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Vivek Ganesan

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Agile Team Wallboards make an agile team’s workspace meaningful. Electronic Wallboard is an information radiator mounted on wall (pretty self-explanatory, huh!). Wallboard displays relevant information, aggregated from multiple sources, to help in making decisions regarding daily work.

A Distributed team’s Wallboard is typically electronic, powered by widgets and dashboards available in popular Agile tools like JIRA, Rally, etc. There are some (lucky) teams which have a manually maintained wallboard as well.

This post talks more about electronic form of the Wallboard.

Why is an Electronic Wallboard needed?

Electronic Wallboard serves two sets of people in the organization:

  1. The team - The team uses real data to make daily decisions to reach their iteration goal.

  2. Everyone else- No one needs to go and ask about iteration’s health from team members or scrum master. They can just spend some minutes looking at the wallboard and they have the metrics.

What information can be included in Electronic Wallboard?

Anything that helps! You can include burn down charts, bug counts, days-until-iteration-end counters, etc.

The idea is to evolve the design of wallboard’s information over time. You need to discuss the design improvements in wallboard during retrospectives.

How to setup an Electronic Wallboard?

Option 1 : Wallboard using an Always-on Whining Machine

This is the most basic setup. All this contains is a LCD/LED monitor hooked up to an age-old desktop computer.

Let’s do a quick cost analysis of this setup

Fixed Costs

  1. LCD Monitor - 5000 INR approx.
  2. CPU+Other Hardware - 10000 INR approx. Total - 15000 INR approx.

Variable Costs

  1. Electricity (as per computer hardware)

Advantages

Straight-forward setup

Disadvantages

  1. Consumes too much electric power
  2. Generates a lot of noise almost all the time (Always-on whining machine)
  3. Needs a lot of real-estate to place the CPU

Option 2: Wallboard using a laptop

In this option, we replace the desktop computer with an always-on laptop. LCD/LED monitor is hooked up to the laptop using a VGA or HDMI setup.

Some organizations replace the laptop with a Macbook. In that case, you might need appropriate Mac adapters as well.

Cost Analysis of this setup is as follows

Fixed Costs

  1. LCD Monitor - 5000 INR approx.
  2. Laptop - 60,000 INR (or Macbook - 1,00,000 INR) approx.
  3. Display Accessories (HDMI/Adapter) - 1500 INR approx.

TOTAL - 66,500 INR approx in case of laptop and 1,06,500 INR approx in case of Macbook

Variable Costs

  1. Electricity (as per hardware)

Advantages

  1. Easy to setup
  2. Less power consumption than Option 1
  3. Provides inbuilt power backup in case of power outage.

Disadvantages

  1. Laptop’s inbuilt screen goes unused
  2. Just to run a browser, a fully loaded OS is used. This slows down the system.
  3. Costly solution for a simple browser based functionality

Option 3 : Apple TV Wallboard (with hacks)

I recently came across this blog post at Atlassian’s site which talks about how to use JIRA wallboards by jailbreaking Apple TV with a third party software. Read the original blog post for more information.

Let’s do the cost analysis of this setup

Fixed Costs

  1. LCD Monitor - 5000 INR approx
  2. Apple TV - 13,000 INR approx

Total - 18,000 INR approx

Variable Costs

  1. Power consumption

Advantages

  1. Less power consumption than Option 1 and 2
  2. Takes up very less area

Disadvantages

  1. Jailbreaking AppleTV voids the warranty
  2. Not sure when this hack will stop working

Option 4: Raspberry Pi Wallboard

Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that runs on Linux. It is generally available in market, with a package containing all interfaces like HDMI, USB, etc.

You can set this up to serve a LCD/LED monitor using HDMI Interface. This can connect to the network using Ethernet or even a USB Wifi Dongle. For all practical purposes, you can use this as a personal computer, connecting keyboard and mouse using USB.

Instead of hard disk, a SD Card serves as a primary memory. The OS is light-weight and can be used on a daily basis without significant lag in performance.

raspi.jpg raspi2.jpg

Fixed Costs

  1. LCD Monitor - 5000 INR approx
  2. Raspberry Pi Kit - 4,000 INR approx

Total - 9,000 INR approx

Variable Costs

  1. Power consumption

Advantages

  1. Less power consumption than Options 1, 2 and 3
  2. Very less area required
  3. Cheaper than options 1,2 and 3

Disadvantages

  1. Wifi Connectivity in Raspberry Pi is known to get complicated under certain circumstances
  2. Might need to buy a casing in case of crowded places otherwise, prone to mishandling as all the parts are exposed.

I prefer the Raspberry Pi setup and I have tried this with more than one team. I am planning to write a separate blog post on how to setup a Team wallboard using Raspberry Pi and JIRA.

What kind of wallboard does your team use? Share your thoughts on this topic.