In this article...
The Agile project management methodology is flexible and easy to use for many teams, and most Agile teams quickly understand that their projects are easier to manage within an Agile project management software. These tools offer flexible task management, project visualizations, and an environment for collaboration on project assets.
As many software teams began finding success with the Agile project management methodology, it quickly spread to other project-focused business teams like marketing, content creation, product, and data. The spread of the methodology has in turn affected the features and capabilities of many project management tools, some of which are specifically designed for teams outside of software development.
This guide offers a product comparison, an explanation of Agile’s core tenets, key features of Agile tools, the benefits of using Agile project management software, and difficulties your team might encounter with this software.
If you’re ready to start your search for the best Agile project management tools, use the Project Selection Tool at the top of the page. Our expert advisors will build you a list of the best options for your project requirements.
Each of these options offers task management, project visualizations, a mobile app, and collaboration features like file sharing and a centralized database for assets. Some of the features listed below may be available through integrations or at higher pricing tiers.
The 14th annual State of Agile Report showed that the use of Agile project management software has held steady at 65 percent of teams using the technology in 2018 and 2019. And 95 percent of the individuals who completed the 2019 survey said they used some form of Agile methodology.
Agile is an overarching development philosophy that takes form in specific project management frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, or Lean. It relies on cross-functional teams, adaptive planning rather than predictive, and progress made through short, repeatable iterations.
Some key tenets of Agile development include:
Agile teams use a variety of project management or development frameworks to practice the basics of the philosophy. The most popular of these are:
Most Agile tools draw elements from more than one of these project management frameworks, which means the selection of tools in the product market is broad and eclectic. This has led to increased use of Agile as an umbrella term encompassing all or most aspects of the four frameworks above. Advocates of Agile tools use it to better manage changing priorities, improve visibility, reduce risk, speed up time-to-market, better align IT and business values, and simplify the development process.
While some Agile project management software options are more feature rich or have specialized tools designed for different team specialties, Agile project management tools share these key features.
Task management features let people create tasks, track the status of those tasks, assign deadlines, comment, add files and assets, and assign tasks to team members. The task management feature is the building block of any project management tool, as projects really are just groups of tasks that work toward a single goal. Task management features in Agile project management software are often visualized in a format that makes it easy for teammates to track progress. These visualizations may include Kanban boards, Gantt charts, spreadsheets, burndown charts, or other formats.
Collaboration features within Agile project management tools provide a space where team members can share documents and assets, have project-related discussions, and track changes throughout the life of the project. Collaboration tools keep project assets in a centralized location that makes it easy for teams to find and review the latest version. Individual features of these collaboration tools may include high-volume document storage, version control, messaging, or real-time document updates.
To facilitate the communication pieces that are integral to any Agile project’s success, Agile project management software will often include internal messaging or video conferencing capabilities. Agile teams are following the growing software development trend toward remote work, making centralized communication in all forms necessary.
Project visualizations improve upon the standard spreadsheet-style project tracking. These tools help teams understand — at a glance — the project’s progress. More advanced visualization tools will provide insight into each team member’s individual progress or pinpoint bottlenecks in approvals processes. Project visualizations include the following common types:
Individual Agile project management tools might also provide custom visualizations that work best for their product or different project styles.
Approval features keep project assets moving between individuals, helping teams know what work needs to be reviewed at any particular moment and reminding team members to complete reviews. Many Agile project management tools have workflow management capabilities that automatically pass off a task to another team member when the task status is changed. Whether or not the tool uses workflow management, teams can set up manual approval processes in Agile tools with notifications or alerts.
Time tracking tools aren’t just for agencies and teams that hire contractors for product work. These tools help Agile teams understand how much time any repeatable process might take, a feature that improves work estimation and promotes efficiencies across the team. Time tracking tools let individuals track how much time they spend on any particular task. Those hours can be grouped together for an entire project, added up for the whole team, or otherwise calculated for billing purposes.
Bug tracking tools are particularly helpful for Agile software teams who run product testing alongside feature builds. These features are also particularly helpful for non-developer Agile teams who field a lot of requests for work or new projects. Most bug tracking features will provide an interface for product testers or other teams to build tasks that a project manager can then delegate to the appropriate employee.
Agile project management tools are popular with a wide variety of business teams and individual users because they provide these benefits.
Agile project management tools give teams a single location to document and track tasks, assets, and team member responsibilities. Many of these tools let teams track several concurrent projects as well as individual team member tasks, helping managers understand each person’s bandwidth, work speed, and current task load.
Project management software often includes alerts and notifications for task due dates, status changes, approvals, and new assignments. These reminders keep the team informed of their current workload and get tasks moving across multiple stakeholders smoothly.
One of the most important features of a project management solution is its ability to visualize the status of the tasks that make up the full project. These tools give managers and team members an at-a-glance view of the project status, which helps managers zero in on task bottlenecks, reassign workloads, and oversee resource allocations quickly to ensure that deliverables are on time.
When all of the tasks and project assets live in a single place, team communication can happen more fluidly. People can view and add to comment threads on tasks, edit and upload the most current version of project assets, and discuss the project progress in a single location. This improves workflow efficiency, reduces the sharing of redundant assets across several tools, and centralizes communication for all team members.
While many Agile tools are easy to use and require minimal training, companies looking to choose their next project management software should be aware of these potential difficulties with Agile project management software.
As with many types of software, Agile project management software comes in varying levels of technical complexity. Some tools offer simple task management capabilities that most team members can quickly learn. But as features and capabilities compound, so does the need for more technical attention.
When choosing your Agile project management software, make sure that you understand which third-party connections you’ll need, how much custom work will be necessary to fully encompass your team’s needs, and whether you’ll need to bring in technical resources to set up and/or run the software.
Project management tools can ease the administrative tasks associated with managing projects, especially for project leads or managers. Many project management tools promise “effortless” and “automatic” features, but without consistent updates and attention to the team’s process, the tools will not be up to date. However, tasks and projects will need some manual oversight to stay up to date, even after automated workflows are set up.
Each team member will need to be trained on how to use the tools, when to update their tasks, and how to trigger approvals. Managers will need to oversee each of the projects to ensure that individuals update the tools and follow processes.
While there are several low-priced options on the market, most fully-featured Agile project management tools are charged at a per-user, per-month price, which can quickly add up for larger teams. As with any software, companies should look for a tool that includes all the necessary features for their workflow.
To reduce any unnecessary time and expense, make use of free trials and any available product support before porting over large projects. Try setting up a single project with a few collaborators within the tool to test workflow, approval, and visualization features. And always follow up with the company to work out necessary workarounds or API integrations before you sign the contract.
With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right Agile project management software for your team’s needs. Make sure to come up with a list of the most-used and most-requested features as you start your research. If you need help narrowing your options, we can give you a short list of the best Agile project management software for your requirements. Click on the banner below to get started.