Whiteboard versus software

This is a question that comes up from time to time when introducing Skore to new teams, “is it better to run workshops using whiteboards or software tools?”  I’d argue that it’s not a question of one versus the other, they each have their strengths, the question should really be “when should I use a whiteboard and when should I rely on technology?”

What is a workshop?

A workshop is a very powerful collaboration and innovation tool. It normally involves a group of stakeholders with different areas of experience and expertise. It takes place in an open space where  the team have room to move around and interact. It is typically facilitated by someone that helps guide the team toward reaching a desired outcome.

Workshops are used to understand problems, identify solutions and allow the key stakeholders to provide their input. The purpose of the whiteboard, or a software tool, is to help visualise the ideas under discussion and to explore them in more detail.

So how do I know what to use?

I’ve found that it depends on the stage the team is at in terms of their understanding of the issues. In the early stages of a project there’s a lot to figure out and everyone has a different point of view. This is the blank page phase where you have to get thoughts aligned. Using a whiteboard here is perfect. Thoughts are very unstructured and the freeform nature of a whiteboard allows the team to get all these thoughts visible. Once you have achieved this you will start to see relationships between the ideas and it’s this point where things start to become more concrete. (see Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin for guidance on how to visualise ideas)

This phase is where I would start to look at using a software tool. You’re starting to dig into the details, and the devil is often in the detail. At this stage the expertise of the participants really comes to the fore and conversations can be very quick and passionate. It’s important to keep these energy levels and concentration high to be most effective. The problem with manual driven workshops is that ideas come thick and fast, they get clarified and changed very quickly. It’s difficult to keep up with the flow and stopping and waiting for the facilitator to update a sticky note can sometimes be enough to distract the participants.

By the same token the software tool itself needs to be visual and quick, this is not always the case. Whether wireframing, or producing flows, a quick and easy tool is required to get the best out of the workshop. And if you can get the content directly into the tool then there’s no need to follow up later putting the content into the tool based on some poor photo you took with your tablet.

Having said all that, when I’m using a tool projected on to the wall I always have a whiteboard or flipchart available to capture additional ideas.

The bottom line is that workshops are incredibly powerful ways to collaborate and engage with different stakeholders but it’s important to use the right tool at the right time so that you can get the most value from the experience. As a rule of thumb I’d start with the whiteboard in a very early stage, as soon as ideas start to firm up and the nature of the challenge is understood then it’s probably time to switch to a laptop and projector.

We’ve designed Skore with this very much in mind. We’ve used many tools over the years, some are better than others in a live workshop environment, but they mostly rely on experienced users to get the most out of them. We wanted to create something that anyone could pickup and use to capture flows and user journeys with very little practice. 

How to choose the right software for your business

We’ve shared before a high level process for implementing software but here I thought it worthwhile spending a bit of time considering how we select the right tool in the first place.

Over the past few years we’ve worked with a number of small to medium sized business implementing new systems. In many cases they have already selected a tool and are simply asking for help getting it setup and running.

It begs the question, if they don’t have time to implement it where did they find the time to choose it?

Choosing the right software is just as important as the implementation. In fact much of the work you do during selection is required for the implementation.

Our experience demonstrates this issue as when asked to implement, without selection, we often discover too late that the new software is missing some critical feature.

Here is our high level process for selecting the right software:

click the image to view the interactive process
click the image to view the interactive process

How it works

It goes without saying that a core part of this approach is the capture of process! But only once you’ve defined the objectives, goals, benefits (perceived and real) and, importantly, budget.

These things are essential up front. They may change as you learn more about the solutions you are reviewing but you need something upfront to frame the next conversation.

Work with a number of key stakeholders to capture and understand the current process. This allows everyone to get their concerns, hopes and desires out on the table and documented. In the context of what they do and what they are trying to achieve.

You now have a heap of really useful information that will certainly make your early selection easier. You can start researching potential solutions. Simple things like budget and a rough list of requirements will help you eliminate those that are too expensive or don’t deliver your basic needs.

Getting into the detail

Now it’s time to get hands on with your shortlist. Before signing up to any trials you want to create a couple more resources. Firstly create a list of scenarios. Work with the stakeholders again to understand what are some common and not so common scenarios they deal with.

Here are some example scenarios from a software company looking to implement a support desk system.

  1. User from a small customer calls in to say they have forgotten their password
  2. User from a medium sized customer calls in to say the system is unavailable, they are upset and losing money
  3. User calls in with a question about a feature that is detailed in the help manual
  4. etc

Discuss how these things are handled today and what rules are applied. I hope you are starting to see that you are gathering lots of really useful information here and keeping a track of all the requirements the team have.

It might be worth using Kano mapping to categorise each requirement in terms of ‘must have’, ‘nice to have’ and ‘delighter’.

This list forms the basis of your comparison chart. Create a matrix with requirements down one side and the shortlisted solutions along the top.

software_selection_matrix

As you evaluate each solution against your scenarios mark each requirement with a score (1-10 typically works well) as to how well it met the requirement.

Once the evaluation is complete you can add up the scores. Don’t forget to make notes about other features you find along the way and the general experience.

Create a report

At the end you should be able to present your findings back to the team with both quantitative and qualitative analysis along with your recommendation for the product.

Explain how the solution stacks up against the original goals and objectives. It’s possible that none of the solutions fit perfectly, especially if budget is constrained. It’s up to the business owner to make the final decision.

