Don’t forget collaboration is social

An IT pro recently told me his company had made a move to collaborative development software that allows developers to track project progress via tools including a whiteboard in which they could chart and visualize milestones.


Having such a whiteboard, he said, allowed for better management of the many individual projects on the go, resource allocation across teams, view progress and note challenges. The surprise was that the agile software didn’t succeed in replacing the manually process of charting and visualizing on a physical whiteboard. Instead, developers still preferred to sit around in groups and work off a whiteboard, then someone would be assigned the scribe to enter all that they’d discussed in the software. He told me that ultimately the software got populated with data so that reports could be produced on project milestones.


There’s a lot of noise currently in the industry regarding collaboration tools that help teams work more productively remotely in real-time. But the example of the developers who continued to prefer the social aspect of physical whiteboards raises the question of how well collaborative software can really ever replace the traditional form of team work.


Sure, collaborative software works very well for remote teams for its ability to connect distributed workers who physically cannot be in the same room. But if individual team members working in the same building have the choice between whiteboarding alone on a PC, or assembling as a group around a real whiteboard, I don’t think the choice would be a difficult one.


Read more: 20 free & low-cost online collaboration tools


Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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