Retrospectives in Distributed Teams - Requirements for a Tool


#1

After running several evaluations of tools, which are supposed to be used for retrospectives in distributed teams, I wonder if anyone is aware of the requirements for an adequate tool.

ScatterSpoke www.scatterspoke.com
GroupMap www.groupmap.com
RealtimeBoard realtimeboard.com
Retromat plans-for-retrospectives.com
Trello trello.com
Lean Coffee Table www.leancoffeetable.com
Conteneo Weave weave.conteneo.co
Sensei Tool www.senseitool.com
IdeaBoardz www.ideaboardz.com

Each of the tool seems to miss at least one of the central aspects:

Is this list so specific?

The otherway round: What else would be key for a simple, but good tool, so it would be worthwhile having it implemented?


#2

Did you do a matrix eval of the above offerings against your criteria?

Would be an interesting view.

Also how do you weight the criteria?

I’ve used a couple on your list and have my fav.

And we do have @Colleen here who’s the force behind scatter spoke.


#3

@mmitterdorfer did an evaluation of all of these tools. None of them meets all of the criteria.

Groupmap is currently our favorite, but it is quite expensive compared to the functionality.

To me the criteria listed are all essential to perform different kind of retrospectives. That’s why I was looking for get it developed.

It would be interesting to hear from @Colleen what it would need to bring ScatterSpoke to the stage to all of these features implemented. As far as I can see the limited possibility to maintain different kind of lists for different retrospective (like Starfish or Motorboat) is the main limitation.


#4

GroupMap is also at the top of my list.

I find it flexible enough. No timer, but that’s easily overcome.

Biggest gap I have w GroupMap, which ScatterSpoke covers, is the ability to “carry over” action items from retro to retro… my workaround has been to create tickets in the backlog… which makes it easy to account for them as part of sprint work, and review at the conclusion of a sprint.


#5

We just use google sheets and adapt to each team as needed, I’ve never been convinced that anything fancier is worth the learning curve or cost.


#6

Retrium is missing from the list. https://www.retrium.com/. I haven’t used, but have seen demos. It currently features 4 primary techniques (Mad-Sad-Glad / Stop-Start-Continue / 4Ls / Lean Coffee), with more in their backlog.

I believe it covers @hdietrich’s bullet list, though as noted the options for variation are limited.


#7

You’re right, I missed out retrium.com for some reason.

And yes, for me the variations are too limited. I am even not sure if I would like to call different column names variations.


#8

This is a great list of what users are looking for @hedietrich You are right in saying that adding column names is a weak substitution for the more visual based formats. We will be launching a new version of ScatterSpoke in the new year that will offer a way to pre-load more formats (and have unlimited columns) but I would love to hear feed back from you (and others!) on how to we can make this work. Would splitting the board by rows (rather than columns) with the image in the background be an option?


#9

For those truly interested in Retrospectives, World Retrospective Day is Tuesday Feb 6th 2018

http://WorldRetroDay.com

Local User Group AgilePhilly.com will be having a virtual discussion on Retrospectives at noon on Feb 6th on our Slack channel. So think about having similar activities in your own city on Feb 6th.


#10

@Colleen Thanks for showing interest in my concerns!

When talking about flexible formats for retrospectives, I can see two ways forward: a) list based view or b) board based view.

List based formats are more easy to handle (especially for multi-user edits), can be stored and exported, and thereby will allow integration with other tools. As far as I have seen groupmap.com is quite good in maintaining various kinds of list views. It could serve as a blueprint for your plans.

Board based views allow a graphical view with flexible placement. Grouping and assigning entries to a topic is happening visually, so items could be placed between “buckets”, which can be nice, as it offers additional options, or can be devasting, as this fuzzy logic cannot be exported or exchanged. realtimeboard.com gives an example of this kind of working.

To be honest, I do hard to say which approach I would prefer. Lists can be backed up by a visual representation, but it will not be the same like working on a board. On the other hand side multiuser interactions on a virtual board can be quite confusing, as there is no replacement for the interactions in front of a board, having people watching each other and managing access to the board amongst them.

Thereby I would be interested in the opinion and experience of others as well.


