Tag Archives: Task Board

About Task Boards. See also Kanban and Lean.

Some minor bug fixes

We did an update yesterday that included a bunch of minor bug fixes and usability tweaks. (It also included a ton of behind-the-scenes improvements to our architecture and product development processes, but if we did our job well you shouldn’t see any of that change…)

  1. When the Kerika server is being updated (to a newer version), your browser will no longer keep trying to reconnect while this is underway.

    We have some code in place to help fix broken network connections: if your browser can detect that it’s connection to the Kerika server is broken for any reason (usually a network error), the browser will automatically attempt to reconnect.

    This doesn’t make sense if the server is down for planned maintenance.
  2. If you are working in multiple accounts and you decide to switch between them, we offer your choices in a more logical way: all the account owners you are connected to are listed alphabetically, and then each account owned is listed alphabetically.

    Our previous display was kind of random making it hard to scroll through a long list of accounts. This affected only a very small number of users who were working on many different accounts, but still…
  3. Now that we are encouraging our customers to converge around service accounts, we are trying to make sure these service accounts don’t get too crowded from the perspective of any single user.

    We have always had the ability to “favorite” some boards (and templates) so you can have your own personal, curated list of boards that you care about — and so you can ignore the rest — but now we have made it easier for Board Admins to move their boards to the trash or archive (or to restore them later) so they can help keep the commonly-shared service account in a more useful and relevant state for all the users within that account.
  4. A really small thing, but we decided to change the Sort by Status feature on our Task Boards and Scrum Boards so that On Hold cards appear at the bottom of the column, below all the others.
  5. Bug fix: if you changed the name of a board using the Board Settings dialog (assuming you are one of the Board Admins), the new name is now reflected immediately in the breadcrumbs.
  6. If someone who is currently a Team Member on your Task Board or Scrum Board is made a Visitor, he/she will not be removed from the current card assignments.  This makes it easier to change your mind if you decide you want that person to be a Team Member after all: just change this person’s role in the Board Team dialog, back to Team Member, and all the old card assignments will be there.

 

A simpler menu for cards and columns on your Task Boards and Scrum Boards

We used to have separate button, and associated menus, for actions related to cards and for actions related to columns:

Separate card and column actions
Separate card and column actions

This reflected the history of the Kerika product: we first designed and built the card actions, and much later added the column actions.

In retrospect, however, we concluded that separating these into two separate menus was not a good idea: it was confusing for our users to remember which menu supported which action. (Even the Kerika team, which uses Kerika for everything that the company does, was having trouble remembering the differences between the two buttons and menus.)

We have fixed that usability problem with our latest release: a single button is shown, and the popup menu that appears includes both card actions and column actions:

Combined Card and Column Actions Menu
Combined Card and Column Actions Menu

Clicking on the Sort and Move actions brings up all the sorting and moving options you have; the Sort menu now has a much richer set of actions:

Sort options
Sort options

We have also done some small tweaks to the sorting action: Sort by Status now puts the On Hold cards at the bottom of the column, below all the ones flagged as Normal.

Using Service Accounts to manage all your Kerika Users

For some segments of our users, e.g. college students using Kerika for their course projects, it makes sense to treat each user as an independent entity, since the relationships between these students will vary from class to class, from semester to semester.

These collaboration networks are very dynamic, and it’s impossible to predict whether a team that got together to work on a three-month class project will stick together after that project is over, or work as the same group of people on the next class project.

In business environments (companies, nonprofits and government agencies), however, the teams are more stable: people don’t change jobs every few months.  But, turnover can still be a problem: if Joe leaves your company, how can you be sure that all the boards and documents that Joe had created are not lost along when Joe is gone?

The simple solution to this is to use service accounts to own all the boards that are being used by a community of users, like a department or even the entire company (if the company is small enough).

A service account looks like any other Kerika account — it is associated with it’s own email, e.g. kerika@example.com — but it isn’t actually a real person: the email will have been set up by the organization’s IT staff or management, and the password is typically shared between a small handful of supervisory people.

Unlike real people, service accounts will always stick around: they won’t retire, resign, or get run over by a bus…

This means the organization has continuity and security with respect to it’s Kerika boards and documents: because the project assets are owned by kerika@example.com, rather than joe@example.com, it doesn’t matter whether Joe is still working at the company or not.

We encourage all our professional users — people working in companies, nonprofits and governments — to set up service accounts as a best practice, and we can help you: just email us at info@kerika.com and we will do all the account consolidation for you:

  • All the boards owned by the people in your organization will be transferred to the ownership of the service account instead.
  • Everything about each board is preserved as part of the transfer: all the cards, canvases, due dates, etc. remain the same after the transfer; it’s just that the boards are no longer owned by joe@example.com and susan@example.com, but instead are now owned by kerika@example.com
  • You can decide who to consolidate within the service account: typically it is everyone in the organization, but if you have different departments or cost centers, it will make sense to have more than one service account — one for each department or cost center.
  • After the consolidation, individual users within your organization will no longer have separate accounts: their Kerika identity, preferences, history, etc. are all preserved, but instead of working in several different accounts, they will all be working in a single service account, that’s under the control of your organization.
  • All this can be done by us, overnight: the next day your users can come into work and login as they did before, and have access to all the boards they had the previous day. All the boards will look the same, and your users can pick exactly where they left off.

When users have been consolidated within a service account, any new boards that they create will automatically be owned by that service account, rather than by the individual users.  This ensures that all current and all future project assets are owned by the service account, i.e. by the company, rather than by individual users.

