An absolute integral part of project management is the tools teams use to progress, track, benchmark, and ultimately, complete projects.
And with a 2020 State of Agile Report stating 58% of companies rely on scrum frameworks, it's a no-brainer why the actual scrum tools features are make-or-break when it comes time to choose the perfect software.
Not only do the best scrum tool features help optimize workflow and track overall performance, they also encourage collaboration and enhance productivity. But a standalone scrum tool often isn’t enough.
Instead, it’s just one of the building blocks that make up a bigger project management strategy. In fact, leaning too heavily on a scrum tool goes against the whole ethos of agile management (where people and interactions are given precedence over processes).
That's why you need something flexible to fit your unique workflow. While some scrum tool features heavily emphasize burndown charts or Kanban boards, others might favor backlog management and collaboration.
It gets tricky when you're trying to find the most game-changing feature. For most, it's all about a scrum tool that can:
Make running sprints a breeze. It's all about easy backlog management and features that break big tasks down into more manageable jobs.
Track progress and overall performance. It's important to look to improve your efforts for future sprints.
Foster collaboration. Your team, clients, or organizational leaders need a space to communicate and share project assets.
Detail who is working on what. Transparency is key toward project success and that starts with owning a birds-eye view.
At the end of the day, it's all about making sprints manageable. That's why we're breaking down the must-have scrum tools features to make life a little easier for you and your team:
1. Easy-to-run sprint features
Sprints are the most important part of the scrum methodology. That's why it’s critical for the scrum tool feature you focus on makes it easy to plan and execute.
Look for a tool that helps you organize and run sprints by way of prioritizing the most important tasks—whether that’s through color-coding or actual prioritization labeling.
Also, make sure it’s easy to break down tasks into smaller chunks. This can be done using taskboards with drag-and-drop cards, lists, and interactive checklists.
By prioritizing and batching tasks, your team saves time. This helps you complete tasks quickly and easily, and most importantly, in order of priority.
2. Product backlog management features
Like we just mentioned, a key facet of the scrum framework is deciding what tasks to prioritize and the order of operations.
Good scrum tools provide a centralized product backlog that everyone involved has access to. Here, team members and the Scrum Master can create, manage, rank, and plan tasks, as well as assign relevant activities to the right people.
When tasks are added, it’s important to have a scrum tool feature that lets you plot them in the hierarchy of other tasks, move activities around, and notify team members when they have been assigned a specific task.
Managing the backlog in this way helps keep track of who’s doing what, the tasks that still need completing, and what needs to happen next to keep the project moving forward.
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3. Enhanced project visualization features
Mapping your scrum framework out in a visual way gives team members a quick overview and allows everyone to see what tasks are being worked on at any given time.
Choose a scrum tool that has a variety of visualization features to suit your needs. In particular, look for tools that have:
Burndown charts. These provide a visual representation of the planned work and how your team has progressed during a certain timeframe. It’s one of the most important elements of the scrum framework and the most common visualization method.
Burnup charts. Similar to burndown charts, these are graphs that show the increase in scope and total work carried out during a project. It helps your team see when new work has been added during the project as well as work completed to date.
Velocity charts. These graphs display the amount of work completed and delivered during each sprint. They track the number of work “units” against the expected commitment to determine the velocity of workflow.
All charts are beneficial; burndown charts give an estimate of when the project will be completed, burnup charts provide an overview of what work still needs to be done, and a velocity chart shows PMs how much work they can expect to achieve in their next sprint.
4. Kanban board features
Being agile is all about flexibility. That’s why drag-and-drop board views are so common in project management platforms today.
And rightly so!
In fact, the same State of Agile Survey discovered 63% of companies rely on the Kanban method with board views.
Boards provide an interactive way to move tasks around, change priorities, track, and assign. Often, task boards have cards that can be moved from column to column as tasks are completed and allow for extra information to be added.
For example, during one sprint you might have a column for “assigned” tasks that are yet to be completed, another column for “in progress” tasks, and a final “completed” column. This allows everyone to see the status of each task and what activities still need to be done.
That’s why Teamwork makes it easy to drag cards from one column to the next as tasks make their way through the workflow. This makes it easier to identify bottlenecks and improve collaboration with centralized cards.
5. Reporting and notifications features
The scrum framework is inherently people-based. It relies on all team members knowing exactly what’s happening and when which means reports and notifications are crucial.
The best scrum tool features let you create personal and project dashboards that display your chosen metrics and features in one place.
For example, Teamwork’s dashboard helps groups generate reports when you need them and allows you to have customized visual representations that track how a project is going.
Even better, Teamwork offers real-time updates and automation notifications about different tasks and the project status. This is absolutely crucial for those looking to improve their scrum tools.
Look for a tool that also lets you filter reports for the most important information. Also, a great scrum tool feature for reporting should be able to offer project updates, notifications, and detailed data on task history.
6. A robust amount of integrations options
Chances are, you use a lot of other tools in tandem with your project management software.
Choosing a scrum tool that integrates with other software, like CRM software, social media scheduling software, and automated email campaign software provides a more comprehensive insight into each project.
For example, many software developers rely on JIRA as the de facto agile tool for projects. But what about the marketing or design teams that need to collaborate with the devs without losing their own project management space?
Luckily, Teamwork has a powerful integration with JIRA that allows developers to stick with their software, but connect tasks and jobs to the rest of the team in Teamwork.
7. Templates to kick off a lot faster
Staring at a blank page and not knowing what to do with it is the antithesis to productivity.
Good scrum tools provide a collection of templates you can start using right away. To speed up the process, Teamwork helps teams with product launch templates, event planning templates, software implementation templates, and much more!
These templates give you a baseline to work from, including pre-empted tasks that might need to be carried out, relevant checklists, and sample time frames.
Get started today by working off a Teamwork template!
8. Collaboration and feedback features
Collaboration is integral to the scrum framework. Without teams working together, things quickly fall apart.
You probably already use a number of collaboration tools, like a team communication tool or a video conferencing platform. But scrum tools also offer collaboration features that can help your teams effectively communicate and stay on top of tasks.
In particular, look out for tools that let team members add comments to a task card, have dedicated messaging spaces for each project, and compile all communication on a particular task.
This eliminates the need for confusing and endless email threads and makes sure all relevant communication is kept in one place. Teamwork’s Chat software lets you create tasks directly from messages to make team communication instantly actionable.
Other key collaboration features include notebooks and files and versioning that keep all documentation in an easy-to-access place.
9. Estimation and time-tracking features
Sprints are time-centered. They run for a specific amount of time, whether that’s one week or a month.
Scrum Masters should have a good idea about how long each scrum needs to be in order to get all tasks completed. And the best scrum tool features are the ones that help you set and control the scope of a project.
Built-in estimation tools calculate how long each sprint should run for and gather estimations from historical data. But time-tracking features help you see how long is spent on each task and make it much easier to bill clients–an absolute must for professional services and agencies.
In the end, the tools you choose are what will help your team thrive. And as the scrum methodology becomes increasingly more popular, so does the number of scrum tools available.
If you’re keen to optimize your processes, provide an overview of where everyone’s at in a project at any given time, and make tasks more efficient, you need to look for scrum tools that have the right features for you.