One of the best known tools for agile project management is probably “VersionOne” (http://www.versionone.com/
). This tool in the Enterprise edition is the first one that we review in our agile tools review series.
Versions and Licensing
VersionOne is available in several different versions. The Team version of VersionOne (http://www.versionone.com/Product/Compare_Editions/Team/
) offers a simple solution that can be used for smaller projects with only one team and simple planning structure. Best of all: It's free
for teams up to 10 members! For more complex work environments the Enterprise Edition and the Ultimate Editions (both can be installed in your own environment) are available. We decided to test drive the Enterprise Edition. If you need even more flexibility then you should check out the Ultimate Edition.
Comparing editions: http://www.versionone.com/Product/Compare_Editions.asp
For testing VersionOne we decided to use the “normal” test drive approach that makes available a SaaS instance of the Enterprise Edition.
Ease of installation (test version)
Getting access to the test version was astonishingly simple: We just had to fill in a registration form that contains 9 fields. After about 3 minutes we received the e-mail notification with the credentials and we were able to log in. On the first screens a tutorial showed how to start, get a project created and so on.
Challenges during the installation
We didn’t face any challenges as we used the SaaS version and the getting access to the testing instance was very simple.
The product backlog is at the heart of every project. Without this artifact nobody would know what to do. Good product backlog management features are therefore very important for agile tools.
Creating a Product / Project
Creating a new project
In VersionOne a new project can be easily created: Go to “Admin” section, select “Projects” tab and click “Add child project” on the context menu of “System (All Projects)” folder. That’s it, you have created a new project which you now can start to manage.
Creating Product backlog
The next step is usually to create a product backlog. No problem in VersionOne: Click on “Add backlog item” button, a dialog windows will appear. The window has 21 fields by default. Not all of them are easy to understand (e.g. “detail estimate” or “Reference“) but the important ones are easy to fill. No hassles here, you will be able to fill up your product backlog quickly with some epics/stories.
Speed up by using inline editing and bulk actions
What we liked a lot was the feature to edit the most important fields inline: “Add backlog item inline
”. It is a very convenient and quick way to add user stories in the overview by specifying only the basic information (title, priority, ...). This helps a lot initially fill the backlog with epics/stories that can be later refined as required. Another feature we liked a lot was: “Bulk actions
”. This feature is very handy when working with a number of artifacts (stories) at once, e.g. is is very easy to move several user stories to another team\project.
Get known to the terminology
Terminology wasn’t always clear (like upstream/downstream dependency). We found that the inline help was missing sometimes (at least for pop up windows like issue detail editing).
Planning releases is important for projects and must be supported in an optimal way by the tools you are using.
VersionOne aims at complex real world projects!
When talking about release management our first impression was: The handling of releases in VersionOne is not intuitive
! Without reading the documentation or watching the tutorial videos it is not clear how Releases relate to Sprints. Our understanding for very simple projects is that Releases consist of Sprints and therefore Sprints should be added to releases. This seems not to be possible in VersionOne, everything focuses around Stories which can be added to Sprints and Releases separately.
The reason for this is that VersionOne models the real world requirement that a Release may contain Stories from several teams
and in each Sprint of a Team there could be Stories for several different Product Releases. To support this way of planning VersionOne breaks the strict dependency between Release and Sprint. After we understood this concept we really liked it as we agreed that it is probably the only way to model typically complex project environments.
Terminology again ...
Unfortunately it’s not clear from the first glance at the interface that a Release is modeled as sub project.In effect we had to spend about ten minutes watching tutorial videos and reading the documentation just to understand this concept.
Planning and working with iterations (“Sprint” in Scrum-speak) is another very important feature every tool supporting agile processes must offer.
Managing tasks (create, assign, edit, delete)
Go to “Sprint planning” tab, select “detail planning” tab and click “add task” button (contextual menu for the user story). No more than 4 clicks.
Select a member from the list of team members.Some of the Scrum evangelist may not like that feature but in most real world projects with average teams there is still the need to assign tasks from time to time. In best case the team member will pick the task and assign it to himself.
Edit and delete:
Just actions in the context menu.
Summary: It is very easy to work with tasks.
Tasks visualization: VersionOne has a visual task boar
d. It was easy to move tasks using drag and drop functionality. This includes the possibility to move tasks through different stages .
Well done, it’s a user friendly web interface, and we didn’t experience any troubles with drag&drop of tasks and user stories.
Beside the task board VersionOne has a separate board for user acceptance tests. This test board can be integrated with your CI server.
Some tools do support the daily ritual of the daily scrum. In VersionOne there is no such special module is available for daily scrum practices but all the visual story/tasks boards do support a distributed daily scrum.
Store 3 questions for each team member
VersionOne doesn’t support daily meeting updates, but each sprint has issues tab so that issues could be easily added to the sprint backlog.
VersionOne doesn't support meetings management.
Access rights & roles (security)
Members can have different roles for the projects which can be easily configured in the “Admin” section.
Again: Terminology! We were working with a Scrum style project but there were no role called “ProductOwner” or “ScrumMaster”
. You will have to read the documentation to understand which of the VersionOne roles map to these Scrum roles.
VersionOne supports fields and lists customization.
A typical way to describe requirements or write the documentation is usually to use a wiki. A lot of tools have a wiki directly integrated. This is not the case for VersionOne - you need to install a Wiki in parallel.
VersionOne has a lot of very useful reports (“50+ Pre-defined Agile Metrics”) than can be applied cross-project and cross-team.
- Executive reports
- Project / release reports
- Sprint reports
- Member / Team report
- Planning report
- Testing / Quality reports
Each report can be exported into a PDF document. With these reports and the export functionality the typical reporting requirements for a project should be covered.
Custom reports can be created in the Ultimate edition only. As we tested the Enterprise version we can’t rate this feature.
VersionOne Enterprise edition is a very mature and powerful tool for managing agile teams. It covers all aspects of team, backlog and sprint planning. With its huge amount of reports it does a great job to support the product owner and the agile project manager when they need to report to senior management.
- Free entry edition: It’s a free for one team (Team Edition, SaaS).
- Maintenance of backlogs: Easy to create and maintain product and sprint backlogs.
- Drag&Drop features: Because of “drag and drop” features it’s easy to move user stories and tasks between releases\sprints\stages.
- Reporting: VersionOne covers probably all your reporting requirements.
- Terminology: It was difficult to understand the difference between “upstream dependency” and “downstream dependency”.
- Wiki: VersionOne application doesn’t has Wiki.
It becomes clear that a lot of requirements from complex real world agile projects have been incorporated into VersionOne. Handling globally distributed teams in complex projects is made much more easy by VersionOne. You are looking for a powerful tool to manage you agile projects? Our suggestions: Invest some time into test driving VersionOne! Even if you will decide against using it as your tool of choice chances are high that you learn some new concepts while testing it.
This review has been written in cooperation with Ainstainer Group – one of our partner companies from the Ukraine. Ainstainer focuses on creating and managing your Scrum team. The same review can be found in their blog