Why Are Tools So Important in an Agile Environment?

Have you ever thought about “Why Are Tools So Important in an Agile Environment?”. We all know that one of the very important values in the Agile Manifesto is “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. Some people might interpret that to mean that tools aren’t necessary or appropriate in an Agile environment. I don’t think that is the case but it’s important that they be used in the right context:

What’s the Right Context for Agile Tools?

  • In a traditional plan-driven environment (aka “Waterfall”), the process and the tool manages the efforts of everyone on the team
  • In an Agile environment, a lot more flexibility and adaptivity is needed so any tool that is used should play a supporting role rather than a controlling role

It’s important to understand that context in order to use tools appropriately in an Agile environment. The key idea is that

“You should manage the tool rather than the tool managing you”

Why Are Agile Tools So Important?

Why Are Agile Tools So Important?

As long as they’re implemented in the right context, I believe that tools are very important in an Agile environment for several reasons:

  • Agile projects are very dynamic and fast-moving and coordination of the efforts can be a challenge especially with distributed teams
  • Scaling Agile projects to large, complex enterprise levels and keeping the projects well-aligned with the business objectives they are intended to support can also be very challenging

How Are Agile Tools Different?

It’s also important to understand how Agile project management tools are very different from traditional plan-driven project management tools like Microsoft Project.

Traditional Plan-driven
PM Tool Emphasis
Agile PM Tool Emphasis
Structure of the project (WBS, Gantt, Pert, etc.) Maximizing flow of work and efficiency (Structure is considerably simplified, much more fluid, and not as important)
Tracking conformance to a plan baseline Much more dynamic environment; plan is continuously being updated and refined
Tracking completion of tasks Tracking delivery of value against a high-level road map
PM is the primary user of the tool The entire team uses the tool and the tool supports team communication and collaboration
Information in the tool is updated periodically by the PM for reporting purposes Information in the tool is updated in much more continuously by everyone on the team for coordination and tracking progress
PM prepares and distributes progress reports Anyone can view progress any time
(Information Radiator)

I’ve just finished adding two new sections and (13) new lectures to my “Mastering Agile Project Management” course to cover these topics. You can register for that course here:

Discounted Agile Project Management Academy Courses