Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Exporting From Rally to task cards--the Power Point method

Exporting from Rally is possible though not pleasant. I spent at least 2 hours trying to work it out the first time with someone's help. Even after I got the the process down, it still takes about one hour. In theory, I think I could do it in fifteen or thirty minutes, but every time I try, something comes up that I need to react to. (Like printing off the wrong backlog.) So I'd practice this once and then give your self at least an hour before the planning event to get ready.

Here are the tools you need:
  • Rally -- This contains the backlog. You'll need to create a custom view to get the "Description" on the card. We'll use the CSV export feature.
  • Excel (or OpenOffice) -- Use this to clean up any formatting HTML that rally has exported, read in the CSV and then copy past the rows into Word.
  • Word (or OpenOffice) -- Use Word to create a .doc file.
  • Power Point (haven't tried this with OpenOffice's Present) -- Read in the word doc which will covert the content into slides, and then print the slides.
The steps to get a Rally backlog into cards/paper:

Export to CSV

You need to show your backlog on a Rally view. My favorite is at "Backlogs & Schedules"->"User Stories" because it seems to be the most flexible with filtering. If that isn't good enough, you can create your own custom view.

When you select Action->export to CSV, Rally will export whatever you are showing, in the order you are showing. So if you are missing a column of information, like the story's description, you'll need to create a new view (see the icon with the plus above the Release column in Rally, circa 8/22/2008, use this to add what columns you need). You'll probably want to sort by the *Rank* column.
Columns I like to have in my custom "Export to CSV" view are : Rank, Formmatted ID, Name, Schedule State, Blocked, Description, Release, Plan Estimate, Notes, Iteration, Owner, Last Update Date.

Processing the CSV with Excel

In Excel, open the CSV that you've exported.

Cleaning the RTF-markup from the Story Description
If you've exported the story description, there is always some work in cleaning the data of rich-text markup. Take a look at the description column and you'll see what I mean.
If you've never used any of the rich-text features (bullets, underlining, copy and pasting from a rich-text document such as MSWord) then cleaning up any remaining formatting is tractable.
Using Find-Replace-All, you can clean up the markup. Replace the following with nothing:

Replace the following with a space: " "
Look over the Description column and remove more choice bits of markup cluttering your data:

Other things to do:
If you exported the Blocked field from Rally, you'll want to select that excel column and do a find-replace-all on "True" to "blocked", and "False" to nothing.

Make a Word Document

Swap the excel columns so they show up in an order that makes sense, and delete the columns that you don't want. Highlight the rows you want to print out, copy/paste them into a word processor, and then save the file to a MSWord .doc.

Adjust the layout in Power Point

In Power Point (I'm using power point 2007), the name of the game is adjusting the format of the font so that it fits on the slides without pushing into the next slide. When you get it looking pretty, print it. What I do to get things looking good is edit the master slide to be one big text box and change the font size to about 20. Then I leave the master slide view, go to the left hand slide selection area, do a ctrl-A, click on Layout->select my theme. And then all the slides are using my theme.

Power point is great if you are OK applying one formatting style to the whole slide. Ideally, you want to produce something like in this:

But I don't know how to apply different formatting to different sections of the slide using this method. The only way I know how to do that is using Mail merge which I'll post about later. With this method, you can get a backlog out of Rally and onto paper and then tape the paper on the walls for your agile planning events.

If you know of any refinements to this or any other ways to get data out of Rally and onto cards or paper, then I beg you to comment!


  1. Thank you for posting this. Although I found it 6 years later (FEB14), it served as a catalyst for a solution shared below.

    I used everything you said through creating the CSV file. Then, I did the following:

    (1) Saved the data file as an XLS
    (2) Created a Word document for 2"x3" labels
    (3) Linked the data file with the label document using the mail merge feature
    (4) Inserted the merge fields (i.e. Formatted_ID, Estimate, Owner, etc.) onto the label and formatted for appearance
    (5) Merged the data into the template and printed
    (6) Cut out the cards and attached to stickies for attachment on our Scrum board

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