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Responsiveness in the ScrumWorks Community

12.18.2009
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Sometimes the best examples of Agile software development come from the Agile tool companies themselves.  Developers who use Agile implementation software are very likely to have feedback for new features since they work on new features in their own projects.  Customer feedback and traceability are cornerstones in the Agile foundation.  Danube Technologies embraces these concepts in its new Community Portal.  The most recent version of their flagship product ScrumWorks Pro (SWP) has already added features that were suggested and prioritized on the forum.  DZone recently got the chance to interview Danube CEO Laszlo Szalvay about the community concept that's emerging around software producers and consumers.  He says the portal "facilitates some of the core values that you're seeing in the Scrum community."

Szalvay said the Danube Community Portal began a few months ago when the company implemented a new software package called 'Get Satisfaction' to create the new forum.  In the Community Portal, customers can communicate with Danube partners and all Danube employees, including the SWP Product Owner and Development team.  Community members can propose their own ideas for a feature or comment on somebody else's.  "It's a big improvement over what we were using in the past, which was a bulletin board system." said Szalvay. It's a lot like DZone's system, he said, because you can vote a feature up or down.  Twitter can be integrated to feed into the discussion from outside the portal and users can even label feature requests with an emoticon.  Using votes and other metrics, the SWP team can decide which features should take priority.  Customers can monitor a feature's status as it's being developed.  This gets the features that customers want the most into their hands faster.  Szalvay said, "This is not something that really happens in traditional software development lifecycles, in my opinion."  More importantly, the community is active.  There is a host of customer requests coming in daily and ScrumWorks Pro developers are on the forum throughout the day, every day.    

The new Danube Community Portal was started about three months ago.  Szalvay says, "Even though we've just implemented this, we've already completed 6 or 7 feature requests.  So the community starts to see that we are listening - we are building features that people vote on."  Thus far, Szalvay says the Community Portal has been a success.  He gave us one example of a feature request displayed here:



One of their customers put up this request and within an hour, a developer responded and then a company partner from TaskTop shared his input, then Szalvay responded.  "There's this ecosystem that starts being developed around the product and around Scrum," said Szalvay.  "The line between support, customers, and partners is beginning to blur, and it just becomes the notion of a community."  He says it's interesting that the TaskTop partner was acting as a representative, even though he's not one.  Szalvay said that the partner saw value in the conversation, and that's why they participated.  "There will be countless examples like this moving forward," said Szalvay.  "Over time, what I think will happen is this notion of traceability, where we'll be able to report to stakeholders what's going on at different parts of the development cycle."  

The new version of ScrumWorks Pro (4.2) is a minor release, Szalvay said, but it is the first release to include several features requested through the Danube Community Portal.  Here are the new features that customers requested:

Team Member Allocation Report - This report gives management a central view of who is working on what.  It's organized by weekly or monthly workloads.

Printing Enhancements
- The "Print-to-cards" feature now displays full titles and has font re-sizing.  Szalvay says they replicate "that tactile cards on a table or cards on a wall feel."

Enhanced Theme Filtering - Themes are essentially labels used across sprints and programs for categorizing Backlog Items.  The new release adds more options for sorting and filtering requirements by Themes and Theme-based reports.

Improved Product Backlog Item Reporting - A complete re-design of the Product Backlog Item module for Web reports.  A "Status" filter option has been added to the existing "Release" and "Themes" filter options.

A book on Business Agility by Michael Hugos taught Szalvay that Agility is not just about efficiency, it's about responsiveness.  Szalvay says his small company's responsiveness has allowed them to compete with larger, less responsive companies.  "Our ability to use this software to be responsive to our customers and their needs is part and parcel of our company culture," said Szalvay. 

Details about purchasing ScrumWorks Pro 4.2 can be found here.