I love using story boards (or task boards) for a number of reasons.  There's the big in-your-face visual aspect of them - people can't help but seeing them and it's always obvious to anyone what the state of an iteration is at.  Plus there's the communication aspect of them - teams use them as an information hub, a connector of all they do as a team and a way to help frame the discussions in daily stand up meetings, a check to make sure people are doing thing that aren't part of an iteration and a quick capture mechanism for new tasks that have arisen.  Here's one I was using recently:


For historical and reporting purposes, it's also very normal for a team to have an electronic version of the task board.  Software like Team Foundation Server, Mingle, Rally, Excel and the like give you the ability to track stories and tasks and produce burn down charts with relative ease.

Unfortunately a lot of teams think the story board is a gimmick and miss the visceral impact of it. Instead they just update tasks they have assigned to them on the computer each day leaving the scrum master or product owner as the only people who actually look at the overall project progress.  I've also found that the lack of a story board seems to take a little something away from the teams ability to coordinate their efforts and realise when a team member is getting overloaded.

But now there's another reason.  Task boards make great backup tools.  Last week I was at a client (that's their board you can see) using TFS as the team tool.  We'd recently installed the server and had been running with it for a few weeks when the server died.  Unfortunately the hardware problem wiped out the disks, and then we learned there was a problem with the backups as well, meaning that we had nothing more recent than the original backup of the box to go back to.  Ouch!

Now in a non-story board team, that would've been a nasty little situation and might have been the death of that iteration.  Without source control and the immediate loss of the tasks and the state they were in many a team would have reverted to either cancelling the sprint or scaling back on delivery and hoping they could remember what they had committed to.  Not with this team.  This team reacted beautifully - after getting over the shock of losing their TFS server, they quickly switched to the story board as their project tool. Because they were keeping both up to date they knew exactly where they were up to and simply moved on through the rest of the iteration with only slight delays.  The teamwork and communication that they had developed when talking around the task board and sharing the work meant they were able to "inspect & adapt" to the problem with ease, and when they realised source control was gone, they rapidly worked out a means to coordinate changes with each other and got on with the task of delivering.  It was really pleasing to see, and many kudos to the team for pulling through so well.