#11

+1

The challenge is how to “replicate” that for a Distributed Team…

All the spoils to the one who solves for that :slight_smile:


#12

Yeah - putting the user experience in the center of a tool is key for the tool!

I would guess it requires a lot of experimentation to come up with a retro tool, which works in a similar manner as a board for a collocated team.


#13

One of the challenges I face with distributed teams is around enabling all modes of communication.

When “in the same room,” there are so many more signals available than when everyone is virtual.

Body language, eye contact, non-verbal gestures, position in the space.

How are those who facilitate distributed- or hybrid-team retro’s approaching those types of issues?


#14

Hi Colleen. I found ScatterSpoke.com here on the site and introduced it to the Scrum Master team I’m on at my work. It’s been a great addition for those of us that have distributed teams. Thanks so much!!! While I agree it would be amazing to be able to switch up the method to generate insights I think we as users have to balance those types of requests with our needs for a free tool.


#15

@hdietrich - Have you seen: https://remoteretro.org/ ?

The beta is live, and the code is open-source and available at https://github.com/stride-nyc/remote_retro.

Haven’t tried it myself, but just came across it via StrideNYC


#16

Thanks for the tip! I haven’t used it either but I just signed in for the first time and it was pretty user friendly on my iPhone which was a big plus. After the holidays I’m going to take a closer look and I’ll be interested to see if you can make changes to the method of generating insights through the UI or if you have to pull down the code. Happy Holidays!!!


#17

Hey all! Saw some inbounds to remoteretro.org from this thread, and had to check it out. (Full, upfront disclosure: I’m the product owner and lead developer on RemoteRetro.) I’d never heard of some of the tools found above, and, in particular, I can imagine leveraging LeanCoffeeTable for our Lean Coffees as we grow.

Regarding RemoteRetro, just want to let you know that we’re in active, open-source development, and we’d love any product feedback you might have on the tool!

Looking forward,
Travis Vander Hoop


#18

I am pleased to know that you are part of this community as well, @Travis_VanderHoop!

I know that I will not come around to find a working solution for inspiring retrospectives in remote teams. Having you and the others in here makes me start to believe that there is a track I can follow.


#19

Hello all,

A fellow agilist referred me to this thread. I’m am deeply curious to hear your requirements for a remote team retro tool because I am also building one. I am co-founder of Instant Agenda (http://instantagenda.com).

We don’t currently offer a dedicated retrospective meeting type, but we’d like to add that. We do have a lot of Agile teams using our Collaborative meeting style to run retros. It is essentially Lean Coffee approach on steroids. I’d be curious to hear any feedback on our product specifically, but generally more interested in general suggestions for retrospectives.

Thanks all!


#20

I’ve had some experience with these tools. I can say that the tools like Ideaflip or RealtimeBoard seem pretty neat. Their main disadvantage is the price. Instead, I have been using Google Drawings in my teams for 2+ years by now. Yep, this is something unexpected. But to be honest, I find it much more fit for purpose than any existing tool that was specifically designed for retros (e.g. Retrium, sorry, guys).

Pros:

  • Free
  • Total freedom for a facilitator - any technic or format can be used since it’s just a drawing tool (that’s a huge requirement for me that the tools like Retrium are missing, at least today)
  • Stable concurrent editing

Cons:

  • UI is not perfectly smooth and it was not designed for the task
  • No specific features like roles, voting, hiding sticky notes, etc.

To me, the pros still outweigh the cons and to work the cons around I’ve built a toolkit for my own use which I’ve published a while ago.

I have a blog post on this very topic where I explain in detail my choice for tools and the principles that I put behind it. In my experience, with the right approach, an online meeting can be pretty effective.

Details are in the post so feel free to follow the link, but in short, here’s my approach:

Foundational principle:

  • Keep it as close to physical experience as possible.

Supportive principles:

  • Use a webcam.
  • Everyone joins remotely.
  • Discuss in pairs.
  • Use a virtual whiteboard.

Tools:

  • Zoom/Google Hangouts
  • Google Drawings
  • Kiryl’s Facilitation Toolkit (get it from my website) - sorry for the blunt plug, but I thought if you want to use Google Drawing, I could share the templates I created over time and used myself. This will save many people a lot of time. Plus, I try to put some tips on running meetings there so that it provides some educational value on top of it.

Distributed retrospectives?