Inspiration

During this pandemic many companies urged their employees to work from home as a security measure. For many co-located teams, the main challenge was carrying out their day-to-day processes in a remote way, including the four scrum ceremonies: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

These Scrum ceremonies are at the center of Agile development; and retrospective meetings in particular enable teams to uncover insights collaboratively and decide on action items to improve. They are very valuable as they provide a safe space for teams to reflect on their efforts and propose actions to help them reach continuous improvement.

However, running retrospective sessions in a remote way can be quite challenging, as video calls tend to run long and there is no way to avoid bias and groupthink if everyone is taking turns to share their ideas.

As a distributed Agile team ourselves, we’ve always experienced this challenge, which is why we embarked on a journey to create tools to aid remote teams to run their Scrum ceremonies as collaboratively and dynamically as possible inside their favorite platforms.

Monday is an amazing tool for teams to collaborate and share the progress of their tasks and activities. Through our Retrospectives app, we want to empower Agile teams that use Monday as their project management tool and help them reach continuous improvement and increase teams’ accountability while running engaging retrospectives!

What it does

Retrospectives app for Monday helps teams run their retrospective scrum ceremony to share insights about their sprint collaboratively and agree on action items to be worked on. This app will empower teams to achieve continuous improvement while fostering better synergy and commitment across the team to ensure better future outcomes.

The app allows teams to set up their retrospective meeting by defining a retrospective format that works best for them and even variate it over time to have more dynamic sessions; they can also set voting preferences.

In the app’s dashboard users will be able to see their complete retrospectives history and prepare for upcoming sessions. When creating a new retrospective session, Agile Retrospectives for Monday lets you invite teammates to join a retrospective session that consists of 3 steps:

Think step

During this step, everyone will be able to share ideas and feedback about the sprint avoiding groupthink or bias, as they will not be able to see other participants’ ideas until the next step. No need to take turns to share ideas!

The retrospective can happen either real-time or asynchronously, depending on the teams’ preference.

Voting step

This step consists on each participant voting for the topics they consider more relevant. The point is to prioritize the discussion taking place in the next step.

Discuss step

During the discussion step, the team can share more insights about their ideas, starting from the most voted and set up action items together. This is the most important step of the session, as the team will work on defining the improvements needed to increase their performance.

Once the retrospective is finished, the team can see a summary of all the topics that were discussed, as well as all the action items generated. They can mark action items as done and keep track of the work that is still pending.

After the team has created their action items they can convert them to Monday items. The purpose is to enable them to add these action items to their daily workflow, assign them an owner, and make sure they get done.

Problem it solves

Retrospective meetings help teams to communicate and take actions about any element that needs to be improved. This solution will help teams adapt to a distributed or remote collaboration for retrospective sessions. Although retrospectives are more commonly used among software development teams, this app will provide a lot of value to any type of team who wishes to reflect on past efforts and improve!

Problems that Agile Retrospectives for Monday solves:

  • Teams can have a hard time adapting their internal processes with remote collaboration.

  • Long retrospectives through video calls can reduce participants’ engagement.

  • Taking turns to share ideas through calls increases bias and groupthink.

  • Video meetings require the Scrum Master to take notes about all topics and action items generated.

  • If not properly documented, teams can lose track of action items generated and pending, reducing accountability.

Benefits for teams using Agile Retrospectives for Monday:

  • Real-time or asynchronous collaboration.

  • Increased transparency and visibility.

  • Tracking progress of action items is easy and available for everyone in the team.

  • Improved accountability and follow-up through converting action items into Monday items and assigning them an owner.

  • Fully customizable & engaging retrospective sessions.

  • Keeping a full history of all the retrospectives run by the team and the agreements made to reach continuous improvement.

How we built it

We developed the Agile Retrospectives app based on Monday’s SDK. We used express.js and React.js to provide a better user experience. We used Heroku as our hosting provider and Bitbucket pipelines to provide continuous integration for our app development. Our data base is managed through Atlas Mongo DB.

During our product development cycle we used Monday.com with two goals in mind. First, to learn more about the platform’s functionalities, and second, to plan and execute our sprint.

We love that Monday is all about friendly UI and being very easy to use, so we worked on applying the same principles to our app so users can have a cohesive user experience through and through.

Challenges we ran into

Real-time communication

Ensuring our retrospectives are real-time is crucial for us, to make sure teams can collaborate without any hiccups. For this, we used Firebase real-time database. This was challenging at first, because we had to manage the connection of every user and handle the synchronization of session data (joining a session, disconnecting, adding ideas, voting, adding action items, etc) for every retrospective session. Having never used Firebase, we had to quickly learn how to use it and integrate it to the project.

Learn GraphQL in a short time We had never used GraphQL. Fortunately, Monday's documentation was very informative and includes a sandbox, which we used to carry out our tests and then integrate it to the project.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are very happy with our submission because we were able to build a first version that includes most of the core functionality that we had planned for the product. Also, we were able to build a landing page that showcases the app's features.

We are proud of learning how to use Monday's SDK. As of now we have used Monday's API to create notifications, board items, get context, etc. We plan to use more of the SDK's functionalities on our future sprints.

The whole team was very engaged and we're excited to see the result of our hard work. We truly believe this app will make many remote teams happy!

What we learned

It was a very interesting project to work on and we took away 4 key things from it:

  • Minification of React components and integration with Atlaskit
  • How to develop apps for Monday using their SDK. The development team was very happy because it was very concise and simple to use.
  • Learned more about Monday’s functionalities
  • How to use GraphQL

What's next for Agile Retrospectives for Monday

Winning this hackathon would give us the opportunity to launch our first product in Monday’s marketplace to broaden our Agile Retrospectives app market reach. It would also help us to learn more about Monday’s opportunities to continue building solutions that will add value to their customers.

Our new app will be launched to production after this hackathon, so we’re very excited to learn more about our first users’ feedback and needs to guide our roadmap. We want to make sure we provide a tool that will be of great value for them and help them make the best out of their retrospective meetings!

These are some of the features that we currently have on our roadmap:

Anonymous mode

Allow teams to select the anonymous mode sin the setup, so the author of each idea is not displayed. This is very valuable so team mates can feel comfortable sharing feedback, or whenever there are difficult topics being discussed.

Grouping step

After the Think step, we plan to add a Grouping step in which teams can group together ideas and insights that are similar.

Having several default Retrospective techniques to choose from

While setting up a retrospective, we will provide several retrospective techniques as options so teams can select the one they prefer. Examples: Start, Stop, Continue – 4 L’s - KALM – Mad, Sad, Glad, and more!)

Timeboxing retrospectives

We will enable the Moderator to assign a timebox for the session and its steps.

Besides the features above, we will also be working on our architecture to make sure we can ensure a stable performance of the app for retrospectives with a large number of participants (30+).

Demo

Try the app now! https://retrospectives-for-monday.herokuapp.com/

Video demo (2 minutes): https://youtu.be/iTW-vfZiuyg

Full-lenght video demo of the app (9 minutes): https://youtu.be/9Mo1kbRFwdI

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