How to Control the WIP in Agile Software Development

Micro Focus Frequent Contributor
Micro Focus Frequent Contributor
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Hello there, my name is Ehud Michelson and I’m a Team Leader at Micro Focus. My team is part of the group that develops ALM Octane , which is a DevOps enterprise solution for managing the lifecycle of applications. The awesome part is that we also use ALM Octane in our routine work to manage the lifecycle of ALM Octane itself, and this allows us to directly experience ALM Octane from the point of view of our customers. In this post, as well as in the following ones, I will share with you how I use ALM Octane to manage and monitor my team activities. This is my first blog post ever and I’m very excited about it 😊.

wip.jpgImage by Ben Kerckx from PixabayAs an experienced team leader, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over time is to keep the team’s Work In Progress (aka WIP) low. WIP is defined as the work that is currently being done by the team. Keeping the WIP low helps to avoid loose ends and it increases the quality of the features the team develops. WIP control is a basic concept in a few Agile Development methodologies. For instance, if the team works on too many items simultaneously, it results in team members spreading their efforts in too many directions, tasks taking a long time to finish and the temptation to cut corners increases as the deadline approaches and many tasks are still open. Conversely, keeping the WIP low allows several team members to work together on the same tasks. This way the tasks are completed faster, and there is enough time to test their quality and make the required fixes. Another benefit is that it encourages better collaboration and engagement between the team members.

To monitor our WIP, my team uses a shared Agile Dashboard and the Team Backlog module. These tools allow us to identify issues and immediately address them. For example, we can determine how many user stories and defects can be in progress simultaneously within the team. This is our WIP Limit. When we identify that we approach the WIP limit or even accidentally exceeded it, we can take measures to correct it, such as stop working on some tasks, and consolidate efforts on finishing other tasks.

The following widget shows how many features are In Progress right now and how many features are In Testing.

feauture wip.png

The following widget shows how many backlog items (user stories and defects) are currently In Progress, grouped by team members. This way, we can see the load across the team, stop working on some of the backlog items and consolidate effort on others as needed.

items in progress.png

Read more about using the Dashboard to create widgets that reflect your data graphically.

In the Team Backlog module, we use the Agile Storyboard to display the backlog items in their different phases. We can see an alert indication if there are more items in progress than the WIP Limit.

team backlog.png

(1) The exclamation mark next to the digit 8 in the In Progress column header means that the WIP limit of backlog items in progress was exceeded. (2) When you hover over the exclamation mark, a tip with alert details is displayed. This way, the user is alerted that the WIP Limit was exceeded. In this case, 8 backlog items are currently in progress whereas the limit is 5.

Read more about using the Board View and how to configure it.

For more information about ALM Octane please visit the product page.

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2 Comments
Micro Focus Expert
Micro Focus Expert

So true, thanks a lot for the good explanation and screenshots. 

Micro Focus Frequent Contributor
Micro Focus Frequent Contributor

Awesome post!
Looking forward to the following ones 🙂

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