It’s still possible for individual users to have privacy within the service account: for sensitive work (e.g. personnel matters) they can adjust the privacy of individual boards to be “share with board team only”.  When the privacy is set to board team only, the board will be visible only to the people who are specifically added by the Board Admins to the board’s team.

The Account Owner, i.e. the service account, will always have access to every board within that account, regardless of the board’s privacy settings. This is consistent with how other organizational assets are currently managed: if you have a work email, for example, you expect to have privacy from your coworkers, but you know that the company’s IT department will always have access to your email if they need it — and your email doesn’t really belong to you, but to your employer.

 

Seeing at a glance what’s hidden

If you hide a column from your view of a Task Board or Scrum Board, Kerika now makes it clear whether this column has any cards or not:

Hidden columns
Hidden columns

In the example shown above, the Release Notes column is empty, so it is shown in a light shade of grey, while the Final Review column has at least one card, and it is shown in black.

Kerika also helps you see, at a glance, whether the columns you are hiding have any updates you haven’t caught up on, or cards that are overdue:

Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates
Hidden columns with updates and overdue dates

The orange icon in the example above shows that the This Sprint column contains cards with updates on them that you haven’t caught up on yet, and the red icon shows that the Planning column contains overdue cards.

Managing multiple versions of files just got a lot easier

With our latest update we have made it much easier to manage different versions of files, across all your Task Boards, Scrum Boards and Whiteboards.

(This was inspired by our recent fix to a bug that didn’t properly download the latest version of a file attached to a card or canvas; while fixing this we started thinking deeper about how to make file management even easier for our users.)

Here’s how file management works now: when you hover your mouse over a file attachment, a new action called +NEW VERSION is available:

Uploading new version of document
Uploading new version of document

Clicking on the +NEW VERSION button will let you pick any file from your computer that’s of the same type, and Kerika will add that and track the file as a new version of your old attachment.

This is possible even if the new file has a different name altogether, as long as the two files are of the same type.

For example, a filed called Budget.xlsx can get a new version that’s called Plans.xlsx — both are tracked as different versions of the same file, even though they had different names.

This makes it even easier to manage all your files using Kerika!

We made it easier to have more complicated tasks inside cards

When we first added the ability for you to add a list of tasks to a card on a Task Board or Scrum Board, our expectation was that these tasks would be short and to the point: maybe just a few words long.

And to make the display of tasks neat and tidy inside a card’s details view, we truncated long tasks to show just two lines worth.  We figured this was a reasonable restriction that would make the layout look better, and wouldn’t actually inconvenience anyone since we really didn’t expect people to create very complex tasks, that might take more than one sentence to spell out.

Well, that turned out to be a bad assumption: the tasks feature turned out to be far more popular than we expected, and we soon started getting complaints from people that didn’t like seeing their tasks get truncated to two lines.

We have fixed that with our latest update to Kerika: now, all tasks will show fully, no matter how long they are. Here’s an example:

Example of long task
Example of long task

In the example shown above, the first task is long enough to spill out over three lines, and all three lines are shown.

So, there you go: tasks became a little more flexible!

Kanban vs Scrum: what’s the difference, and which should you use?

We have a complete (one-hour long) video of the tutorial presented by Arun Kumar, CEO of Kerika, at the recent Lean Transformation Conference on the subject of Kanban vs Scrum: what’s the difference, and which should you use?

(The slides for this talk, and more, can be found on Slideshare.)

Topics covered:

Forming a team 00:01:32

The Product Owner 00:02:01

The Scrum Master 00:02:55

The Scrum Team 00:03:55

Pulling Work 00:04:04

The Product Backlog 00:05:45

Scrum Stories 00:06:25

Writing a good Story 00:07:35

From Epics to Stories 00:10:25

From Stories to Tasks 00:11:13

Estimating with Story Points 00:13:04

Organizing a Sprint 00:15:00

How long is a Sprint? 00:19:15

Sprints in theory 00:20:32

Sprints in real-life 00:20:53

Daily Standups 00:23:25

Burndown Charts 00:24:13

Team Velocity 00:25:35

Best Practices for Getting Scrum Right 00:28:00

The Nuclear Option 00:30:57

Where does Scrum work best? 00:32:02

Scrum in Government 00:33:25

Where does Kanban work best? 00:35:43

Collaboration Networks 00:37:25

Paper doesn’t scale 00:38:30

Using Kerika for Personal Kanban 00:39:50

Using Kerika for Team Kanban 00:40:24

Using Kerika in the Public Sector 00:40:37

Using Kerika for Scrum Projects 00:40:54

Capturing stories as “virtual sticky notes” 00:41:20

Summary 00:42:57

Question: how do you deal with poor performers on the team? 00:49:15

Question: in Scrum, are units of measure like lines of code still applicable? 00:50:08

Question: how do you measure individual performance? 00:51:03

Question: how do you handle poor performers within a team? 00:52:25

Question: when do you use the Nuclear Option? 00:54:20

Question: how do you estimate stories? 00:55:54

Photo credits: Abdul-Rasul Kassamali, Jama Abdirahman.

We made it easier to see what you are hiding

We have made a tweak to the Hide Column feature that’s available on every Task Board and Scrum Board, for all Board Admins, Team Members and Visitors.

Previously, when you hid a column Kerika would show that like this:

Hiding columns (before)
Hiding columns (before)

The name of the column that was being hidden was shown vertically, to make it easier to retain the overall context of the board.

We have improved this so hidden columns now look like this:

Hiding columns (now)
Hiding columns (now)

The subtle (but important) distinction is that Kerika now shows you how many cards are in the hidden columns, not just the name of the column.  We think this will make this feature more useful, to more people, more of the time.