Wide Awake Developers

Agile Tool Vendors

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There seems to be something inherently contradictory about "Enterprise" agile tool vendors. There’s never been a tool invented that’s as flexible in use or process as the 3x5 card. No matter what, any tool must embed some notion of a process, or at least a meta-process.

I’ve looked at several of the "agile lifecycle management" and "agile project management" tools this week. To me, they all look exactly like regular project management tools. They just have some different terminology and ajax-y web interfaces.

Vendors listen: just because you’ve got a drag-and-drop rectangle on a web page doesn’t make it agile!

The point of agile tools isn’t to move cards around the board in ever-cooler ways. It isn’t to automatically generate burndown graphs and publish them for management.

The point of agile tools is this: at any time, the team can choose to rip up the pavement and do it differently next iteration.

What happens once you’ve paid a bunch of money for some enterprise lifecycle management tool from one of these outfits? (Name them and they appear; so I won’t.) Investment requires use. Once you’ve paid for something—or once your boss has paid for it—you’ll be stuck using it.

Now look, I’m not against tools. I use them as force multipliers all the time. I just don’t want to get stuck with some albatross of a PLM, ALM, LFCM, or LEM, just because we paid a gob of money for it.

The only agile tools I want are those I can throw away without qualm when the team decides it doesn’t fit any more. If the team cannot change its own processes and tools, then it cannot adapt to the things it learns. If it cannot adapt, it isn’t agile. Period.