In my experience the first thing an organization does when it wants to transition toward agility is to look for tools to keep track of tasks and progress. And tools is often another work for software in this case. So this is where many teams go wrong. The agile manifesto states:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Before we continue we must understand that this does not mean that processes and tools are bad. It only means that individuals and interactions are better (“valued more”). And some teams actually benefit from using some kind of software to help them keep track of tasks and progress. Whenever I work with a team that does not know or like what tool they want to use I strongly recommend them to try the low-tech version; post-its on a whiteboard (or anything equivalent). From what I’ve experienced no team that tries the low-tech taskboard ever goes back to an electronic one. And that is also what I’ve heard others saying.
The most common objection to low-tech taskboards is that the team is distributed or there are managers off site that want to see the taskboard. The manager aspect is really easy to solve. Take a picture of your taskboard and post it on your team site. Or use a webcam for live updates. Only a distributed really motivates some kind of online tool. But here I also recommend keeping it simple; a shared spread sheet or OneNote. But if your team is distributed I would definitely consider splitting the team into several teams that can each have a local taskboard.
Another common argument is that the organization demands traceability and hence the taskboard must be electronic with a history. Regardless of what tool you use in your team, the backlog the team works with can definitely be an electronic one. And you can get all your traceability there. I doubt those demanding traceability really are interested in all the detail the team’s tasks will have. Summing up whatever needs to be traced after each iteration is probably more than enough. So is this double book keeping? I don’t think so. If the team is more comfortable with a low-tech solution they will probably work more effectively with that solution rather than something they feel a little awkward with. Keeping the team happy means more productive team. So all in all you probably gain time even though the summary in the end feels like a waste of time at first glance.
If you want more inspiration on low-tech taskboards you can always read this blog.