Do you need a physical task board to succeed?

May 21, 2012


There are many Agile teams today who use an electronic wallboard and are successful – they are delivering quality working software to their customers on a weekly/fortnightly basis. Having a physical task board does not guarantee success. Further, many of the teams I talk to are distributed – it is too hard to find the right people all in the one place – and in this circumstance having a physical task board just doesn’t work.

Finally, I like to think that there are more important tasks for a ScrumMaster to focus on other than simply updating a physical task board and obtaining statistics such as velocity manually. Automate those repetitive tasks and get the ScrumMaster focusing on higher value tasks – implementing retrospective feedback, for instance.

I imagine the objection to electronic task boards is raised most often by Agile Coaches who are bringing existing Waterfall teams over to Agile practices, and in this circumstance I wholeheartedly encourage the use of a physical task board. This is often part of Scrum Shock Therapy, indeed @jameshatherly will be sharing the GreenHopper teams experience with this at Summit next week.

Thanks for the question James, a good one!


4 responses to Do you need a physical task board to succeed?

  1. Thanks for the reply! The scrum shock therapy argument makes sense. My company got an agile consultant a while ago and embraced scrum, very successfully. They’re using physical task boards, but now for the first time we have a distributed team. I’m trying to convince them that GreenHopper (which they are already using) can work just as well as a physical task board, and in the case of distributed teams, better. But Germans live and die for rules, so convincing them to break this one is hard.

    • This is one of the pitfalls of Agile – people think they need to do it by the book. To be Agile you need to have an open mindset, and be eager and willing to change. Respond to the retrospective.

      If you are Agile by the book then you are not Agile.

  2. Alex Hennecke May 21, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    One (and as far as I can think, the only) advantage physical wallboards have is visibility, for the team as well as the rest of the office – simply by being “there”, you can’t avoid looking at them.

    Try increasing public visibility by using a TV/wallboard or a projector. Include burndowns, they’re a good conversation starter.