Imagine that you need to manage a complex project. You need to coordinate a team of people to get work done. SonicAgile can help!

SonicAgile is a free Agile Project Management tool. You can use SonicAgile to capture all of the work required to complete a project, prioritize the work, and track your progress as the work gets done.

SonicAgile was expressly designed to support Agile teams. For example, you can use SonicAgile with a Scrum team or a team that is following the best-practices of the PMI-ACP.

The goal of this guide is to provide you with an overview of the major features of SonicAgile. You learn how to take advantage of the SonicAgile Backlog, Kanban, and Burndown Charts.

Prioritizing Work

The first thing that you need to do when starting a new project is to create a list of all of the work that needs to be done. For example, if you are building a new e-commerce website then you might need to register a domain name, create a shopping cart, and create a catalog of products.

SonicAgile is designed to be an Agile Project Management tool. For this reason, it uses Agile terminology to describe the work that needs to be done. In particular, each work item, such as registering a domain name or creating a shopping cart, is called a story. The list of all of the stories that need to be completed to finish a project is called a Product Backlog.

You can think of your Product Backlog as a giant To Do list. You use your Product Backlog to list all of the work (each story) that needs to be done.

Immediately after you register at SonicAgile.com, you land in your backlog. You add new stories to your backlog by clicking the +Story button.

Adding a Story

When you create a new story, you must enter a story title and story type. For example, you might enter the story title “Register a domain name” and the story type “feature”. All of the other fields are optional.

The SonicAgile backlog is a real-time backlog. When you make changes to the backlog, everyone else in the world who has the backlog open in their browser will see the changes immediately.

Moving Stories on the Backlog

Your Product Backlog represents a prioritized list of work that needs to be done. You list the most important work at the top of your backlog and the least important work at the bottom of your backlog.

SonicAgile makes it easy to rearrange the stories in your backlog. You can drag any story in your backlog from one location to another using your mouse.

You also can select and move multiple stories at a time by holding down either the SHIFT key or the CTRL key when clicking on stories with your mouse. Use the SHIFT key to select multiple stories in a range. Use the CTRL key to select multiple stories individually.

Drag Multiple Stories

Because the SonicAgile backlog is a real-time backlog, moving a story in one browser causes the story to move in every other browser where the backlog is open.

Dividing Work into Iterations

Many Agile teams like to work in iterations (also called sprints). For example, many Agile teams work in two-week iterations. At the beginning of each iteration, the team selects a set of stories from the backlog that they want to get done and then the team attempts to get all of the stories done before the end of the iteration.

Iterations are an optional feature of SonicAgile. You can enable iterations from your Project Settings under the Stories tab.

Enable iterations

After you enable iterations, you can add new iterations to your backlog by clicking the +Iteration button. When you add an iteration, you specify the start and end date of the iteration.

After you enable iterations, your backlog is divided in half. The left column of your backlog represents your Product Backlog and the right column represents your iterations. You can drag stories from your Product Backlog into any of the iterations that you have created. Copy multiple stories into an iteration by using either the SHIFT or CTRL key to select multiple stories and drag the stories into an iteration.

Using iterations

Using Agile Estimation

When prioritizing the stories in your Product Backlog, it helps to know the amount of work required to complete each story. Some stories might be relatively easy to complete while other stories might require a lot of work. For example, registering a domain name might take less than an hour but building a shopping cart component might require several weeks of effort.

The traditional way of estimating work is to create an estimate based on the amount of time that you predict will be required to complete the work. For example, a little story might require an hour or two and a big story might require many days or weeks to complete.

Proponents of Agile project management typically reject estimating the amount of work required to complete a story by using hours or days. The problem with time-based estimates is that they provide an illusion of accuracy when the estimates are really just a best guess.

Instead, Agile teams typically use another unit of estimation such as points or shirt sizes. For example, when using shirt sizes, you might estimate stories as being x-small, small, medium, large, or x-large. There is no illusion of accuracy when you are limited to only five possible values when making an estimate. Asserting that registering a domain name is an x-small story is much more accurate than asserting that registering a domain name will take exactly 1 hour.

Agile Estimation is an optional feature of SonicAgile. You enable Agile Estimation from your Project Settings. You can estimate using points, shirt sizes, or (my favorite) coffee cup sizes.

Enable Agile estimation

After you enable Agile Estimation, you can assign an estimate to any story in your backlog. Select the story in your backlog and select a size from the backlog toolbar.

Assign Agile estimate

If you enable both Agile Estimation and iterations then you can track your team’s velocity. Each iteration will display the total number of story points completed in the iteration. If you attempt to add too many stories to an iteration – more than the average of the past three iterations – then a warning is displayed.

Points warning

Finally, if you enable Agile Estimation, then you can view a Burndown Chart that represents your team’s progress. A Burndown Chart displays the amount of work (represented in story points) remaining over time.

Burndown Chart

Creating a Roadmap with Epics and Releases

SonicAgile enables you to create a roadmap for your project. A roadmap contains a list of epics organized into releases. You can use the roadmap to create a release plan for your project.

Roadmap

Imagine, for example, that you want to decide which features to add to version one and version two of your product. In that case, you can create two releases named version one and version two.

Next, you can create epics that correspond to the major features of your product and decide which release should include each epic. For example, you might decide that the Jet Engine won’t be included in version one of your product but it will be included in version two.

You also have the option of making your roadmap public. In that case, anyone in the world can see your roadmap and the description for each epic in your roadmap. Members of the public can even vote and comment on the epics in your roadmap.

