Scrum Task Board — Offline or Online?

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Scrum is often associated with a task board or a physical wall of work. Stickers all around, from floor to ceiling, organized in columns.

Looks great! But how effective is that for Scrum?

If you are on the co-located team, and have a complex project, which Scrum as a framework suits the most, you’ll most likely will have several types of stickies:

  • high-level product backlog items;
  • low-level product backlog items with acceptance criteria formulated;
  • bugs.

High-level items should be totally fine being written on a sticky. There is not so much data to fit to the card.

Low-level items will struggle a bit. You’ll use the other side of the sticky to fit all the information in, or you’ll stick other stickies to extend the work area.

Bugs usually have specific description on how to recreate them. Screenshots, videos are very helpful, too. Totally unsuitable for a little sticky.

Next, how will you go back to a particular feature and its description? In a complex project, you have so many features that you can’t rely on your memory.

The solution is to use online scrum boards with a history capability.

Can they completely substitute the offline Scrum board?

The tricky part is that the offline board is always visible. But the online board needs to be “switched on”. In other words, it takes some effort every day.

It’s a bottle neck where the whole benefit of the concept of visibility in Scrum can be jeopardized. Visibility is the key here. You should be looking at what matters often. Problems that are out of your sight are perceived as non-existent.

Visibility is the key. You should be looking at what matters often.
Problems that are out of your sight are perceived as non-existent.

A great solution to that is to have a standalone monitor with the scrum board always on. Monitor with a touch screen will be even better.

  • You’ll save some trees;
  • Stickies won’t be falling down;
  • You’ll have a history, screenshots, videos and all the advantages of the offline physical wall.

I have an impression that an offline Scrum task board concept was invented when the world didn’t have good enough technologies to make it online. Now we have everything for that.

If a touch-screen monitor in the team space is something your company can afford, I’d recommend it for the best results. If not, use the online tool like Jira, Trello, or ZenHub, but make sure you are looking at it at least twice daily!

Good luck!

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