Physical kanban boards are paramount to visualize the workflow of any company and engage people in managing it. Digital tools allow for remote work and for data crunching. A few months ago I asked myself: can we get the best of these two worlds?
It is now a few months that I joined Onebip, a mobile payment company. My main occupation here is to streamline the organisation to maximise its value stream, making sure we attack each bottleneck. Sometimes it comes to polishing the system deployment procedures, sometimes it is about making benefits and risks more visible to company’s strategists and sometimes it is about shaping the right (mix of) tools to serve the whole team needs.
People let uncomfortable tools down
When I arrived in Onebip everyone was nostalgic about the old kanban board. No one was truly using it anymore for a few important reasons: a part of the team is remotely located across Italy and Europe and some key managers wanted visibility on some metrics. The old index-cards-based kanban board was very good and appreciated by the team, but it was lacking the chance to be used and seen by remote teammates. It also allowed for no chance of computing the required metrics according to the team’s availability of time to compute them. These requirements left unfulfilled, the kanban board had grown used by just a part of the team, left out of the central role a kanban board should play:
- a central meeting point for conversations, where people only talk about what is truly happening
- an information radiator, capable of intruding in the peripheral view of people when bad patterns arise
- a very usable tool which is a pleasure to use for everyone involved in those conversations
Digital is good and bad
I have already had my experiences with digital tools. They may be powerful but are dangerous too:
- usually they propose you their way, instead of letting the team grow and forge its own tools
- they don’t provide any muscular memory, giving people a very cheap way to just click and then let go
- they are buried behind a browser window as long as you don’t click a few clicks to unveil their content
All in all they just miss a key point: they don’t become the totem of the community of people also known as ‘the company’.
One board to rule them all
We needed something to bring tasks front-center in our conversations, to engage people physically, to make flow visible to friends in Belgrade, Rome or Istanbul. I proposed to use:
- Kanbanize, easy to customise, letting users veeeeery free to shape the board’s layout
- an Epson EB-475Wi anamorphic interactive video projector which allows for people to gather around the screen projecting no annoying shadow
- an HD Logitech webcam to reproduce telepresence
I had to put some extra care about Kanbanize CSS layout because the standard one was overloaded of commands that don’t favour a totemical conversations. I went for Stylebot, to just hide any exceeding DOM element and fine tune font size.
That’s it. As you may see in the video, now the whole company has its own powerful augmented real totem to drive its conversation.
If you are curious about other details or just to share your thoughts, feel free to comment here below or tweet me your comments through @jacoporomei. Ciao!
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Is it possible to run a stand-up meeting from two sites if both have the same unit. Since both units are manipulating the same Kanbanize website, it seems that this should work. If one uses the marking capabilities in Belgrade to “write” on the board, can those in “Istanbul” see the annotations as well? In other words, can two projector units be setup to mirror each other?