The Epic Board – An Essential Agile Project Management Tool

thumbs_upI introduced the Epic Board as a programme management tool – a tangible release plan that can help you to plan software development programmes comprising multiple separate projects combined with Business As Usual Activities.  This task-board-like creation creates a cohesive and collaborative centrepiece around which you can hold your Scrums of Scrums or your Programme Planning sessions.

This concept helps to create visibility across teams and reduces the amount of documentation existing at a portfolio/programme level.  But, most importantly, it makes things easy!

Gone are the days where we all trudge into a room to review a stack of release plans/backlogs in hopes to join up the dots. Now, we all stand around one board and can see everything at a glance:

  • Which teams are likely to bottleneck in 4 sprints time?
  • Which teams have big milestones approaching that may impact another team?
  • Where are all of the dependencies between the teams?
  • How should we distribute the workload?
  • What have we delivered over the past few sprints?
  • Are we on track at a programme/project level??

It’s brilliant.

What I didn’t mention before was that this tool is also useful as a project management tool and even as a team management tool. You simply adjust the level of granularity to accommodate the situation.

The concept is simple.

1) You get all of your high-level objectives up on a board in order of priority

2) You build columns to represent sprints (add rows for multiple teams)

3) You arrange stories/epics/themes/objectives into sprints – it’s okay to have varying degrees of granularity represented, the closer you get to a sprint, the more detailed you can be (if you want to)

4) Feed requirements into teams via the Product Manager so they can discuss them at their requirements workshops

5) Once a team commits to a sprint at their Sprint Planning Meeting, adjust the board to reflect their commitment(s)- this sprint is now fixed.

6) Confirm what was delivered at the end of the sprint- check off what was successful/accepted

The objective is to get everything up there on the board so you can see what’s going on. There are so many different things you can do to improve visibility:

  • Mark it up with pre-agreed deadlines
  • Tag stories with post-its  to highlight an existing risk or impediment
  • Differentiate launch-critical deliverables e.g. different coloured cards/symbols
  • Use symbols or colours to group all cards associated with one theme or epic.
  • Once a sprint has been delivered, check off the cards and make note of the achieved velocity in the sprint box
  • etc…

Have a go, spread the word and send me pictures of your boards once you’ve created them – I’ll stick a few pictures up!

A few people have asked me to share some Epic Board tools and templates – Feel free to subscribe to my RSS feed if you’d like to be notified when these are added.

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Here’s ours Epic Board – it keeps growing… we’re not going to let a little glass wall stop us! :o)


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