The Renaissance of Paper for Agile Software Development

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Summary:
Fast cars, flat-screen television, high definition gaming consoles, and dual core processor equipped laptops: the amenities of modern technology rule us. Computers are an integral part of our lifestyle and work-life, and many people define themselves by their choice of tools to complete tasks. Those interested in implementing agile frameworks are no exception, often voting to use electronic tools before exploring alternatives. This article is meant for the open-minded, ready-to-explorer surrogate who is not afraid of being a low-tech hippie in times of high-tech espresso machines.

Fast cars, flat-screen television, high definition gaming consoles, and dual core processor equipped laptops: the amenities of modern technology rule us. Computers are an integral part of our lifestyle and work-life, and many people define themselves by their choice of tools to complete tasks. Those interested in implementing agile frameworks are no exception, often voting to use electronic tools before exploring alternatives. This article is meant for the open-minded, ready-to-explorer surrogate who is not afraid of being a low-tech hippie in times of high-tech espresso machines.

The Low-tech
Here we are. All together, a co-located team, and instead of using 19quot; flat screen monitors and shiny Mac-Book Pros we will work with simple things, such as paper. We follow one key concept of agile: removing inconsistencies and misunderstandings by making all available information available. Consequently, we achieve a higher level of transparency by allowing all available information to be prominently shared. To be able to do that we will need a couple of tools and a good understanding of how to use them.

First, make sure to have an area to display all the artifacts that you produce over time. Dry wipe boards usually sized at 95quot; x 48quot; are a great and universal area to display what we produce. A basic rule of thumb is that you can never have enough wall-space or dry wipe boards. Ironically, they also seem to be the hardest thing to come by, so make sure you order plenty and early. Colored dry wipe markers, as many as you can find, are essential as well, enabling you to use your whiteboard in a vast number of creative ways. 

Dry wipe boards are universal and reusable, but their size makes it usually hard to move them. Fortunately, you can use 3M Post-it Easel Notes to hold a multitude of our artifacts. These make it easier to move information temporarily from meeting room to team room and back again, or to any other location you may so desire.

To actually hold our User Stories, or whatever you might name your requirements, you will need colored index cards sized at 3 X 5 and a number of colored neon markers. [i]   For readability, you should buy some black CD/DVD markers to go alongside the neon markers on your index cards. Visibility is important and those black markers work well on colored cards.  For role discovery work-shops and for note keeping you should get note cards sized at 3 1/2 x 2 as their smaller size will limit you to writing less. 

All of the above mentioned card types can be secured, either to your whiteboard or the big Post-it notes, by using blu-tack or glue-spots. 

For ad-hoc note keeping, buy different sized super-sticky notes. Make sure you bought the super-sticky and not sticky variant as the latter tends to start falling off the wall once you have moved them around a couple of times. Other nice things to have, but not necessarily as essential, are notebooks, hand tissues, multi-color Sharpies, Nerf balls, Altoids, Clocks, and other accessories to make a team room more useful.

The Reason
In psychology, it is a well-known fact that the physical reinforces the non-tangible our brain needs to deal with in order to understand complex causal connections. [ii] Almost everything, save for typing, that we do when sitting in front of a computer is intangible. Using tools to track our progress of where we are in the application of agile frameworks is no exception to that rule. By using index cards, note cards, pens, white board, supersticky notes, and other stationery,

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