Effective use of Rational Team Concert for daily scrums

Agile, scrum, and lean methods focus on a core need of team awareness of project tasks and prioritization. Having the appropriate tools to assist with this communication and prioritization is a key to success. This article is about daily scrums from the viewpoint of active participants and how they can best use IBM® Rational® Team Concert to effectively communicate progress and blockers.


Steve Speicher (sspeiche@us.ibm.com), Senior Software Engineer, EMC

author photoSteve Speicher is an IBM Senior Software Engineer who focuses on Rational change management solutions and integrations. He is the lead for the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration Change Management area, which delivers open REST-based specifications, as well as implementations within Rational change management products. Previously, Steve worked in emerging standardization efforts in healthcare and compound documents (W3C).

developerWorks Contributing author

12 November 2009

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IBM® Rational® Team Concert has proven to be a very effective way for teams to collaborate on software development projects. It enables smooth integration between the tools features from source code to work item management. Because it can leverage work item management, as well as agile planning and reporting, it provides a great framework facilitating daily scrums.

This article is based on practical experience in leading a development effort that spanned four months and at least four dedicated full-time team members. The team membership was rather fluid, because individuals had other projects that they had to participate in for various periods of time. This team had to deliver a new capability in a very short time, while coordinating with various cross-organizational factors. By applying the techniques described here, along with use of Rational Team Concert, we were able to simply focus on our tasks and let the software produce the iteration plan updates and reports that we needed for external stakeholders.

Overview of iterations and plans

First, take a quick look at an iteration plan view to be sure that you understand the current task assignments. The focus of this article is not to show how to establish an iteration plan (or sprint in scrum terminology) but, instead, to explain how to use Rational Team Concert to prepare for and follow up after daily scrum reports. See Resources for other articles and tutorials to help you get started with using this tool for iteration planning.

The key aspect of a daily scrum (or standup or team meeting) is to focus on what the team is working on now. A great view into this is the iteration plan view called "Planned Time." To get there:

  1. Navigate to the plans for your project area (JUnit Spring Backlog tab in this example).
  2. Then in the "View As" section (top-right pane), select the Planned Time option (see Figure 1).

In the Exclude section on the lower-right, you can set additional useful filters. To remove team members who do not have any assigned plan items for this iteration, check Empty Groups. To be able to view completed (closed) work items in addition to current ones, uncheck Resolved Items.

From the Planned Time view, you can see who has plan items (tasks) for the current iteration, the status of those tasks and any effort estimates, and progress toward completion.

Figure 1. Iteration plan editor, Planned Time view selected under "View As"
JUnit Sprint Backlog view

Larger view of Figure 1.

Preparation for daily scrums

It is best to hold a daily scrum (also referred to as a daily standup) at the same time each day, to start on time, and to not exceed 15 minutes. To make the most of these scrums, as well as to leverage Rational Team Concert for effective awareness and collaboration, the scrum team reviews and updates their current tasks by reflecting on and discussing these common daily scrum questions:

  • What have you done since yesterday?
  • What are you planning to do today?

This can easily be accomplished when each team member uses the My Work view in Rational Team Concert (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. My Work view
Current user’s active tasks highlighted

Larger view of Figure 2.

This integrated view gives team members a single view of their tasks (plan items, work items, and others), as well as easy access to actions to work with them. For example, to update the work items for the daily scrum, they can just select the work items and select actions such as Plan for > Today, as Figure 3 shows.

Figure 3. Using the My Work View to pan work
Drop-down menus with selections mentioned

By tracking their work items, team members get a better understanding of priorities, so they can focus appropriately and can into the team’s progress. At this point, team members can even plan their weeks and update estimates for remaining work items.

By going back to the iteration plan editor (Planned Time view), you can get the daily scrum information directly from Rational Team Concert. The work items are displayed according to when they were, in ascending order, with the most recently completed (closed) work items at the bottom of the list (see the blue arrow labeled "Most recently completed," which points to the last item under Past in Figure 4). This answers the daily scrum question: "What have you done since yesterday?"

Next, you can see categories of work items that fall under Today or Later This Week. These help you answer the question "What are you planning to do today?"

You can change the order of these items by using the Move Up (see Figure 4) or Move Down feature to highlight the priority or order in which they will be completed.

Figure 4. Iteration plan, Planned Time view for the daily scrum
Sprint Backlog view

The scrum master should not depend on this view for sole communication. There is no replacement for having the verbal daily scrum. The iteration plan view is a good validation of what is being discussed, and it provides a good view into the project for any team members who miss a daily scrum.

Geographically distributed teams

It is sometimes the norm to have teams with members who don’t all physically reside in the same location. Daily scrums often have to occur by telephone or video conference. Using this approach, so that you can have software-assisted daily scrums, is even more valuable in these situations.

Capturing and handling blockers

When you use Rational Team Concert to prepare for the daily scrum, progress blockers can immediately be turned into captured work items or located and reprioritized. There is no need for a scrum master to carry around a steno pad and track down blockers. The team can collaborate on the blockers by using the work item commenting feature, and then finish or reassign the work as needed.


Using Rational Team Concert to capture and validate information for the daily scrum is a great asset, not only to the participants and scrum master but also to those who can’t easily or readily attend each daily meeting. Now anyone can quickly see the current state of the team’s work item priorities and progress, because you can update it in Rational Team Concert after each daily scrum. This approach has proven to be very effective for communication and easily followed by teams that have used it.

It is still essential to conduct the daily scrum in person to effectively make everyone aware of the current work and work any blockers. Adhering to this discipline has the additional benefit of ensuring that team velocity and burndown rates are more accurate, which makes future iterations (sprints in scrum terminology) more predictable.



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