HP Agile Manager – Beta Functionality

This blog provides first impressions about the beta functionality of HP Agile Manager (HP AM). It’s not meant to cover all functionality.

User Stories are the de facto standard in agile development. Tools simply have to support them and so does HP AM.  A user story consists of a name, a description and may have some time tracking associated.

Initially a user story may only consist of a name and a sentence statement. At later stages in the development process a user story may get more information and tasks associated which are needed to complete the user story. In HP AM tasks can be attached to user stories initially or whenever  more details are available.

The nice thing is, that detailed task information is aggregated automatically in HP AM. E.g. All estimations of tasks are summed up and presented at the user story level. This does not only apply for estimates but also for time already spent on the user story.

The task board represents a good practice of most agile projects. Visual representation of project status and progress is made transparent to all team members. Work items (tasks), flow from left to right according to their completion state. A developer can simple drag a task from status New to In Progress to indicate, that he is working on it. Once all tasks of a user story are completed, the user story is automatically marked done.

User stories can be added to the product backlog and from there subsequently associated to a specific release and sprint.  These three backlog types can be managed separately in HP AM and will provide different levels of granularity. All these backlog types can be arranged in spreadsheet fashion with free selection and positioning of attributes. The following screenshot is an example of the release backlog.

Defects, that arrive during the course of development and testing can be added to the backlog as well.

That all works fine and represents basic agile support, but for larger projects it is barely sufficient. You need elements that guide development beyond the current development iteration.

For planning in the large HP AM offers the concepts Themes and Features.

A Theme represents a goal for a product release. A release may have one or more themes, but having more than five would be counterproductive. Themes guide a release and help to stay focused when too many requests arrive. Does a new request fit into a release theme? Yes! Add it to the release backlog. No, thanks, add it to the product backlog, consider it for a subsequent release.

Features are widely used in the IT industry, yet they lack a common definition. The Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon defines it as „a prominent or distinctive user visible aspect, quality or characteristic of a software system or systems“.

User stories can be attached to features, so that product management gets visibility into the product development progress. Progress is typically managed by development at the user story and task level, and that might not be the best form to understand the overall status. The next screenshot displays interrelationships between themes, features and user story and how HP AM shows progress based on Stories.

HP AM includes support for managing several agile teams in a project. Teams can be given a sprint capacity and a team might be assigned for a sprint or not, as seen in the following example:

I did not have a look at the ALI Dev integration. That will be left for later.

As a last note I will mention the advanced feature that allows linking of items. User stories can be linked to defects. As long the corresponding defect isn’t fixed the user story cannot be set to Done. This represents good agile practices.

User stories can also be linked to other user stories to denote a dependencies. While there is the goal that user stories need to be factored in a way that they are independent of other stories in reality that cannot always be avoided. In such a case it is good to get some tool support to be aware of the situation:

I will close here mentioning, that this type of relationship management is a strength of classical requirements management. HP QC has good requirements management functionalities and this was mapped to the HP AM.

In my next blog I will set the current offering into context and speculate about the future.