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Agile Tools: Why Project Management Isn’t Enough


on April 11, 2018

When searching for agile tools online, most options that are served are agile project management tools. These tools provide capabilities for managing agile projects, including capturing, refining and prioritizing user stories; estimating and planning sprints and future releases; and monitoring progress using scrum boards and burn-down charts. While these are all essential features, the developer centricity of most of these tools is at odds with the core agile tenet of business-IT collaboration. For agile to be truly and holistically successful, organizations need to think beyond agile management and look for a solution that enables better collaboration.

According to IDC, 35 percent of IT projects fail, and one of the main reasons for this is the lack of collaboration between business and IT. Gartner states that “a lack of business-IT collaboration leads to misunderstanding the difference between value and quality. Without knowing the ‘why’, developers provide software that doesn’t align to business strategy even when it exactly meets specified requirements.”

Agile promotes collaboration, but the methodology alone isn’t enough. Business and IT need a common language that creates a shared understanding and shortens feedback cycles. This is where a low-code platform comes into play.

Agile Facilitates Collaboration Between Business and IT

With traditional waterfall approaches, the business didn’t have a chance to react to the solution until after it was built, months or even years after the project began. Implementing the agile methodology, with integrated feedback cycles and sprint review meetings, brought this timeline down to two-week sprints. However, it is difficult to begin collaborating before you have built something to react to. Low-code development introduces visual models to help facilitate collaboration between business and IT, enabling this collaboration during sprints versus just at the close of each sprint. This collaborative modeling can bring that timeline down to just hours or minutes because you can sit together and collaborate to make changes on the fly.

Visual Modeling Allows for Collaboration Between Business and IT

With this speed of development, and with the ability to preview applications instantly, low-code platforms enable rapid iteration. Developers can make changes in real-time based on user feedback, iterating continuously towards desired results.

In addition, certain low-code platforms include built-in agile project management that offers many of the same capabilities as standalone tools, but in a much more user-friendly way. The fact that these tools are seamlessly integrated into a platform supporting the complete app lifecycle offers several additional benefits:

1. Business Engagement

While it may be possible to integrate with third-party tools, developer-centric tools are often quite complex to use, limiting the participation of business users. Low-code platforms with built-in project management capabilities are designed for easy use by business users and facilitate collaboration with business stakeholders to capture, refine and prioritize user requirements, plan sprints and future releases, and manage the backlog. With an easy-to-use project portal, the entire team can create user stories, collaborate and communicate throughout the development process in one platform. At the same time, open APIs allow you to integrate with and sync user stories with third-party agile tools, allowing developers to continue to use their preferred tool.

2. Track user stories throughout the entire app lifecycle

With built-in project management tools, teams can capture requirements as user stories which can then be traced across the entire applications lifecycle. Story status lets you know where a story is in the development process, tagging stories to revisions enables your product owner and testing team to understand what to test and when, and automated testing can be carried out with test cases assigned to each story in a sprint to create an audit from definition to done.

3. Test Cases Tied to Use Cases

With project management built into your low-code platform, user stories are automatically visible in the modeling environment. Look for a low-code platform that provides an automated testing suite, offering a comprehensive set of tools for creating, refactoring and automating reusable end-to-end tests based on the user stories of your apps. This enables you to build test scripts from each user story to ensure any new functionality works properly.

4. User Feedback Loop

Embedded user feedback widgets enable users to provide instant feedback directly within an application. Feedback is categorized as ideas, bugs, or enhancements, and includes commentary from the user along with metadata captured automatically by the platform. A closed loop brings feedback directly into the development environment, where it can be prioritized and assigned to future sprints for implementation.

Agile development is a powerful methodology that is widely adopted by organizations. However, while collaboration between stakeholders, users and IT is at the core of the method, business teams and developers tend to think and speak different languages. Low-code platforms overcome this collaboration barrier using visual models, enabling all parties involved to view work in progress, share ideas and provide feedback. Low-code platforms with built-in agile project management offer the benefits of agile project management tools, along with all the additional benefits described above.