BacklogTool

BacklogTool is a web based planning tool that we’ve developed internally to keep track of backlogs. Since we like it so much we have published it on GitHub to give you the chance to use it, and to help us improve it. BacklogTool is great to use with well-known development methods like Scrum, as well as on its own. Software engineer Gustaf Lundh explains the benefits of this tool and how it is used below.

Gustaf Lundh

Gustaf Lundh, Software Engineer at Sony Mobile.

BacklogTool is a light weight planning tool that allows users to plan their daily work and easily rank their tasks using drag and drop. Unlike many other available tools, our BacklogTool is decoupled from the development process and works well with different kinds of methods such as Scrum, Kanban and others.

Backlog items can be inserted in the BacklogTool using a hierarchical structure consisting of themes that are divided into epics, stories and finally tasks. These items can be viewed in three different views for a good overview of the project, namely theme-epic, epic-story and story-task. It’s very easy to edit items in the backlog by double clicking on them. You can then make your changes and press save. The changes you make will be pushed out in real time to all other users viewing the same area as you.

BacklogTool

Why create a new backlog tool at all?
A while ago, we saw the need for a new backlog management tool in my department. Looking at all the great tools in this area already available out there, we asked ourselves a few questions:

  • Is it open source? This was important since we needed to be able to tweak and enhance the tool according to our needs.
  • Does it support the LDAP authentication mechanism? This was another requirement, to streamline the use of the tool with, by using our current login mechanism.
  • Can we deploy it internally? Due to security reasons, we needed to host the data ourselves.
  • Does it fit management and engineers equally well?

The last requirement was something we put extra effort in as we wanted to provide transparency for ourselves and our internal customers. However, we imagined that all stakeholders would not be interested in all the details, so we wanted to be able to provide information on different levels by using a hierarchical backlog that presents a very general overview with a possibility to dig deeper into details if needed. To meet all these requirements, we decided to create something ourselves in the end.

Nicklas and Fredrik, developers of BacklogTool.

Nicklas Nilsson (left) and Fredrik Persson (right), developers of BacklogTool.

The main use cases in BacklogTool
BacklogTool was mainly developed by Fredrik Persson and Nicklas Nilsson, and it’s designed to be open and easy to access, which means all users can view all created backlogs without being logged in.

Each backlog is stored in a custom area, which can be created by logged in users on the main page. Once an area gets created, the owner can specify what users should have edit rights, and what users should have admin rights for a specific area.

In order to make BacklogTool fit every team with their own requirements and their own way of working, the information fields for user stories are dynamic and possible to modify in many ways. By default, a field named “Status” will be created and have options like “ongoing” and “finished”, however this can easily be changed. You can easily add more options including custom icons through the admin page for each area.

BacklogTool supports login using existing LDAP user accounts, which means you can use LDAP logins with the same credentials as you do for your other LDAP supported systems.

Now looking at BacklogTool, the main use cases are to:

  • Organise and follow up your backlog by creating areas, themes, epics, stories and tasks.
Story-task view

Screenshot showing the story-task view of BacklogTool.

  • Print stories or tasks for use on a Scrum or Kanban board.
  • Customise your area.
Customise area

Screenshot showing how to customise an area in BacklogTool.


Try out BacklogTool
BacklogTool is intuitive and easy to use, and we will add more user guide documentation on GitHub in going forward. Try it out for yourself by downloading it from GitHub where it is available together with code, binaries, user guide and installation instructions. In the “readme” file, displayed on the project front page, there are instructions on how to start using the tool as well as on how to start contributing to the code. If you have any questions or comments, drop us a line below. We are looking forward to see patches, forks, user stories or perhaps a suggestion for a better name!

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