Gary Allison's Leadership Blog

Agile Software and Effective Software Projects and Leadership and Teams23 Jun 2008 08:41 pm

Recently, we evaluated several Agile Project Management tools.  Having used XPlanner for years, it was time for a change.  XPlanner is great in some ways – fairly lightweight and easy to use for developers.  It really falls apart though when you start to consider multiple agile teams working together to deliver a release.  It is just really problematic to get a group view of where you are, what progress is being made by the team, and where the hot spots might be.  To accomplish this, you need to drill into the details of every scrum team and study the metrics / charts.  I even went so far as to change the source code to build a dashboard – that’s when we started to approach diminishing returns.

The other shortcoming of XPlanner is the management of the product backlog and release planning.  Yes, you can work around this, but intrinsically, the tool does not support building a backlog and then moving stories into a sprint.  Yes, this can be done, but it is arduous.  The interface also is stuck in Web 1.0 land, making data entry into a form submit after form submit affair.

So then what?  Surveying the market and talking to many of my longtime friends developing software with agile process, we quickly build the short list to replace XPlanner. We looked in detail at Rally, VersionOne, and FogBugz.  Though FogBugz had some very interesting capabilities around predicting the accuracy of estimates, it didn’t really seem to support agile planning methodologies and the scrum process.  Also, though the predictive capabilities are interesting, this really isn’t a huge benefit in my opinion if agile is really used and you know your people.

So, it was down to VersionOne vs Rally.   Both companies did extensive demos for our leadership team and key stakeholders.  Both tools intrinsically are built around the scrum agile process.  Both were priced around the same level with VersionOne being just a little less per seat, per month, but Rally matched and beat this price point in our negotiations.  The huge gaping hole in VersionOne for us was that it really didn’t assist with resource planning at all.  That is, they don’t enable you to enter the amount of available resources in terms of hours, days, etc, and then in the planning cycle show you where you are in using those hours as you take stories from the backlog and add them to the sprint.  Both tools track burndown during the sprint of course, but only Rally lets you know if you are planning too many stories in the sprint.  Even XPlanner supports this, so it is a big miss for VersionOne.  We can only assume they are working to add this capability.

Also, the rollup reporting for an entire release is more powerful and flexible in Rally.  This was a big plus for us.  To be sure, Rally isn’t super sophisticated in resource planning.  It doesn’t allow the individual team members enter their availability and then sum it up for the sprint.  (I would like this feature – I need to add this to the Rally Community.)  Rather, it just allows you to add the total number of hours available for a sprint at the beginning of the planning cycle.  How you figure this out is up to you.  After you add the total number of hours available, it shows you hours remaining as you add stories.

In coming blogs, we’ll talk more about the pros and cons of Rally as a Agile management tool.

6 Responses to “Rally vs VersionOne Agile Planning Tools”

  1. on 24 Jun 2008 at 1:08 pm Michael

    Not sure whether you evaluated TargetProcess. It is comparable with other vendors and has some really nice ideas behind like process-per-team.

  2. on 09 Sep 2008 at 8:20 pm Del Hager

    Thanks for your review of these agile development tools. I see that there are more tools available for the scrum process then there were 4 years ago. I am getting my agile team up and going here at PayPal and am looking for tools to support the scrum process with the team.

  3. on 18 Jun 2009 at 9:50 am John Stevens

    Thanks for the comparison. It seems to me that Rally may is easier to learn out of the box, but VersionOne has greater capabilities if you put the time into it. I was confused on what you said with multiple teams and multiple projects because that is our scenario and we use VersionOne’s enterprise edition, which supports that. Maybe you were looking at the “team” edition, which is for only 1 project. The enterprise edition of VersionOne has a virtual whiteboard, dashboards, etc…so from a visibility standpoint, we are fine with a distributed team. Am I missing something?

  4. on 15 Jul 2009 at 6:15 am Alex Elderfield

    Hi Gary,

    As we are now in july 2009, can you give us a one year on update on how you got on with Rally.

    I’m currently looking at a tool that will allow us to capture requirements, manage issues and plan across both multiple teams and multiple products and projects.

    I’ve got one team of eight developers who develop a single product then use this to deliver multiple simultaneous client projects (normally 10-12 projects on the go at any one time). We run 2 week iterations but people with change pairs during an iteration and will switch between client projects (sometimes developing, sometimes capturing requirements and other times focused on QA).

    We also have a few teams of 3-4 people who tend to focus upon the development of individual products on a 3 week iteration cycle.

    We currently use a combination of whiteboards (with cards and stickies), excel, MS project, bugzilla and a wiki to capture, track and report on projects but we feel there may be a better way. Any suggestions? I’m currently looking at Rally and Target Process.


  5. on 12 Nov 2009 at 8:28 am Sean

    Personally we used Rally here for about 4 months. The buggy interface, lack of proper reporting and very little if any ways to customize the interface made us switch to Atlassian’s Jira.

    Personally we don’t use Greenhopper however with proper workflows we see our development process moving along nice and efficient.

    As a previous user I would strongly recommend against using Rally and look at a more enterprise (reporting, proper/integrated time tracking ready tool.

  6. on 10 Nov 2011 at 10:28 am Per Jacobsen

    Hi Gary,

    This was a really interesting blog entry, very much in line with our analysis.

    Next time, you guys look for a replacement consider Agile-Team ( It addresses most of your issues and wants (providing, for instance, a per resource availability scheme.)

    Again, thanks for the analysis.