Sneak Peek: New Agile Boards and Support for Teams

August 31st, 2022 by inflectra

As we head into the end of Q3, we are excited to be releasing some major new features and enhancements for both our Spira and Rapise platforms. In a series of upcoming blog articles, we will be highlighting some exciting new marquee features that you can expect to see in upcoming releases. To get the ball rolling, in this article, we will be showing a preview of the new agile (Scrum and Kanban) boards that will be unveiled in an upcoming release of SpiraTeam and SpiraPlan. This major refresh of the agile planning boards was made possible from feedback from some of our most loyal and devoted customers, thanks so much for your help.

Background

The current agile boards in SpiraTeam and SpiraPlan were originally released in Spira 4.2, and at the time were a huge improvement over the ones that were in earlier versions. They allow you to see the product backlog, release backlog and sprint backlog in an easy to navigate interface. The primary requirements-oriented planning board was supplemented with dedicated task and incident boards in Spira 5.4.

Old planning board in Spira - backlog view by component

However, there are some limitations in the current boards that we have been looking to address for some time. The current boards will display in a 'horizontal' mode for some views (see above) such as the 'By Component' view, and 'vertical' mode for some other views such as 'By Status' (see below):

Old planning board in Spira, backlog view by status

In addition, the boards do not let you have both rows and columns visible at the same time. We have also had requests to be able to manage groups of users in 'teams' vs. having just a large single list of project members. Finally, customers have been looking for more flexibility to display different fields and metrics in the story cards themselves.

Well, the good news is that we've been working on a completely revamped agile board that addresses these limitations and adds major new enhancements in terms of both functionality and usability. The new boards will be initially released as an 'opt-in' beta feature in the coming months, before becoming the standard interface. Note: the screenshots in this article are based on the current 'alpha' version and are subject to change, based on your feedback.

More Consistent User Interface

Firstly, we have redesigned the board display to operate in a consistent manner, regardless of whether you are looking at the product backlog, release backlog or sprint backlog. You will now always have the option to:

  • Group by a certain attribute, or simply show all cards un-grouped
  • Organize the x-axis of the board by a certain attribute, called the 'column'
  • Organize the y-axis of the board by a certain attribute, called the 'row' or simply show all cards in one row.

Agile board showing that you can group, and show rows and columns

You will still have the ability to display three views (product backlog, release backlog, and sprint backlog) and for the latter two, filter by release or sprint as appropriate. However regardless of that, the board will have the same visual appearance.

Firstly you will be able to see the list of groups that you have selected in the 'group-by', or just a single 'all items' group, if you have not chosen to group by a specific field:

Agile board showing product backlog, grouped by component

You can then expand each of the groups to display an X-Y board that contains columns and optionally rows:

Agile board showing product backlog, grouped by component, rows by parent

When you expand a row in the group, it will show you any requirements (and/or incidents) that belong in that group, row and column segment:

Agile board showing product backlog, grouped by component, rows by parent, showing cards

This means that when you change from:

  • Product backlog, grouped by Component, Priority as the columns and Parent as the rows, to
  • Release backlog, grouped by Release, Status as the columns and Person as the rows

The overall user interface and display is the same, with the board maintaining the same overall layout and set of operations:

Agile board showing releases backlog, person by status

This will provide a much simpler to understand and explain interface, yet gives you more power and flexibility than the current set of different 'vertical' and 'horizontal' views.

Multi-Dimensional Boards

One of the key enhancements in the new planning board is the ability to specify different fields for the columns and rows on the board, instead of being limited to just a single field per display option (in the current board). For example, in the screenshot below, we are displaying the list of requirement Story cards by parent requirement (Epic, Feature, etc.), with the columns showing the different statuses. As with the current boards, you can display Kanban Work In Progress (WIP) limits on the statuses to see if you have exceeded any of the specified WIP limits per status.

