Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Evaluating Scrum management tools for a startup

I have been evaluating some cloud-based management tools for Scrum teams, with a special focus on tech startups with 10 employees. These are my thoughts.

JIRA AGILE. $20/mo. Free 7-day trial.
  • PROS. This is the most professional project management tool that I have ever tried. Especially adapted for Scrum or Kanban, Jira Agile will guide you through the process of creating your product backlog, launching your first sprint and getting relevant charts and reports. The dashboard looks pretty much like Trello, drag&drop driven with a nice look&feel. Limitless options for managers to set up the project, team and to get the most out of Scrum framework. Jira Agile has its own app store. Very easy to scale and combine with other Atlassian tools such as Confluence.
  • CONS. Perhaps it is too complex for a startup that just needs to launch experiments and make their MVPs evolve rapidly. Some features are not really relevant at this stage. Moderate learning curve for managers in order to make the best use of this tool. For Scrum masters and team members it is quite easy to use, though.



SCRUMDO. $50/mo. Free 30-day trial.
  • PROS. It has been developed just for Scrum, so it has the features that you need, and nothing else. Scrumdo includes some useful features such as the Planning Poker tool for estimations and a team chat.
  • CONS. I was very disappointed with this tool. The user experience is, in my opinion, the main challenge they have to face before considering charging us $50/month. I found it difficult to follow the process despite the tip tools, and their look&feel is not very appealing.


VERSIONONE. Free.
  • PROS. I am very impressed with this complete tool to manage Scrum projects. VersionOne guides you though the sprint process, providing useful features at each stage (sprint planning, tracking, review,...). The most interesting feature is probably the TeamRoom, which allows team members to see at a single glance how is the sprint going. Different reports allow product owners to make better decisions. The way it is designed invites to collaboration across teams.
  • CONS. Most of the features described above are only available on the Enterprise plan, which costs $29/user/month. Probably too expensive and complex for a startup.


BASECAMP. Free.
  • PROS. It is not only good for organizing your tasks into to-do lists. In addition you can share relevant files, text documents and even organize meetings. Basecamp's app store includes dozens of free apps that can be integrated into Basecamp. It is easy to create sprint planning backlogs, estimate and assign resources which are notified by email.
  • CONS. The user interface is slightly old-fashioned but quite intuitive. It does not support burndown reports, so you might need to install a third-party plugin.


TRELLO. Free.
  • PROS. The most easy-to-use tool. Trello has a very intuitive and clear interface that will reduce the learning curve to a minimum. Tasks are organized in to-do lists, and lists are organized in boards. Many third-party apps are available in its marketplace, covering Trello's weaknesses. Available web-based, Android and iOS. 
  • CONS. Trello is great for small teams, but I find it difficult to scale. If you have many tasks and/or lists, it becomes more and more difficult to manage the project. In addition, you need external apps in order to create management reports.


CONCLUSION. For a 10-employee startup I would recommend:
  • If they have an experienced Scrum product owner and Scrum master, use Jira Agile. They will be able to get the most out of it with a minimum learning curve.
  • Otherwise, use Trello and install some free apps such as Burndown. Whenever you are ready to scale, you have more experience in Scrum and you have some budget to spend, switch to a paid platform such as VersionOne or Jira Agile.

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