8 unusual FOSS tools for agile teams

In this list, there are no project management apps, no checklists, and no integrations with GitHub. Just simple ways to organize your thoughts and promote team communication.
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You might be familiar with the expression: So many tools, so little time. In order to try to save you some time, I've outlined some of my favorite tools that help agile teams work better. If you are an agilist, chances are you're aware of similar tools, but I'm specifically narrowing down the list to tools that appeal to open source enthusiasts.

Caution! These tools are a little different than what you may be expecting. There are no project management apps—there is a great article on that already—so there are no checklists, no integrations with GitHub, just simple ways to organize your thoughts and promote team communication.

Building teams

In an industry where most people are used to giving and receiving negative feedback, it's rare to share positive feedback with coworkers. It's not surprising—while some enjoy giving compliments, many people struggle with telling someone "way to go" or "couldn't have done this without you." But it never hurts to tell someone they're doing a good job, and it often influences people to work better for the team. Here are two tools that help you share kudos with your coworkers.

  • Management 3.0 has a treasure trove of free resources for building teams. One tool we find compelling is the concept of Feedback Wraps (and not just because it inspires us to think about burritos). Feedback Wraps is a six-step process to come up with effective feedback for anyone; you might think it is designed for negative feedback, but we find it's perfect for sharing positive comments.
  • Happiness Packets provides a way to share anonymous positive feedback with people in the open source community. It is especially useful for those who aren't comfortable with such a personal interaction or don't know the people they want to reward. Happiness Packets offers a public archive of comments (from people who agree to share them), so you can look through and get warm fuzzies and ideas on what to say to others if you are struggling to find your own words. As a bonus, its code of conduct process prevents anyone from sending nasty messages.

Understanding why

Definitions are hard. In the agile world, keys to success include defining personas, the purpose of a feature, or the product vision, and ensuring the entire agile team understands why they are doing the work they are doing. We are a little disappointed by the limited number of open source tools available that help product managers and owners do their jobs.

One that we highly respect and use frequently to teach teams at Red Hat is the Product Vision Board. It comes from product management expert Roman Pichler, who offers numerous tools and templates to help teams develop a better understanding of "the why." (Note that you will need to provide your email address to download these files.)

  • The Product Vision Board template guides teams by asking simple but effective questions to prompt them to think about what they are doing before they think about how they are going to do it.
  • We also like Roman's Product Management Test. This is a simple and quick web form that guides teams through the traditional role of a product manager and helps uncover where there may be gaps. We recommend that product management teams periodically complete this test to reassess where they fall.

Visualizing work

Have you ever been working on a huge assignment, and the steps to complete it are all jumbled up in your head, out of order, and chaotic? Yeah, us, too. Mind mapping is a technique that helps you visually organize all the thoughts in your head. You don't need to start out understanding how everything fits together—you just need your brain, a whiteboard (or a mind-mapping tool), and some time to think.

  • Our favorite open source tool in this space is Xmind3. It's available for multiple platforms (Linux, MacOS, and Windows), so you can easily share files back and forth with other people. If you need to have the latest & greatest, there is an updated version, which you can download for free if you don't mind sharing your email.
  • If you like more variety in your life, Eduard Lucena offers three additional options in Fedora Magazine. You can find information about these tools' availability in Fedora and other distributions on their project pages.

As we wrote at the start, there are many similar tools out there; if you have a favorite open source tool that helps agile teams work better, please share it in the comments.

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Jen Krieger is Chief Agile Architect at Red Hat. Most of her 20+ year career has been in software development representing many roles throughout the waterfall and agile lifecycles. At Red Hat, she led a department-wide DevOps movement focusing on CI/CD best practices. Most recently, she worked with with the Project Atomic & OpenShift teams.
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Marianne has been part of agile teams for the past 15 years. Mostly using Scrum methodology, she participated as a scrum team member as the original (and only) technical writer for ManageIQ, www.manageiq.org. In 2015, she became a Certified Scrum Master, and used those skills with her team at Red Hat.

1 Comment

Interesting to read.

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