Agile board showing epics vs. status with Kanban WIP limits visible

In this second example, in the screenshot below, we are displaying the list of requirement Story cards by Component, with the columns showing the different priorities (which have color-coding):

Agile board showing Component vs. Priority

The initial beta version will only support certain standard fields for grouping or use in the column/row selections, but eventually we plan on supporting custom properties as well.

Support for Teams and Tracks

Earlier this year we introduced the ability to create a global list of product teams. This functionality has been dormant inside SpiraTeam and SpiraPlan, waiting for the time when it will be used in the application. With the new agile boards, that moment has come. The new teams functionality will let you create a global list of different teams:

Administration page where you can define teams/tracks

Once you have defined those teams you will be able to assign different users to these teams on a given project. For example, Fred Bloggs may be in the Dev team on Project 1 and on the QA team on Project 2. This lets us group people in similar teams for the purposes of tracking work and viewing story cards on the boards.

Administration page where you can specify the team a user belongs to on a specific project/product.

With these teams defined and people assigned to the teams, you can now use the new grouping option on the agile boards to display the story cards by team. Underneath each time will the list of people that are in that team. This makes the resource viewing and assignment much easier than with the current boards. In addition, you can easily hide any observer users that are not part of any team:

Team backlog showing you status vs. person, grouped by team

In the example above, we are displaying the Release Backlog, grouped by team, with the people in each team on the Y-Axis and the requirement status on the X-Axis.

Customizable Cards

Another frequently asked for enhancement, is the ability to customize which fields are displayed on the story cards. In the previous version of the board, you had basically a detailed view / simplified view, plus the ability to show tasks and test cases as "mini cards". We have kept the incident/tasks card option, but instead of the detailed view / simplified view choice, we now let you pick more fields in a granular fashion:

Ability to specify which fields to show in a card (on the board)

This lets you have more flexibility as to what is displayed, as well as allowing the following fields to be displayed for the first time:

  • Test Coverage (bar chart)
  • Type (feature, epic, story, etc.)
  • Status (planned, in progress, developed, completed, etc.)

The following card shows the description, status, and task progress (the default view):

Story card with description/status

This card shows all the available fields (we have added type, test coverage, and the list of tasks and test cases):

Story card showing description, status, type, coverage and tasks/test cases

This is an example of a more minimal view, showing just the name, status,type, task progress and test coverage:

Card showing test coverage, task progress and name/status/type only

In the future we plan on allowing you show even more fields such as custom properties and other standard fields.

Better Integration Between Defects & Requirements

Unlike some other products on the market, Spira has different specialized artifact types (requirement, test cases, task, incident, etc.) so it is more difficult to show an integrated board for requirements and incidents when the fields may not be the same. In the current board, if you choose to display the cards by priority, the system will exclude any incidents from the board.

In the new version, as long as the incidents and requirements have priorities that use the same nomenclature, the board will include both incidents and requirements in the priority views:

Board showing requirements and incidents both grouped by priority

In the future, we hope to do the same thing for the two remaining views that do not support incidents (by status and by parent requirement).

Other Enhancements Planned

In addition to these enhancements, we're planning on making these additional improvements to the beta version:

  • Saved views - you will be able to save your board configuration as a saved view (that can be shared with the team), similar to how the list pages support saved filters/views.
  • Sticky headers - making the Unassigned sections of the board sticky so that it's easier to drag items from the product backlog to a specific release/sprint
  • Custom status order - for the view where we have the Status as the X-Axis, having an option to change the sort order to match the workflow.

Beyond the initial beta release, we anticipate the following future enhancements (depending on feedback from customers):

  • Filters - the ability to filter by a field as well as the group-by, row and column options
  • Custom fields - the ability to select custom properties as the group-by, row, column and display fields

Which Boards Will Be Updated?

The initial plan is to release the new board as an alternative "opt-in" public beta for customers when they use the main "Planning > Planning Board" from the product artifact navigation. Once we get feedback from customers, the second phase will be to update the following additional boards with the new functionality:

  • Product task board
  • Product requirement board
  • Product incident board
  • Program board

agile boards scrum kanban teams preview spotlight

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