“How do I use whiteboarding for project management?” Find out in this episode of The Best Project Portfolio Management Show by Appfire.

Appfire’s own Agnes Józwiak joins Kerry O’Shea Gorgone to talk whiteboarding: what it is, how it helps agile teams plan projects, how you do it, AND how it works when your team is distributed.

About the guest

Agnes Józwiak is Product Marketing Manager for Agile Apps Category at Appfire. An experienced marketing practitioner with a demonstrated history of success in the computer software industry, she’s a big supporter of product+marketing+sales trio.

About the show

The BEST Project Portfolio Management Show by Appfire covers everything you ever wanted to know about PPM by talking with project management experts who’ve seen it all. And every episode is 10 minutes or less, so you can get back to changing the world, one project at a time.

For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

How do I use whiteboarding for project management?

Kerry:  Today we’re going to address the question how do I use whiteboarding for project management. We’re joined by Agnes Józwiak. She is part of Appfire’s team, she leads the Agile apps category. We’re going to answer all of your questions about whiteboarding and explain how it can help you, so stick around because we’ve only got 10 minutes to do it.

Agnes, thanks for joining us.

Agnes:  Thank you for having me again.

Kerry:  You can come back as many times as you’d like. We’re going to talk about how you use whiteboarding for project management. But for those who are maybe unindoctrinated or haven’t tried it, what is whiteboarding? I know most people have some idea, but what is it in the context of project management?

Agnes:  Whiteboarding is pretty much all you do with your team on a whiteboard, collaborative, where you can get together to visualize your ideas, to brainstorm, to plan and estimate. You can do it different ways to suit your team style, in real time or asynchronously, but the core of whiteboarding is cooperation. 

Kerry:  How does whiteboarding help Agile teams to plan projects? Why would you do it?

Agnes:  Having a project management tool is one thing. Having a process is another thing. But also having a tool that integrates with your project management tool and your processes natively so you can use it with your team as a part of your process is another thing. 

I think what is important is to have a whiteboarding tool that is a sort of one-stop-shop for all of your Agile activities. You have all of your Agile events and Agile ceremonies in one place, and you can gather your team where you can collaborate, exchange ideas, plan, estimate, and do what Agile teams do to deliver projects effectively.

Kerry:  The benefit of it then seems like it’s more fluid. You can change things quickly and easily, because everybody is there to weigh in and give their opinions, as opposed to you do a whole slide deck and send it to everybody and it’s done.  

Agnes:  I think it will be risky what I’d say, but slide decks are okay and they’re good for some reasons and people still use them. But whiteboarding tools allow you to put your work together and also put everybody in the same space, and the tools will let others follow you and be on the same page. Whatever I’m talking about, whatever I’m doing, we can gather and actually keep the focus on the things that we want to accomplish or discuss.

Kerry:  Walk me through an example. You’ve spent a lot of time in the software development space. What would a whiteboarding session look like in that context? 

Agnes:  We use whiteboarding for pretty all of the things software development and marketing, because we do our product presentations where we’re able to show around the live prototypes. Instead of just going to Zoom and sharing your screen, we can get everybody on a board and get that feeling of we are in the product. 

Kerry:  Like spectators can look at you whiteboarding, you mean? 

Agnes:  Absolutely, yes. In that sense, what we do is from our daily meetings where we can, for example, bring our tasks from Jira and work on them directly on the whiteboard, and then create new ones that will be automatically synchronized to Jira with no manual work afterward because we won’t have to enter those action points manually to Jira back again after the meeting. 

From a simple brainstorming session, we do loads of brainstorming sessions in marketing, we do our product management. We were releasing the website and all of the steps were planned in Whiteboards. It’s transparent, it’s very easily readable to people who are involved in the project. Obviously, we do retros.

Kerry:  Retros, like the things that you’ve completed and how did it go, that kind of stuff. 

Agnes:  Yes. How it was and how we can improve going forward.

Kerry:  You could theoretically, and I think this is probably how it started, roll an actual whiteboard into a room and write on it with a marker, or I’ve seen people put sticky notes up on a wall and move them around, but then you have to actually enter stuff into your project management software, into your Jira or into your Confluence or whatever.

Agnes:  And that’s painful. 

Kerry:  Right. Yes. If your team is distributed and you can’t (even if you wanted to) get into a room with sticky notes and a wall, this is what Whiteboards as an app does, as opposed to whiteboards in general.

Agnes:  Absolutely. Yes, because we’re talking about whiteboarding and Whiteboards as an app. Yes, indeed Whiteboards is the application that will let you add sticky notes, write notes. Sticky notes can be converted into action items fed into your Jira. We can prioritize. 

The outcome of our work is there, we don’t have to go any further to make notes. Obviously, there was always a person making notes after the meeting. It’s all done. We’re working on some cool features going forward. 

Kerry:  You don’t have to take a picture of a bunch of sticky notes on a wall anymore.

Agnes:  That’s true. Or rewrite them to your Jira.

Kerry:  Do people still do it, though? I feel like they still do it. Do people still take pictures of a board that they made and put it in there without integrating it? 

Agnes:  Yes. As much as people do print out slide decks. 

Kerry:  I get it. For the people who are still doing that, taking pictures of a whiteboard and then putting it into their Jira or their Confluence or something, you don’t have to do that anymore. There are other ways that will make it faster that connect up the things you did. 

If you do it in Whiteboards the app, as opposed to on a wall with stickies, everything you put down is the equivalent of a Post-It Note, but you’re doing it in Whiteboards, that connects directly up to your issues and your tasks and stuff.

Agnes:  Yes. You can convert it to an issue that will land in your Jira project. Absolutely. 

Kerry:  Do you have to assign it, though? How much can you build into Whiteboards I guess is what I’m saying, the information you can populate in them before it goes over?

Agnes:  Pretty much everything that you can think of when it comes to issues. You can add dependencies, assignees, due date, story points, after you estimate those issues, stories, or tasks. Dependencies, you can actually turn stickies into an Epic and then show corresponding tasks within that Epic. You can bring all of the backlog onto your whiteboard. That integration is just a core, but also we have so many powered tools to support that collaboration for distributed teams. 

Kerry:  Do you have to be collaborating at the same time or can you do it asynchronously, or do parts of it? 

Agnes:  Either way. Like I said, the whiteboarding tool you use has to be flexible so you can match it to your needs. Your team might be working together on a project, but there are times that you work asynchronously that you might want to just do a brain dump on your whiteboard and then get your team or prepare before the meeting. You can do it in Whiteboard and then bring your people in and continue brainstorming collaboration. 

Most of all, whiteboards allow you to run all of your Agile activities. From simple ice breakers to risk analysis, planning estimation, user story mapping, and all of the events that you could think of to support your project management. We have selected templates that will help you start not with a blank whiteboard but with a pretty fine set in your whiteboard.

Kerry:  So, depending on what you want to do, it’s pretty easy to figure it out and get started. 

I was just thinking of you and me. I’m in Nashville, Tennessee and you’re in Poland. There are going to be times that your day starts obviously a lot earlier than mine. I get up and you’ve already been at it for hours. That makes sense what you’re saying. Unlike having to get in a conference room and all write stickies at the same time, you can actually start a little bit earlier.

Agnes:  Yes.

Kerry:  Agnes, thanks for coming by. This has been fun. I want to go try out Whiteboards. 

Whiteboards is free for teams of 10 and under, so check it out at Appfire.com, where you can also find more episodes of this fine program, The Best Project Portfolio Management Show by Appfire. 

Last updated: 2023-01-24

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