SCRUM and Distributed Teams

Good paper on how to increase the chance of success when using SCRUM and agile techniques with distributed teams. Interesting use of the term “project gravity”. From the abstract:

Distributed agile can work, but it is risky. Even more than traditional agile implementations, teams tend to fall into two failure modes: “command and control” or team fragmentation. Distribution between teams or team members has two distinct dimensions: separation and project gravity. Distribution, including physical distance, is the most commonly recognized barrier to effective distributed teams. Gravity is the other, less recognized dimension of separation and is some stable center which teams can organize around. This can take the form of a stable product backlog, a clear mission, or an inspiring product owner. Failing to recognize where your project lies along the dimensions of separation will make it more prone to the two failure modes. Both failure modes are discussed in terms of the dimensions of distribution, with suggestions for remedial actions. In either case, leadership must be aware of both dimensions of a team/project’s distribution, and act accordingly.

ToDo Lists

Where would we be without ToDo lists? They have found their use in everything from keeping track of simple errands to keeping track of outstanding tasks in large scale projects. I find them an integral part of my day to day work and so over the years, I’ve tried out various ToDo list applications to try and find the one that the right fit for me.

I am constantly amazed by the vast number of different applications for managing ToDo lists that have emerged. They range from very simple single list tools, to complex tools that are more suited towards project management than they are for keeping track of what to get during the next visit to the shops.

ToDo list applications need to feel right when you are using them. I have all too often had the experience of trying out a particular ToDo list application only to find that it constrains my usage model in some way. I then spend a couple of days/weeks trying to adapt my usage model to the constraints and model offered by the application. I eventually get too frustrated and give up. I am convinced at this stage that different people are tuned to different ToDo list application features and that there is no one “ToDo list model” that fits all. In spite of this, I believe that I have found the magic ToDo list application that seems to fit most usage models – or at least it doesn’t provide any constraints about how to manage your ToDo lists so you have the freedom to manage them whatever way you like.

After trying 20+ different applications over the past 10 or so years, I constantly return to Abstract Spoon’s ToDoList application. This is without doubt one of the most flexible ToDo list managers out there and it acquires new features at a fast pace. This application really defines the meaning of feature rich. I have used it successfully for managing simple lists, project scheduling, time tracking, and SCRUM backlogs, burndown charts and even for online SCRUM boards. It is difficult to describe its feature list in a simple blog post so I encourage you to download it and give it a twirl.

The only downside that I have encountered with this particular application is that it is Windows specific. I’m sure that ports of this application to different OSes will occur with time but for the moment the cost of its excellent flexibility is only being able to use it on your Windows box(es).