I hope you find this useful. If you’d like any further guidance please contact us info@getskore.com.

Create Rich Interactive Procedures

In this video I take you through a demonstration of an example process and procedure portal created in Skore app.

Traditionally Skore app has been focused on process design and analysis with our view on making it as quick and easy as possible. As we worked with more and more teams they told us that creating documentation with the process information was also very important.

Once you’ve designed a great process it is only really great if your team use it. We provided tools to help create documentation such as image export and save to PDF but we really wanted to do something better.

With Skore app you can create ‘easy to read’ process flows that tell you what happens, who does it and what outcome should we expect from each step. Process flows present the steps visually which makes them easy to follow, especially if the process has choices, alternatives and branches.

On to this we can add further information, detailed descriptions, images, video, audio and links to systems and documents. This means that the procedure is no longer just a static document but provides access to all supporting information presented in a clean interactive flow diagram.

Check out our Learn pages to find out how to build Rich Interactive Procedures in Skore app.

Are you ready for the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Over the next two years all companies working with European customers will have to comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation. The legislation is designed to bring data protection into the 21st century and better protect consumers. The regulation comes into effect in 2018 so companies should be considering how well they comply with the legislation now.

This process example is based on a blog post by Rick Powles on Druva.com and steps through the key things organizations should be considering in the run up to the GDPR coming into law.

Click the image to open the interactive version of the process
Click the image to open the interactive version of the process

This process guide was created using What and Why boxes to describe the four steps. As I didn’t want to add a role to each step I cleared the role box by using a space. The heading and text are made using a Note with markdown.

Additional information is added to the attachment panel which you can access using the paperclip icon. On the first box I added a Youtube video from PwC describing GDPR. To add youtube videos simply copy the embed code provided under Share on the Youtube page and paste this into a Text attachment. You may need to experiment with the video size to make it fit into the panel.

Open the interactive procedure >>

If you’d like to try creating interactive procedures like this why not signup for our free trial on the right hand side of the page!

Idea to app in 5 steps

This example comes from a blog post by David Patterson of KnowNow Information. KnowNow help companies through the innovation process helping them to formalize and test ideas and develop those into real applications.

In this blog post David takes us through a simple 5 step approach from idea to app. We have captured the 5 steps in a Skore process as shown below.

At each step David poses one, or more, questions that must be answered before moving to the next step. We have captured those questions as attachments that can be accessed through the paperclip icons.

To open the full interactive version of the skore process click the image below.

idea_to_app_in_5_steps
Click the image to open the interactive process

My favourite sandwich

I couldn’t help this. After a meeting earlier in the week I stopped by one of my favorite fast food chains. I love to watch how well the process for making my sandwich works. It must have taken years to get this right.

I’ve watched other vendors but none have the process down so well.

So without mentioning any names, here is the process for making my favorite sandwich.

favorite_sandwich_process
Click the image to launch the interactive process

7 steps to successful decision making

From the Erik Larson article in the Harvard Business Review “A Checklist for Making Faster, Better Decisions“. This 7 step approach uses Behavioural Economics as the basis for making better decisions. It’s designed to reduce bias and is ideally suited to important strategic decision making.

After reading the article on HBR we created this simple process view with guidance notes on each step.

Click the image to open the interactive view of the process
Click the image to open the interactive view of the process

How we made this process in Skore app

This is a very simple construction. We used standard What and Why boxes to describe the process. Additional notes based on the HBR article are included in the attachment icons.

Open the interactive process.

Software Implementation

This process is used to demonstrate to customers one of the solutions we offer. We’ve been involved in many software implementations over the years, from large scale ERP through to small implementations covering 4 or 5 team members.

Skore app is a fantastic tool for capturing and analyzing requirements based on process. We focus on asking stakeholders what they do today, which is a much easier question to answer than what do you want tomorrow.

From this information we can see exactly where today’s pains are and design solutions to alleviate those pains.

We can also create value by asking the customer what measurable improvement they would like to see (e.g. reduce costs, increase revenue, improve customer experience etc). We ask “how would that work?” and design processes that make it easy to see how feasible this is.

If you’d like more information on our approach to software implementation please do get in touch. info@getskore.com

Click the image to launch the interactive process
Click the image to launch the interactive process

How the software implementation process was created

Notes boxes were used to create the header in this process. The logo is taken directly from our website and added to the note using markdown:

![Image](url_to_image)

The two chevrons are the icon called angle-double-right from the icon library and the title uses a # at the beginning of the text to create a header 1.

The two grey bars, above and below the process, are simply notes boxes with no text in them. The background has been set to grey and then stretched out across the page.

The text box at the bottom right is also a note box with a border enabled.

Click here to view the process

The Scrum Process

The scrum process is one that we see more and more often. It may go against what many agilists believe but in larger organizations, defining a process is important.

We see many versions of this same process, the words change often but the main steps are almost always the same, in the same order.

the_scrum_process

View the interactive process here

Building the scrum process

The key to this process is representing the iterative nature of scrum. In this example we show the sprint in a group containing the main iteration.

To create a group in Skore app, simply select all the items you want to include in the group and click the Group button at the bottom of the selection. In this case there wasn’t room to display the Group title at the top. Instead I left it blank and added a title at the bottom using a Note.

We also highlight the fact that most products are, or should be, driven by a strategy and the external environment. These external inputs are highlighted using icons. So the icons indicate where the process flows out of scope.

Let us know what you think.