Argus Software is a product built to help those in the commercial real estate industry. It provides visibility and optimizes the flow of information to help the appraisal and evaluation of properties. They work with owners, managers, financial institutions, and more, to help them make timely and accurate investment decisions.
By Niki Kohari, Retrium COO
You have to like connecting with a customer for the first time and having “We Love Retrium” be the first phrase that comes out of their mouth. That always feels awesome! The excitement that our customers have for our company makes these stories a joy to write because it’s obvious that we solve a real pain point, like the one outlined here.
It wasn’t just the product, but also our customer service, that sold Mohamed on the app. We worked together early in the sales process to meet their unique needs and provide them with a retrospective history to ensure they could look back on their previous meetings with ease.
The Common Problem with Distributed Retrospectives
If you’ve ever worked on a distributed team or worked remotely even once, you know that meetings can be a huge drag. Even with the best of intentions of following along with what’s happening, it’s easy to get lost and disengaged, feeling like your voice isn’t going to be truly heard. Even when you want to speak up, there’s an awkward delay that can make you question whether it’s really worth it to interrupt the conversation and share your perspective or if it makes more sense to stay silent and just listen (or maybe work on something else).
That’s not exactly a situation well-suited for open and sometimes difficult discussions like retrospectives.
The lack of participation in distributed retrospectives comes up all the time with potential Retrium customers. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons we hear for why people needed a solution for the lack of “voice” in their teams. Regardless of whether a team is distributed or co-located, our customers can tell when silence is taking over, and this ultimately leads them to look a better way to get people engaged in retrospectives, and that leads them to Retrium.
As a leader, Agile coach, or ScrumMaster, it’s a huge concern to have low engagement and participation because you never know if you’re getting to root causes or the most important topics for discussion. You miss opportunities for performance improvement, innovation, and learning. That said, Argus Software’s story is one we hear echoed in many of our customers.
The team at Argus Software implemented Scrum about two years ago. The three Scrum teams that use Retrium all work on one product line and are spread across four locations. The teams are located in Houston, London, Aurora (Ontario, Canada), and each works with a team in India responsible for QA.
So, of course, with distributed teams comes distributed retrospectives, since retrospectives are such a common agile practice. (Retrospectives are among the top 5 agile practices, used by 83% of agile teams, according to the 11th Annual State of Agile Report by VersionOne.)
Before using Retrium, most participants dialed in via phone for the meeting, while Mohamed facilitated from the Aurora office where he would gather ideas on sticky notes. Week-after-week though, the phone lines were quiet, and Mohamed knew this was going to present an issue in the long-term if people weren’t fully engaged in the conversation.
He started paying close attention to who spoke up and who didn’t and found that only a small number of people were really participating in the retrospectives, a common problem that many ScrumMasters and Agile coaches can relate to.
“Before using Retrium, we had a 20% participation rate in our retrospectives. People on the phone weren’t speaking up, so we looked for a product to help us engage everyone on the team. Since using Retrium, I haven’t seen a retrospective that wasn’t close to 100% participation, and that’s what I want to see as a ScrumMaster.”
As the ScrumMaster, Mohamed’s goals for retrospectives are to have full participation and to create an environment of psychological safety and trust. Because he didn’t feel right about calling on people to share their thoughts
Retrium Engages Everyone on the Team
After doing a lot of research on distributed retrospectives and best practices, Mohamed came across an article that recommended Retrium as the must-have tool for teams like his. He signed up that day and convinced his manager that the team should use one of
During this first retrospective, they used the 4Ls technique with great results. Everyone in the meeting put something down as a possible topic for discussion, a complete change in participation from previous retrospectives!
He got so much positive feedback from his team and other stakeholders, that he convinced other teams to try Retrium too. Those teams were also immediately convinced that Retrium increased engagement and brought about better insights that would help create continuous improvement; they too wanted to continue using Retrium for all their retrospectives.
These first few retrospectives in Retrium were not anomalies. The teams still use Retrium at the end of each three-week sprint and still have nearly 100% participation. That’s a huge change from where they were before!
Yes, You Can Have Fun at Work
So, why the significant increase in participation and valuable insights while using Retrium? Mohamed tells me that their retrospectives are just more fun for everyone involved. Not only do we offer multiple techniques to keep things interesting, but for the team at Argus, they enjoy the feeling of all being in the same team room together. That feeling of connectedness can create trust, so people are just more willing to give feedback when using Retrium. It really brings the team together in a way that no other tool can do.
Mohamed also noted that retrospectives feel more decentralized, so one person isn’t the focus of the conversation. Everyone’s voice is truly equal, a condition that motivates people to share their perspectives without fear. Additionally, retrospectives are anonymous in Retrium. You can’t recognize people’s handwriting or see them add a sticky note to the whiteboard, so the feedback is anonymous. This makes people feel more open to sharing their unique perspective, especially the quieter ones in the group.
Retrium creates the engagement they want at Argus Software with the psychological safety they need to keep the conversations focused on the most important issues.
Why Mohamed Loves Retrium
Even though it was an immediate “yes” from the team to use Retrium and they “loved it”, there were some requirements they needed from the product before they could move forward with a purchase, which Mohamed characterized as “corporate things”. We worked closely with them to understand exactly what they needed, and we were able to find something that worked for them.
We really love partnering with customers and solving their problems related to retrospectives! This really sold Mohamed on the value of Retrium as a true partner for their organization, not just a tool.
“I really appreciated your willingness to work with us on the customer service side. You were patient and understanding, which is rare when you work with a company today. Even recently, I reported a bug and got a response back really quickly, so I know you really care about your customers.”
Mohamed’s Favorite Technique
While he does like to mix up the techniques to keep it interesting, he really likes the 4Ls. Because it has information about what people learned and what they longed for, it taps into both the logical and emotional areas for discussion that are likely to come up in a retrospective. It can give you more of a holistic perspective of how the team is doing.
Mohamed’s Favorite Features
“I love the tool in general because it’s awesome for distributed teams. The fact that there’s a phased approach is excellent because it really mimics the way that the process would work if we were all physically in the same room. That flow makes the tool easy to use and understand.”
Of course, I did try to get him down to one feature from that glowing endorsement. If Mohamed had to pick one feature that he liked the most, he would pick voting because the tool puts the discussion topics in order automatically based on the votes. Teams always waste more time here in the meeting than they might think.
For Mohamed, he always knows that the most important topics show up at the beginning, so they can ensure they talk about the right things. He also noted that it was nice not to have to go around and re-order physical sticky notes because you inevitably have to pick a few (non-sticky) notes off the floor.
Lastly, he mentioned that he really loved having the action items right there because they could be sure to create tasks right away and update the status as things change. Following through on the feedback collected in retrospectives is critical for continuous improvement, so Retrium makes it easy to write down and check off tasks as you finish them.