Many prospective customers ask us what the difference is between TaskRay and products that are specifically designed for managing Agile Software Development. This question is something that has fundamentally shaped TaskRay from its earliest days, before a line of code was written. It's a question that highlights not only the philosophical underpinnings of TaskRay, but also the values that we've tried to bake into the DNA of the company. And while our team focuses on the answer daily, I thought it might be useful to explain it in a blog post.
CAPITAL "A" AGILE VS LOWERCASE "A" AGILE
It's not an overstatement to say that the Agile Manifesto has produced a revolutionary change in the way that software products are built. In a very short time, some form of Agile has become the standard way of working for most software development teams. And in that same time an impressive number of consultancies, alliances, coaches, and even product companies have been created to help teams implement and optimize their Agile processes. Along the way, the practice of Agile has become a bit dogmatic and rigid, with rules and rhythms that are easily expounded but less easily practiced on a daily basis.
Having worked on teams using this "heavy duty" version of Agile, we knew that it wasn't what we wanted to do when we founded Bracket Labs. Not only was it more than we needed as a startup team, it simply wasn't very fun. But of course we needed some sort of process for managing our development work, and in exploring alternatives we kept coming back to the Agile Manifesto and what it really had to say:
"Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan"
The Agile Manifesto doesn't prescribe any process at all, but rather suggests the right things to emphasize. This manifesto summed up the essence of the best things we had seen in practicing Agile, but it didn't require any of the administrative overhead we had come to associate with traditional Agile. We started calling this lowercase "a" agile to differentiate from the capital "A" Agile processes being evangelized by the various gurus.
PUTTING "A" INTO TASKRAY
In a nutshell, lowercase "a" agile is how TaskRay differs from the products designed to manage Agile Software Development processes. It is not rigid in its devotion to an agile methodology, but rather adopts the "spirit of the law" to provide features that promote visibility, conversation, and rapid work.
A typical TaskRay project display - optimized for understanding priority and status of tasks
First and foremost, TaskRay is designed to present a visual model of a workflow. This visualization is easy to read and understand, and we think of it as the start to a conversation. Key information such as status, priority, and deadline are all quickly understood by anyone viewing the board so they can take the next step of asking questions, offering input and quickly making decisions with their teammates.
Full Chatter integration enables conversation and collaboration directly within TaskRay
While no product will ever replace the high bandwidth efficiency of a face to face conversation, TaskRay's deep integration of Chatter provides the next best thing. Chatter provides a low friction, high visibility communication feed about the work in progress. It offers seamless collaboration via threaded messages, file sharing and the ability to easily subscribe to relevant updates. And without having to think about documenting their efforts, TaskRay users are generating searchable history of their activity directly within Salesforce.
Easy yet powerful customization of TaskRay fields to reflect customer processes
The ability to custom tailor TaskRay to any customer's processes is another example of an agile product in action. TaskRay's native use of custom Salesforce objects allows powerful customization through standard Salesforce admin actions such as custom field creation, Chatter Actions, and workflow rules.
Ultimately, TaskRay was designed to both support lowercase "a" agile processes as well as to embody a lowercase "a" agile philosophy. And true to that philosophy, as we learn more about how our customers are using TaskRay, through feedback, conversations, and surveys, we're able to continually improve the product. We are constantly working on additional functionality, enhancing the user experience, and anticipating where our customers will want to go next. Do you have ideas for what TaskRay could do better? Or would you like to see what other TaskRay customers are asking for? Check out the TaskRay Ideas Forum where you can submit ideas as well as vote on other customers' ideas. And don't be shy, your feedback is critical to our lowercase "a" process.