Yesterday I gave 5 reasons why physical boards are better than electronic boards.
But could an electronic board be better than a physical board? Sure.
Here are five reasons why:
- Collaborate with distributed teams: Lets face it. A large number of teams are globally distributed. Either the teams are split between locations, or there are multiple teams in different locations, or the management, stakeholders or customer is not co-located, or some team members sometimes work from home. Every which way, there are some people who need to know whats happening who aren’t going to be in the proximity of the physical board. Electronic boards are accessible from anywhere, giving remote teams and stakeholders the visibility needed to collaborate effectively.
- Ease of modification: This is a funny one, because we tend to assume that its easier to modify a physical board. Actually, it can be a lot easier to change the structure of an electronic board. Want to add a column to your physical board? You’ll need to take down all the cards in that area of the board. Then peel off the existing column markers. Stick new column markers. If you are running out of space, then create some space by reducing the width of the adjacent columns. Finally stick back all the cards you took out. Keep aside 30-60 minutes to do this. With an electronic board, you just go to the board configuration screen, add the column and you’re done.
- You never run out of wall space: Unless you are lucky enough to have a large section of wall available, chances are that you have limited wall space. This is even more true if there are two or three teams competing for the space. If you are on a big project with lots of cards, its easy for the board to get cluttered – cards overlapping one another, cutting across column boundaries, falling behind tables. And once that happens, you lose the benefits of visualisation. The second problem is if you need to make the cards too small, then you have to get really close to read them. And if you make them bigger, then you need more wall space. An additional downside is that you also need to stand further back to see the whole board, so you need sufficient depth in the room. It’s very hard to find that balance of being able to see the whole board at once, and yet being able to read all the cards. With electronic boards, this is not an issue. You have infinite wall space, its easy to quickly zoom in and out and its quite practical to be able to view the whole board and still be able to read all the cards.
- Eliminate overheads: With physical boards, you need to spend a lot of time doing low value clerical work. Want to generate a burndown or cumulative flow graph? You’ll need to spend 15 mins a day counting up the cards and plotting it on a chart. Need to calculate lead time or throughput? More manual work. Management needs status reports daily? Still more work to get to the board and make notes and send an email. Every day!! Even if you only spend an hour a day on this low value work, thats 12.5% of your time. If you are a project manager earning $10K a month, then it means the organization is spending $1250 per month to do this counting work. An electronic tool will do all of this automatically – collecting metrics, making graphs and emailing reports – leaving you free to do more important high value work, like delivering that project.
- Go beyond a single team: Physical boards are okay for single teams, but when you go beyond a team then the physical board does not have the context. Want to see the flow of work across multiple teams involved in delivery? You’re out of luck. Want to update the backlog everyday with support tickets filed by customers online? Out of luck again. You have to sit and manually copy the tickets from the ticket system and put them on cards. When data is stored electronically, you can write scripts to process and manipulate the data automatically as per your needs. For example, you can use APIs to automatically pull in data from multiple boards and display it in a particular visualisation. Or to synchronize support tickets with the backlog. The possibilities are endless.
So there you have it. Five reasons why electronic boards are better than physical boards. Comments?