questions and taking up a role of a colleague instead of a leader, will go a long way.

Treat these meetings as a safe space, so that everyone can voice their opinions.

  • Give credit when credit’s due

Besides making sure the team is heard and treated correctly, you should always make an effort to give credit to those that deserve it. Too often we forget to thank or praise the team members that are crucial to the operation. And while you might think they will still know they are valued, their feeling might be different. Celebrate wins often and publicly, thus shoving the rest of the team what to strive for and how their efforts will be rewarded in the future.

Celebrate your company and your people with pride.

  • Measure the satisfaction

Few business decisions are made without insight and data, so employee engagement should not be any different. Do not limit yourself to team meetings – set up a system to measure satisfaction on a daily basis. The way you approach this will be crucial and could determine if the employees see it as a positive thing that it is. Make the survey anonymous, and rotate employees so that they don’t get fed up. The results will provide you with valuable insight and help you better prepare on introducing big news to the team in the future.

Measure satisfaction to know when your team needs a pick me up.

How do you keep the team motivated and engaged? Share your thoughts and tips with us in the comments!

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Keep Your Customers Close


The business world is facing a society and environment like never before. While on one hand it seems like the progress has slowed down and there are fewer big change waves, at the same time we are creating more small scale inventions than ever before. New technology is tweaking our lives, making it easier to do almost everything and at the same time giving most of you in the business world a headache on how in the world to keep up. How to know which novelties will become popular and which will bust? And could your management practices ensure the cash cow of today will not become a dog tomorrow? Let’s see.

Staying relevant and understanding what your customers want is key to survival in this market. As new companies are founded every single day, you have to change with the technology and trends or your customers will move on. And due to the same speed of change it is becoming more and more important to actually ask and listen what the customers opinions are.

“Business executives should leave the big data and offices behind and go talk to their customers once in a while.” says Martin Lindstormm and I could not agree more. In his recent article, Mr. Lindstormm outlines holding on to what you think your customers want as one of the main reasons most of Fortune 500 companies from 1955 are no longer. And with the ever-changing technology capabilities, it has become not only more difficult to predict customers wishes, but also more important to ask what they are.

Surely, you’ve heard this idea before. But how many companies out there do truly abide in it? It might be easy at the beginning, but as the company grows and forms a brand identity, most of us tend to start assimilating ourselves with the product. And yes, in some cases (actually in most of them) you truly do know your customers and what they would prefer, but there are also those instances when you get it wrong. And those are crucial. Crucial for your quarterly report, success and even survival.

So how should you get the feedback culture into your office and forget the product bias? One way of doing so is actually leaving your office and going to work the front lines once in a while. Take up the cashier or the customer call center position for a few days and you will learn more than you ever could from the report sheets. Undoubtedly, this is a great way of gathering information, at the same time as I was reading Mr. Lindstormm’s article, I couldn’t help but wonder if the right management practice could yield the same results without being as disruptive to the process? And then Agile popped into my mind.

Agile is built to be nimble, responsive and to collect customer’s wishes at each iteration. So by applying Agile management methods into an organization, we are automatically giving people a premise on talking to the customer and hearing their opinion. More so than any other project management practice Agile family is built on interaction between the product and its environment. So it could actually be a great help and an asset for those trying to listen to their customers more.

For those getting excited, I should mention, simply taking on one of the practices will not be the end of your effort. It will only be a first step into a more responsive company, with other organizational steps to follow. To get the full customer insights at each level, teams will have to determine how and which feedback they will collect.  It will be easier for functional teams that provide the customer with some final result and more difficult for managerial teams. But as they figure out how to collect valuable feedback in each iteration, they  will no longer have to change their schedules to do so.

Therefore it could be stated that Agile is definitely not the one and only answer for those looking to improve their understanding of the customer wishes, but it is a tool that could help achieve this goal. Agile creates a great premise for talking and understanding the people you are trying to sell to and when used right can help bring unwilling company structures into actually reaching out and collecting those valuable insights. However, as any change it will come easier to some than others and should be sought out by those willing to experiment and fail on their way to success.


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Tips & Tricks On Using Agile

tips-tricksTaking on Agile can be a tough challenge, especially if you have no previous experience with it and have no one to coach you. The good news, however, are that all it takes is time and determination to take over and understand. To make that process more smooth for both you and your team, we came up 17 tips and tricks. Use them to reach your goals sooner and more easily.

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Choose The Right Agile Method

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The next big question after deciding to go Agile is deciding which of the methods is right for you- will you go with Scrum, SoS or SAFe? While this decision is not an easy one and will take careful considerations, there are some aspects to each of the method that can help you along the way. Below you will find our easy 3 step process that will guarantee you consider the right options from the start.



For more helpful Agile cheats and tips see The Ultimate Agile Guide.


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Transitioning to Agile: Running Effective Meetings

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Ah, meetings.. The thing we all hate, yet cannot live without. No matter what project management method your team is using, meetings are always a part of it one way or another. And while most of us associate these gatherings with long and strenuous activities that often yield little to no actual results, when transitioning to Agile you should keep an open mind.

