I’ve always been a big fan of helping teams visualise work better. In the old days one method I loved to use was to print out product backlog items or tasks and place them next to the bits architecture diagrams or wireframes we were currently working on, on the team white board. It helped us visualise our work and sometimes it would help us ask more questions and realise we may have missed tasks we needed to get work done.

Much later when working remotely with teams I would employ the same mechanism again. We would use tools such as Lucid charts for virtual whiteboarding and I would copy and paste in the tasks/product backlog items and place them around the various parts we were working on. It was only when our company started using Mural a while back and they added integrations with Azure DevOps and Jira that I realised we could now import elements of our product backlog into Mural diagrams we were working on. If you haven’t tried Mural yet I highly recommend it, its a great tool for whiteboarding with remote teams.

We initially started by importing the backlog items that were associated with the work we were doing. Mural make’s this very easy by just right clicking on the background of your Mural board and selecting the Import Azure DevOps feature that appears in the context menu (you can do the same with Jira). In the dialogue box that appears you can select the Bugs, Tasks or Product Backlog Items you wish to import. You can search for them or use existing queries you may have created in Azure DevOps.

After you have imported your backlog items, you can then drag them around the screen like other Mural objects and they contain a link back to your backlog item in Azure DevOps along with its current status.

Below is part of our roadmap for some new features we are looking to launch for Lean Coffee Table. You can see the product backlog items we imported onto the board and placed them around our launch notes.

It also works both ways. If you are drawing a diagram of your solution and want to create tasks around that diagram as you go (made up example below).

You can create your tasks/backlog items and publish them back into Azure DevOps, Jira or GitHub by right clicking on the sticky note we made in the example below and selecting where we want to export our item.

You can see below we can now choose where in ADO we want to create our item. In this case we have chosen a User Story type.

And now it is connected to ADO with its current status

NOTE: Azure DevOps and Jira appear to work both ways. However you only appear to be able to export items to GitHub Issues but not import them.

So many teams are now hybrid or work fully remotely, tools like Mural can help facilitate those teams. What tools do you use to help facilitate working with remote or hybrid teams? I’d love to hear from you.