Tracking Team Progress

SonicAgile enables you to easily keep track of work on a project. You can track who is working on each story and you can track the state of each story by taking advantage of the SonicAgile Kanban.

Kanban

The Kanban represents an alternative view of your backlog. The Kanban displays the stories from your backlog in order of priority. Each story is displayed in one of three columns: To Do, In Progress, or Done.

You can use your mouse to drag stories from one column to another. For example, when a story is done, you can move the story from the In Progress column to the Done column.

After a story is done, you can click the Archive button to remove the story from your Kanban. That way, the highest priority stories will always be at the top of your backlog.

Because the SonicAgile Kanban is a real-time Kanban, when the Kanban is open in multiple browsers, changes made to the Kanban in one browser are reflected in every other browser automatically.

Using Iterations

If you enable iterations then the SonicAgile Kanban will display only the stories from the current iteration. You can use the iteration dropdown list to view past or future iterations.

When you enable iterations, the Archive button no longer appears. If you are grouping stories into iterations then you no longer need to archive stories when you complete a story.

Breaking Stories into Tasks

You can break stories into tasks. Tasks appear beneath their story in the Kanban. Just like a story, you can move a task from To Do, to In Progress, to Done.

Add tasks

There are several reasons why you might want to break a story into tasks. First, if you discover that a story is taking much longer than expected to complete (the story is becoming a never ending story) then you might want to break the story into discrete tasks so you can better track progress on completing the story.

For example, imagine that the story “Create a Shopping Cart” has remained in the In Progress column in your Kanban for several weeks. In that case, you might want to break the “Create a Shopping Cart” story into several discrete tasks such as “Create the Database Objects for the Shopping Cart”, “Implement the Code for the Shopping Cart”, and so on. That way, you can better track progress completing the overall story by tracking when each task associated with the story is completed.

A second situation in which it makes sense to enable tasks is when you need to ensure that certain work is completed before a story is done. For example, you might want to ensure that each story gets tested and reviewed before the story is marked as done. In that case, you can create separate Test and Review tasks for each story and ensure that both of these tasks are done before the story is marked as done.

Tasks are an optional feature of SonicAgile. You enable Tasks from Project Settings.

After you enable Tasks, you can add a task on the Kanban by selecting a story and clicking the +Task button. You must select a story on the Kanban before you can add a Task to that story.

Using Time Tracking

You can enable Time Tracking to track the time spent and time left for each of your stories. You can also use Time Tracking to quickly identify when you have devoted more time to a story than you originally expected.

When you create a new story, you can enter an original estimate for the amount of time that you expect it to take to complete the story. During your daily standup meeting, you can update the time estimates for each story by entering estimates for the time left and time spent. The story displays a progress bar that indicates the estimated amount of time left to complete the story.

Time tracking

If the time spent on a story goes over the original estimate then a warning icon is displayed.

If you enable both Time Tracking and Tasks then you can use Time Tracking with tasks. In that case, the time spent and time left for each story is rolled up from the time spent and time left for each task associated with a story.

Tasks and time-tracking

Time Tracking is an optional feature. You enable Time Tracking from the Stories tab in Project Settings. You can track time using either hours or days.

Using Acceptance Criteria

You can add one or more acceptance criteria to any story. Acceptance criteria represent a checklist of requirements that a story must satisfy in order for the story to be done.

Acceptance criteria can be anything that you want. For example, if you are building a software component then you might create a list of acceptance criteria that looks like this:

• Must work with the most recent version of all web browsers
• Must include at least 5 unit tests
• Must be reviewed by the open-source team for legal compliance

If you attempt to mark a story as done with unsatisfied acceptance criteria then you get a warning message.

Acceptance Criteria

Improving Team Collaboration

Members of your team can take advantage of SonicAgile without even visiting the SonicAgile.com website. You can interact with SonicAgile through email. You can receive notifications and reports, participate in discussions, and create new stories without leaving your email inbox.

Notifications

By default, every member of your team receives an email notification whenever a new story or epic is created or a story is marked as done. Each member of your team can control their email notifications from their Profile Settings.

Set notifications

Story and Epic Discussion

Members of your project can discuss stories and epics through email by replying to a new story notification or by replying to another discussion message. All email discussions are captured automatically at SonicAgile. That way, new team members can get quickly up to speed on existing stories and you don’t lose valuable discussions in the depths of your email inbox.

Discuss

Create Stories by Email

You can create new stories directly from email by emailing to a magic email address. For example, you can create new features, bugs, or change requests by sending an email message to the right email address.

Creating stories by email enables you to create new stories from a smart phone. For example, while walking through the park, you can create a new bug at SonicAgile by sending an email from your iPhone.

The magic email addresses are listed in your Profile Settings.

Stories by Email

Scheduled Reports

You can email scheduled reports to the members of your team automatically. The scheduled reports contain one or more Burndown Charts.

Scheduled reports

You also can send scheduled reports to people outside of your team. For example, you might want to send a weekly scheduled report to management to report on progress on your project.

Conclusion

SonicAgile is a free Agile Project Management tool that enables you to coordinate the work of a team of people. The tool was designed to be easy to use and very flexible. SonicAgile supports several unique features such as a real-time backlog and Kanban, Agile estimation, acceptance criteria, time-tracking, epics, tasks, iterations, stories by email, email notifications, burndown charts and private and public roadmaps.