January 8, 2015

Using ReQtest’s Agile board for distributed teams

Distributed teams are all the rage at the moment and rightly so.

Compared to co-located teams, a distributed team increases the productivity of the individual team members, who must rely more on themselves to contribute their share of the work, as well as the productivity of the team in general thanks to the leveraging of asynchronous work due to differences in time zones.

The disparity in time and space between different teams is a key reason for the popularity of distributed teams. The possibility of working at home or abroad, at times that suit their lifestyle, encourages team members to adopt a more flexible approach to work which is more satisfying personally. This is conducive to higher levels of commitment to the team’s goals and an increase in the sense of ownership and responsibility for the successful conclusion of a project.

The physical freedom that geographically distributed teams offer to team members is often reflected in a corresponding heightening in their creativity on the job. This can result in the discovery of more efficient and effective ways to complete a given task, a fact which I observed never fails to surprise the clients, the team leader and the team members themselves.

Introducing ReQtest’s Agile Board

Here at ReQtest we have a number of staff working on our projects from different countries and it was partly in response to our own experience of dealing with distributed teams that we developed the Agile Board as an integral part of ReQtest.

The Agile Board is a means to visualise easily all the tasks being tackled by your team members everywhere, their progress and the specific person(s) assigned to complete them. Besides being simple aesthetically, we also designed the Agile Board to work like charm.

It is intuitive and very easy to use, taking out the complexity in organising and assigning tasks for large projects and making sure that on your next project you hit the ground running. To achieve all this we developed the Agile Board to provide users with four key benefits: organisation, real-time collaboration, accessibility and customisability.

Perfect for distributed teams

The moment you click on your Agile Board, you’re presented with a clear and colourful layout showing each task on a given project neatly laid out in a series of named rows. We designed the board such that it conveys the most essential information about a project in the easiest possible way to consume it.

But the Agile Board doesn’t just look pretty, it’s also darn powerful as well. The information on the board can be updated as fast as the changes to the project happen. Team members can easily chip in by adding new information, creating and assigning tasks on the go, and re-prioritising them according to the project’s needs.

Any changes to the board are automatically and instantly synced across the team, making the latest data about a project always accessible to team members no matter where they are based. By changing details directly on the board you also do away with email-flooded inboxes and having to run through countless email threads to find the latest and correct version of the information you need.

Finally, the fourth benefit of ReQtest’s agile board for distributed teams is it’s depth of customisability options. Team members can use colour-coded ‘stickies’ describing the tasks which they attach on the board, and assign them to themselves or other team members. These stickies serve as a hub of information about a given task, with relevant information being directly accessible from each sticky.

Packed with features that make your life easier

Colour plays a central part in the Agile Board. You can identify the different types of tasks in a project by using a colour scheme which shows you at glance who is working on which activity and which task you should focus on next after finishing your current job. Check out how the team at ReQtest uses colour-coding in our Agile Board.

The great thing about digital stickies is that unlike their paper counterparts, they can hold more information and in different media too. You can easily append comments to a sticky as you progress in the task to keep the rest of the team updated with your end of the job and point out any fixes or improvements that are needed.

A third feature of the Agile Board is the ability to visually indicate the priority of any task. Lanes of higher priority are put on the top of the board, and less prioritized lanes at the bottom. easily lane by dragging it up- or downwards on the board.

When tasks are estimated by the development team, they can be given a size according to the t-shirt scale. The size on the t-shirt icon denotes the size of a given task, a significant piece of information that is conveyed with minimum fuss and in a way which distributed teams will automatically understand.

How do we know it works?

Here at ReQtest we use the very same Agile Board our customers use everyday in our work.

Our history with boards and stickies goes back a long way, when we used to stick actual post-its on a whiteboard. Each day during the daily standup we updated our burndown chart. Stickies were moved once a day during the standup. When we went into a distributed teams arrangement, we needed a way to get everybody on the same page.

We soon realised that migrating this process to a digital setting would be the only working solution. What we did not realize was how good it is to have stickies being moved immediately when someone on the team handles them. We were also positively surprised how convenient it is to get the burndown updated automatically by the system. Even if your team is not distributed, you surely have stakeholders distributed in the building, stakeholders that you want to be aware of what is happening in the project.

The agile board is the solution.

What differs between the agile board in ReQtest and other boards on the market is our seamless integration between different tasks in ReQtest and our board. In other tools (for example Trello) you do not have links to the requirements or bug reports. In ReQtest you can go from a list of requirements, add them to the board, let developers detail the requirements into development tasks and update the backlog to indicate the progress.

Digital boards open up a new dimension in inter-team communication and collaboration. We’ve always believed in the power of sticky notes to help us organise our work and coordinate our efforts. Digital stickies help us to that much more efficiently and in a way that fulfils the basic tenets of collaborative Agile methodology.

We can’t imagine working without our Agile Board and we firmly believe that you’ll think the same after you’ve used it for a while with your teams. Whether used as a tool for individuals or as a connecting point for distributed teams, ReQtest’s Agile Board will adapt to your needs perfectly.

We love our agile board and we believe you will too.

Share article