Not so long ago I tweeted that my team had started to use Rally as the platform of choice for managing the software development side of our business. Having successfully completed a few sprints using Rally, I thought I would present a birdseye report on our ‘getting started with Rally’ experience and on how quickly we were able to adapt to the new environment.
If you are considering moving to an agile development approach or are looking for an alternative Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platform then please do read on; there should be some useful information in this blog. Before describing my team’s experience with the platform, it is useful to introduce the Rally platform. Rally as a whole offers a lot more than an ALM application, the company’s products range from the free (locally installed) community edition to the full enterprise edition, offered on-premise or as a Software as a Service (SaaS)-based solution. Training can be provided on-site and a number of community resources are also available for use online. Wikipedia neatly summarises Rally in the following paragraph: “Rally Software, founded in 2002, offers SaaS-based Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platform and products, Agile coaching services, courses through Agile University and online forums focused on Agile and Lean practices. Rally is based in Boulder, Colorado, with offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, and London, England.” 
Navigating to Rally’s URL a user is presented with a simple login page and when they log in for the first time they are asked to select from one of three roles; Contributor, Executive, Organiser. As team scrum master I selected the Organiser option and my team selected Contributor. Rally then provides a dashboard most suited to the role chosen. I spent a few days familiarising myself with the environment and entering the details from the team’s current backlog before introducing it to the team. The dashboard can be heavily customised and there is a wide range of widgets that can be added, rearranged and deleted to suit each user’s individual taste, see below.
My team is distributed, so it was essential that we could all log in, view and update the various screens within Rally as a team during our sprint planning meeting. The team found this to be extremely easy, navigating was clear and simple and adding items to the sprint backlog was also straightforward. We found that there was a little bit of confusion as to the best way to enter user stories since Rally offers a number of methods to do this, but once we had settled on a system this worked well. The task breakdown and estimation was also easily completed online during the sprint planning meeting and I found it very effective to have each member responsible for a task to enter the details for that task so that they were all involved in creating the sprint backlog.
During the sprint each team member has a time recording sheet where they enter the number of hours spent on their tasks, Rally is proactive about this and team members are also required to enter the number of hours they think remains for the same task. Initially this seems like an oversight, but not so. It is important since it is estimated time remaining and not time spent that is a more effective measure of how well the sprint is going.
At the end of the sprint Rally automatically calculates some basic sprint metrics and of course the burndown chart is available on the dashboard throughout the duration of the sprint. Additionally, Rally also offers the ability to create test plans and record application defects.
In summary, Rally provides an effective way to manage ALM and is ideally suited to agile scrum. Whilst training could prove useful, we found that anyone with an ounce of tech-savy should pick-up the techniques required for scrum-based software development. Rally is conducive to effective scrum rituals and enables quick production and clear visibility of scrum artifacts. It is certainly worth considering amongst the other platforms available.
Rally’s website here