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Here is the problem: We have remote team members. Most of us are in Western Washington but a few are located in Texas and we lose participation from members of the team because we're doing everything on the computer either locally or via Skype for Business and screen sharing.

In my experience of being a scrum master the most effective means of garnering participation and investment in the process was in jobs where we would use printed stories, tape them up on the conference room wall in a roughly horizontal line parallel to the floor in backlog priority order. We would bring stories into the sprint by pulling them those stories off the wall and reaffixing them below the invisible line. That way we could visually see what was in the sprint at any given time by looking around the room. With this visual cue, the developers could process all of this information at their pace and possibly identify dependency issues or even identify missing stories. We'd count story points and compare with our velocity to see how we were doing.

Then tasking through the application of sticky notes with rough outlines, an hour estimate, and who was going to be doing the task. Group members would looking at all of the stories would sometimes ask for clarification or talk through the the rough implementation and identify missing tasks or tasks that were under estimated.

The actual question: I am looking for an alternate UI that can mimic that "pull down" metaphor in an asynchronous manner that was multi-user friendly so that people who are remote can pull a story in or add tasks.

We tried using a shared OneNote notebook which actually worked pretty well in a distributed working group. Each story was its own note page that could be moved between two boundary note pages: The In/Out of Sprint boundary and the Needs Story Development boundary for rejected stories and stories that needed to be sized. Exporting stories to OneNote was laborious and time consuming and importing those stories and tasks back into TFS was a pain.

Since we're committed to using TFS as a company standard I'm looking for framework that works as a frontend to TFS.

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Have you tried using Trello for this? Although we don't have any "permanent" remote workers, we do have several members of the team who work away from the office for months at a time. We have the "Product Backlog" for each product, which the PO maintains and we (as a team) go through this during our sprint planning and pull stories into the "Sprint backlog" and estimate accordingly.

We started off with physical whiteboards and post-it notes, but taking a photo of the current state of the board became quite tedious as often the remote worker would pick up the same story as someone in the office resulting in duplication of effort.

Personally I don't like JIRA, and so Trello works fine for us, with real-time updates (when someone has saved their changes on a card it will show up for everyone else). So we have separate lists for each of the columns we had on the whiteboard (sprint backlog, in progress, QA etc etc.). When someone picks up a card, they assign themselves to it and move it to the appropriate column (usually the first step is backlog->in development). We then use the Trello to TFS Bridge but I have used zapier in the past to help with syncing between the 2. You'll still need to work out capacity for each story and compare against your overall velocity - you don't say how you manage this currently.

I still believe that you need the communication between the teams, so still using Skype and screen sharing when you conduct your sprint planning session, but having Trello up at the same time should ensure your developers can proceed as if they were all co-located.

I don't know how you conduct the sprint planning in the office, but I tend to have it in a room separate to the office (less PCs, less distractions for developers) and put Trello up on the projector and then use Skype/Google Hangouts for including anyone who cannot physically attend.

Trello can get a bit more tricky if you work across more than one product (as my team do). We still need to smooth out this workflow but it tends to be one Trello board syncs to one TFS project. This may not be the case for your team, and it's still something I'm looking at improving in my own team but overall this is the workflow I find works best for us at the moment.

  • Thank you! I will take a look at this; especially the sync tool! – amber Feb 25 '16 at 22:40
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I have a number of customers that have remote team's. They find VSTeamServices very useful. It is built by teams that work in three timezones.

You get 5 users for free and it can scale to what you need.

https://www.visualstudio.com/en-us/explore/agiletools-vs

There are very few team focused agile tools out there that are good. I like Trello for individuals bit it lacks team support. And Jira is a car crash.

I suggest that you give each tool a try and see what works for you and your team.

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