Experience Exchange

Position Paper
submitted to XP2001

by Graham Cunningham and Dierk König

Real world XP problem faced:

In 4 out of 6 projects, we were unable to set up a physical planning board that everybody could instantly look at when developing. One project had heavy privacy issues, in another some of the team worked partly off-site and another project just had no space where could put it (no wall!).
However, we didn't want to drop XP and so began out search for the best replacement, i.e. the second-best solution.

For the planning we needed to find a way to:

Real world solution applied:

(Principle: Concrete Experiments)

1. Cardboard Schedule failed for lack of distribution support.

2. PostIt Software Notes failed for lack of team-wide structure.

3. MS Project Central made it over some weeks. Then people rejected use because of bad support for the most common actions like "Sign Up for a Task". Planning was only done "once a week". Updates became late. Quality of the plan dropped. Then we cancelled it.

4. WikiWikiWeb. That was fun and we still use it. We have card-pages for tasks and stories. Overview pages capture lists of cards: iterations, "unscheduled", old iterations, etc. Links are alway two-way, i.e. stories point to their tasks, every task point to its story. This solution is simple to set up. Manipulation of tasks is possible but somehow cumbersome, especially task moves (with cut/paste). The lack of structure makes it impossible to "calculate the numbers" automatically which in turn makes people more reluctant to do changes.

5. XpPlanIt. We started with an own small planning tool that we developed "after-hours" (small initial investment). As soon as possible (after 5 "Points") we used the tool itself for planning its own development (Value: Feedback). We put the first release in production and ever since we have updates with every integration (small release cycles). Integration follows immediately after each "closed" task (continuous integration). As you may guess, we have reasonable test coverage with unit and functional tests.

Only having the spare time of two developers as resources, we became very keen in investing that time as wisely as possible. XpPlanIt helped a lot in doing so, diminishing the disadvantages of pairing only once in a while.

Rolling our own solution gives us the freedom to enhance it with all the features we need: sharing data in realtime, board-like overview and instant detail view, easy manipulation, automatic calculations, easy restructuring, persistence, logging, reports, internet-wide access, etc.

Since it has become such a valuable tool for us, we have made it freely available for the XP community.


Not being able to set up a board of cards doesn't necessarily hinder your project from doing XP-style planning. Let your team experiment with the tools to find the one of their choice. When doing this, keep the XP values in mind.
Communication - Feedback - Simplicity - Courage.

Graham Cunningham, Coding
Bahnhofstr. 18
CH-5600 Lenzburg
Tel. 0041 (62) 888 2565
Fax. 0041 (62) 888 2565
Dierk König, Coach and GUI
Canoo Engineering AG
Kirschgartenstr. 7
CH-4051 Basel
Tel. 0041 (61) 228 9444
Fax. 0041 (61) 228 9449