When searching for an appropriate tool for Agile project work, HP Agile Manager is certainly a contender worthy of strong consideration, particularly for teams using the HP ALM toolset. This article provides a quick overview of the HP Agile Manager from a testing perspective and is reviewed based on no custom configurations – simulating how quickly a team can get up-and-running with the out-of-the-box version before delving deep into customisation. This is further aided by the great “Get Started” videos which simply explain the key features.
The story and task boards provide good visual representations of project activity and resemble the Post-it note movement on a white/wall board. They also provide the functionality to quickly update these by dragging and dropping the cards. There is the additional flexibility to configure either as a task board or a Kanban board with the option to set work in progress limits.
These limits can be triggered by either the number of items or a time period. This caters for the differing methods under the Agile umbrella and the processes that are associated with each, some of which will overlap, but others that are unique. Columns can be conveniently collapsed to view across the board. These views can be easily adjusted to focus exclusively on work achieved by an individual team or across all teams within a release/project which is useful for larger organisations.
As you may expect, HP Agile Manager allows for the creation of user stories, tasks, acceptance tests and defects within an Agile project. However all of these are not visible on the boards which is a critical requirement for planning, especially at the iteration level. There are alternative views that can be useful for various project stakeholders.
For example the Product Owner can view the progress of the user stories, the value to their business, through the Storyboard View, whilst the team can use the Task Board View during the daily standup meeting to understand what they need to plan to complete for the next day as part of their commitment to achieving the iteration goals.
Within the Sprint Closure tab, it is possible to create action items from notes you may have taken during the retrospective, storing these notes so they appear on the boards. In addition to this useful feature, the page itself acts as a great guide to ensure teams discuss all necessary aspects during a retrospective, including making improvements as well as the often forgotten time to celebrate success.
Agile projects generally demand more technical competency of their testers compared with traditional methodologies, requiring a degree of understanding of coding and architecture if not significant automation capability. HP Agile Manager enables testers to view this technical information, which is of great value for planning, assessing technical risks based on the code changed and determining the amount / coverage of the unit tests for the user stories and defects. Furthermore, by providing the functionality to view developers’ unit tests, this helps to ensure these actually happen (one of testers’ key frustrations) while also contributing to improved quality.
From a testers perspective the absence of session-based testing templates, which link to the defects found during exploratory testing, is a disadvantage in the out-of-the-box installation of HP Agile Manager. Additionally, the Acceptance Tests form is very basic with an automated ID generated, a free format text box to write the details of the test and the option to change the status of the test. There is no linkage to the test itself if a defect is found, but it is linked to the user story to which the Acceptance Test forms a part.
HP Agile Manager is a highly configurable tool, allowing it to match your organisational Agile test process as well as catering for the requirements of the whole Agile team. The displays of the boards and dashboards give great visibility for the team and therefore provide valuable input into planning and the daily standups. The Sprint Closure tab in particular provides all the information to promote learning and adapting as part of the continuous improvement through the retrospective.
Refreshingly, the application has seen regular updates based on feedback. In fact, one instance that I recently raised has already been addressed as part of the January release – reducing the amount of unnecessary detail on some pages, streamlining the menu and header bar to make it easier to see and understand what is happening.
This tool certainly adheres to the Agile Manifesto, facilitating:
- individuals and interaction collaboration, through the visual boards
- working software, displayed at the code level but related to the user stories
- customer collaboration, the customer can see progress through the dashboards
- responding to change, the tests are within the user story so impact assessments can be conducted for changes
For large organisations there is a rich amount of functionality that should cater for the adaptability across teams whilst allowing for some corporate standards. This version may, however, be over-engineered for small / single teams.