Ubiquitous Visualisation

Posted on April 12th, 2013 in Visual Management by siddharta || 2 Comments

One of the really nice things about putting a chart on the wall is the subconcious way in which everyone knows whats going on in the team. I already blogged about why visualisation is the key to being agile. I’ll just summarise that post here. Click the link if you want to read the whole post:

  • Donald Gray’s experiment on three leadership systems shows that in complex systems, decentralised decision making within a framework is superior to centralised decision making.
  • In order to make decisions, team members need to have, and understand, the current context in which they are working.
  • David McCandles’ TED talk shows how our brain has evolved to process visual information. We can easily understand a picture in under 100 milliseconds, while it takes a few seconds to get the answer to a mathematical calculation like 13 x 24 x 3.

In short, if you want to really be agile, you’ll need to put some amount of decision making with the team. When you do that, the team will need to know everything that is happening, so that they can make informed decisions. And the fastest way to do that is by putting a chart on the wall and visualising the state of the work.

Charts on the wall are good, but they have a very serious shortcoming – you have to be physically present to view them. This is a problem if you have distributed teams, team members who work from home or stakeholders who are away from the team. Electronic tools can solve the problem of distribution, but they have a problem of their own – they aren’t visible enough. Lets face it, very few team members actually log in to the tool and check things out. They have their own work to complete and its simply not as easy as lifting your head once in a while and subconsciously seeing how things are going.

You can now consider that problem solved

As you can see in the photo above (click the image to view a higher resolution version), Tools For Agile makes it possible to replicate the behaviour of a physical chart by using a large screen and placing it in the middle of the team room. A screen in this configuration is visible from right across the room. The way colour and patterns are used in Tools For Agile makes it easy to understand whats going on when walking in and out of the room. Even from this distance across the room, you can easily see the different coloured cards, and the blocked card with a red outline in column 3. And this is when viewing a scaled down image – when you are physically in the room, everything is a lot bigger, so you can imagine what it is like.

This not only gives you the visibility that physical boards give, but also the advantages of electronic tools, like electronic tracking, supporting distributed teams, and team members who work from home or on the go.

Ubiquitous Visualisation

The image above shows Tools For Agile running on a laptop, tablet and a phone.

What is important to note is that the tablet and phone versions are not “apps”. This is the full board being shown on the device, so you get the full visualisation on all devices, not a stripped down task list in an app.

Unlike a physical board, you are not restricted to one display with Tools For Agile. Got multiple teams? Put one display in each team room. Or how about making boards visible on the go via a tablet or a smartphone?

But you don’t have to stop there. Because Tools For Agile renders the full board across devices, you can actually do things that you never do with physical boards, for example having a large television in the team rooms and small displays in the conference room with all the boards from all teams on that floor.

The technology driving ubiquitous visualisation

Ubiquitous visualisation depends on two critical pieces of technology: Autoscaling and real time synchronisation.

Autoscaling is simply scaling the size of the cards and the board to fit the horizontal resolution of the display. It is what allows us to display the full board on all devices across multiple resolutions from large screen televisions to small smartphone displays. Without autoscaling, the board will go off the right edge of the screen on low resolution displays forcing you to scroll right to view it, and high resolution displays will have empty space as the board does not occupy the whole width (making it harder to view from across the room). With autoscaling, you can see the whole board on all devices.

Real time sync is actually pretty cool, so take a look at the video below to see it in action (view it in full screen).

Without real time sync, you are always looking at outdated information on the screen. With real time sync all your boards across all locations and all devices are showing live status.

Traditionally electronic tools have been invisible, depending on the motivation of someone to keep going into the tool and updating themselves on the status of the work. Ubiquitous visualisation though Tools For Agile takes that and makes it visible, putting it on the team room, across locations and devices.

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2 Responses to “Ubiquitous Visualisation”

  1. Masa K Maeda Says:

    I heard about Autoscaling and Real-time synch from Sidddharta Govindaraj at the Agile India 2013 Conference. I was thrilled to know Tools for Agile managed to have those features out. Now that I got to see it I have to say, they are way cool and definitely a great way to keep non-colocated teams that are particularly on the go able to work better virtually anywhere.

    Great job guys!

  2. siddharta Says:

    Thanks Masa

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