The whole idea of Agile is being effective and eliminating practices that create waste. So when talking about meetings there is no surprise, the same rules apply. No matter the chosen method, all meetings have to have a clear purpose, duration and must yield a result. So to get the Agile meetings right from the start, you should understand that contrary to other practices every single meeting has a very specific value to add to the table.

  • Understand the reason of the meeting

Depending on your chosen Agile method, the number, complexity and scheduling of these meetings will differ. Scrum meetings are planned based on the length of iterations, while Kanban meetings are held once the team feels the need for them. However, no matter which method you have chosen, the first thing you will have to do is to understand the purpose behind each of the accompanying meetings.

More often than not, the meetings will be very distinctive and specific – sprint planning is only held for planning tasks of that one sprint. Daily standup only discusses the results and plans and so on. While at first, it may seem hard to keep track of all the different rituals, it is understanding the reason behind them that will help pull you out of the dark. Ultimately this will not only help you, but will also make your teams transition a lot smoother.

  • Go by the rules

Another thing that might be difficult to do at first and will possibly slip your mind later, is that the meeting rules and rituals are there for a good reason. It might seem silly to be standing during daily Scrum for the first few times, but this will help to keep the meeting short and on point. And while planning the work for only a two week iteration could seem very irresponsible and short sighted, you will later realize this way of working cuts a lot of planning time in the long run.

Therefore make sure to stay along the lines of the meeting rituals, especially in the beginning. They will create right practices and rituals within your organization and that will help you avoid overcrowded, extended and useless gatherings. And if you still feel that some rituals don’t work for you after you’ve completed a good number of iterations, you can change them. Only then you will have experience and will actually understand what will work for you.

  • Have a clear goal to be achieved

Lastly, before going into any meeting, make sure to have a very clear goal and a plan to achieve it. It may be to show your client the results of a sprint and to get an informative feedback in a review meeting or it might be as simple as catching up with the team and logging the progress in the daily Scrum. No matter the type of meeting, without understanding what you are trying to get out of it, you chances of success are slim.

In order to avoid the possibility of making your meetings redundant and fruitless, take some time beforehand and draw a mini plan to understand what you are trying to achieve, who should be involved and how long it might take. By doing that you will save your team a great deal of time and frustration as well as will achieve your goals faster.

Agile meetings and meetings from any other project management practice are not much different – they are all set up to improve project success. However, as with anything else, Agile tries to eliminate as much waste as possible. So to make you do just that, take note of why those meetings were set up and fulfill their requirements as best as you can.

Happy meeting!

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Scrum vs. Kanban vs. Scrumban – What’s the difference?

Scrum-Kanban-Scrumban for postingUnderstanding how do Agile methodologies differ can be a daunting task. Some get confused with the overwhelming amount of information, others are disappointed with the lack of clarity.

Ideal way is to have everything at single glance and compare pros and cons in each framework. To make sure it is easy enough, we present a short and clear table listing the main differences and similarities between Scrum, Kanban and Scrumban.




For more helpful Agile cheats and tips see The Ultimate Agile Guide.


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Transitioning to Agile: Understanding the Methods

agile processAgile is not a new concept in the business world by any means – it is being adopted to more and more various fields, innovated and even discarded by some teams that feel they have had enough and are ready to move on. However, as the Agile reign continues, we find some of the practitioners are still trying to figure out how exactly to be Agile. For this, we are launching a series of blog posts explaining and answering some of the questions most new Agile users have.

To practice any methodology, first you have to know what it actually is and we find that there is still a lot of confusion out there about what exactly can be called Agile. So is Agile equivalent to Scrum as many out there believe? Or is Agile an ancestor of Extreme Programming? Let us try and explain everything.

Agile is a term that describes an effective way of working. It was introduced to the mass public by the release of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 and while it does specifically outline 4 values and 11 principles to be followed by the Agile teams, it does not include any particular methodology or recommendations of a methodology to be followed. So in itself, Agile is simply a framework to be followed.

Naturally, after the creation of the Manifesto, the practitioners felt a need of a clear method to be followed and thus the search has begun. Some looked into existing project management tools and though how they could be made to fit the Agile framework, others created whole new concepts and methods completely from scratch. Thus today we have a wide variety of Agile methods to choose from and new ones coming up every single day. Check out our Agile method genealogy tree.

So to answer the questions we have posed in the beginning, Agile is not Scrum, not XP and not any other method in particular, but all of the methods that comply with the Agile Manifesto are Agile. And as long as you are practicing one of them, your team is Agile too.


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Agile Hierarchy – How Are The Methods Related?

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Have your ever got lost between all of the Agile practices and frameworks? With the methods evolving, changing and appearing constantly, it can get difficult to understand, how they evolved and turned into the form of today. Therefore we decided to make this quick cheat sheet for anyone wondering if SoSKanban and XP have anything in common.


For more helpful Agile cheats and tips see The Ultimate Agile Guide.

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