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The Scrum/Kanban Board: Physical or Electronic?

There are two kinds of agile teams — those that use a physical Scrum/Kanban Board and those that use an electronic one. Which is better?

Without a doubt, the answer is … whichever one works for your team! Neither approach is fundamentally better than the other though the electronic approach has a major downside that you must work around.

Have you ever been in a meeting where the organizer is using a projector to show a document or spreadsheet? She makes updates as you watch and is in total control of the whole process. At times, you just want to grab the keyboard and change something yourself!

The danger of using an electronic Scrum/Kanban Board is that the person holding the keyboard will dominate the daily stand-up meetings and control the outcomes.

The nice thing about a physical Board is that anyone can walk up to it and make a change. It is fully visible at all times and presents the project as an “open book”.

I think an electronic solution can still work. You could use a specialized solution like Jira/GreenHopper or simply use a spreadsheet. If you go the electronic route, here are a few guidelines:

  • Provide software licenses to everyone on the team (chickens and pigs)
  • Allow anyone to update the Board (it has to be network accessible)
  • During meetings, setup a team computer and allow everyone to make changes

Remember, the team’s goals are building good software and managing risk. The Board is simply a tool.

Updated: December 31, 2010 — 5:10 pm

1 Comment

  1. All familiar story.

    Rule is to Keep It Simple, which often means pen paper and stickies. You also get the huge benefits of Visual Management – like priority stickies in red, blocks with stop signs.

    Unfortunately as teams grow larger and/or become distributed, the practicalities of maintaining that precious visual management often become a burden and the physical board is scrapped in favour of often overly convoluted tooling.

    Try Boardsync (http://boardsyncnow.com) as a means to retain a physical task board in a larger or distributed team environment.

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