"Replacing" the Face-to-Face Planning Session

A lot of what I do is planning, problem-solving, and getting information out of people’s heads to craft it into a masterpiece of a plan, proposal, or solution.

I’m now facing the need to do current-state, future-state, and gap workshops virtually!

I will never be able to replace the in-person session – the energy, body language, and idea flow that happens when I lock people in a conference room – hence “replacing” in quotation marks. However, I still need to complete my projects.

My planning sessions typically include storyboards, easels, and note cards or giant and regular sticky notes. Very tactile and visual. And very in-person.

So what am I going to do?

I know I’m going to use a video conferencing app to be able to video chat and share my screen. This way, I do get to see people’s faces, and they get to see what I’m creating as I’m creating it – as they would as stickies or cards go up.

Where I fall short is how to create the online visual of the sticky notes/cards. I’ve done a bit of research on tools that are out there. There are a lot of options, but I’ve boiled it down, and I think I’ve made a decision, but first – here’s what I found. (None of these are paid reviews by the way, just what I found in my afternoon search!)

Good to note here that all of the options have a sharing feature so I can share the workspace with a team.

 Visio

“Microsoft Visio is a diagramming and vector graphics application and is part of the Microsoft Office family” (thanks Wikipedia!). 

My Experience: I’ve tried using Visio for online sessions before, it’s clunky and slow. It does save time in the documentation phase, but watching someone create a Visio is worse than watching paint dry. It’s hard to keep the team engaged and ideas flowing when you are dealing with the intricacies of Visio itself.

LucidChart

“Lucidchart is a web-based proprietary platform used to allow users to collaborate on drawing, revising, and sharing charts and diagrams. “

 My Experience: Do you Visio? That’s what this looks and feels like to me. There’s lots of ability to chart and diagram. That said, Lucidchart does have better visualization templates to choose from that may look better in the end, then again, so does Visio. What am I missing here that I can’t get in Visio? I guess it is a cheaper option!

Cardsmith

“Sticky notes on a virtual whiteboard. Brainstorming online, collaborate in real-time, project management – all in one. Perfect for agile & lean teams.”

My Experience: This is a basic sticky note online app. It was quirky in chrome today, not sure if that’s normal. It did work in Edge, but I’m not a fan of the browser. That said, they do have Business Analysts and Project Planners and Managers in mind and have some pretty nifty templates.

The interface is simple. The cards (stickies) are easy to use and move around. You can create a default card so that each card you create has the same look/information. There are also built-in card managers to let you have the cards in freeform or in a tile view (all the cards are lined up perfectly for all of you OCD-er’s), and there’s also a grid function that you can use to sort the cards. I like this last one if I’m going to attempt Compression Planning remotely here soon.

With cardsmith, the cards can have images, links, to-do lists, and links as well as text.

 Pinup & Note.ly

I group these two as they are the ultra-simplified versions of sticky notes.

My Experience: You create sticky notes and can move them around, change color, etc. They look like they could be the same developers! Too basic for what I need, but could be a straightforward option for a bulletin-board replacement.

 Stormboard

“Digital sticky notes, whiteboards, and workspace for business processes”

My Experience: You know how when you go car shopping, and you find the car that has almost all the features you need, you just wish it was in a different color? That’s kind of how I feel with this Stormboard. It is very close to having all that I would want.

Integrations with other apps/software make this one the high-end model. You can add documents, images, and videos. Stickies can be combined to create Index cards. And, there’s a whiteboard function if you need to draw something out.

I didn’t try it, but they do say that it works on phones, tablets, computers, and Surface Hubs.

The kicker for me? You can assign tasks from the stickies, and you can send reports instantly. These features are definitely on my “want” list!

I tested this one with a team member, and if you share the stormboard, others can add to the board live while others are also working on it. This is a great feature for Pair & Shares or Group Breakouts.

Decision?

I’m looking at cardsmith and Stormboard, leaning more towards Stormboard, but I’m going to take some time in the next few days to keep using the free trials before I make a decision on which to use live.

I’ll let you know how it turns out!

If you’ve done a virtual planning session I’d love to hear what you used an how it turned out.

Wishing you all the best as we navigate new waters,

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