A key point in scrum is transparency. To create transparency of the work of a team the board plays an integral part. A discussion point in multiple scrum teams I worked in was if the board should be digital or analog.

I asked myself the same question when we started doing retrospectives in my family. I would like to sum up the advantages and drawbacks of both options in this article. This should give you a good overview of what might be the better choice in your team - whether at work or at home.

Characteristics of a digital board

Right now there are many offers for digital boards available. Some of the most popular representatives that come to my mind include Trello, Pivotal Tracker and Jira.

Let's list some advantages of digital boards:

  • they are accessible from everywhere,
  • editing is usually cheap and fast,
  • there is no further material necessary,
  • there is less or no waste (think of waste paper),
  • they give you reports, tracking and user management for free.

Here are some drawbacks:

  • they might need configuration which takes (a lot of) time,
  • they might restrict your possibilities of layout and editing,
  • they might make a simple thing complex,
  • they are not directly visible to everyone.

Characteristics of an analog board

When I write analog board I mean plain paper or a white board that you can put sticky notes and paper cards on.

Let's list some advantages of analog boards:

  • you do not have to explain yet another tool,
  • they are easy to understand and setup,
  • creating, moving and trashing physical objects feels good,
  • they are directly transparent when at a prominent place and therefor a constant reminder,
  • they can be adapted to new needs easily,
  • they are visible to everyone that has access to the room.

The drawbacks?

  • you need physical space,
  • they are impracticable if the team works remote,
  • creating tasks/stories takes more time when they originate from a digital tool.

We decided on an analog board for our retrospectives because of all the positive things mentioned above. Of course, writing all the things down might take more time. However, in a retrospective this time can be very valuable as you use it to think about the sprint and recapitulate. Hence, taking your time during this event is in my opinion very important. This is not a drawback for us.

You might ask how we do retrospectives if we are on vacation or not at home. We just take the materials (which are pens and paper) with us and make photos of the outcome of the last retrospective. That's it.

What do you prefer, digital or analog? Can you come up with more advantages and disadvantages for both options? And how do you cope with the drawbacks?

Post image taken by the.Firebottle published under CC BY-SA 2.0.