Sococo is an online workplace for distributed Agile teams. They make it easy for self-organizing teams to have meetings on the fly by recreating the personal proximity and functionality of an office, yet in an online experience.
By Niki Kohari, Retrium COO
Have you ever met a customer that got you even more excited about working at your company then you already were? For me that person is Mandy Ross, the Director of Community and Agile Coach at Sococo (and self-described Retrium fangirl). Before we got into our discussion, she started by telling me that Retrium was "the best product on the whole planet," so I knew that was going to make for a fun and insightful customer interview!
Working at Sococo, it's not surprising that Mandy is a huge proponent of distributed teams, since the company is all about making remote work possible. Mandy has worked on a distributed team since 2005, when she moved from Silicon Valley to a smaller town in Oregon. Still wanting to work in technology, she ended up flying around the world a lot in the early years because products that support the distributed workforce just weren't up to par yet. That a lot of work!
Because of her passion for distributed teams, she's done tons of research on what makes them successful, and she's found that you really need to put a strong effort into building the culture. Seriously, a lot more effort than people might originally think. This includes everything from how to acknowledge and validate requests, to team-building, to spending dedicated time talking about ways to improve.
Anyone who has experienced what it's like to be physically disconnected knows what that can feel like. It's hard to feel truly part of something, so luckily, there are companies like Sococo (and Retrium) around to help bring people together, regardless of location. (As a remote employee myself, I'm happy to see all the tools and technology available to connect with my team.)
If you've spent much of your life working remotely like Mandy has, you really understand when tools are game-changers for distributed teams, and from her perspective, Retrium is one of those rare products.
We will never go back to using anything else for retrospectives. Retrium is fundamental to who we are at Sococo. It's transformed the whole team, and there's no reason for us to ever look at anything else. I would even use it if we were co-located because it's that effective and powerful.
So, what makes Retrium so perfect in Mandy's eyes? It's Retrium's ability to seamlessly facilitate a discussion where people can fully participate and share their ideas. Mandy's team is "notoriously quiet", so they really need the space and time that Retrium creates to bring everyone together, generate ideas, and then group topics for discussion.
The visual representation of information helps people get oriented, see patterns emerging, and ultimately talk about what's going well and what's not. Retrospectives using Retrium are absolutely critical for decision-making at Sococo because it enables the team to discuss the "deep and dirty stuff" that really gets to the root of issues. Mandy expressed to me several times that the team simply wouldn't be able to surface their problems as deeply or clearly without Retrium to anchor them.
What was really fun about talking to Mandy is that she had so many great stories about the value and impact of Retrium at Sococo. One recent story, embodied what we're all about at Retrium -- providing a product that's straightforward and simple to get started with.
Before Retrium, Mandy's team wasn't doing retrospectives on a consistent basis. Knowing the value that retrospectives can bring to a team, they hired a ScrumMaster to bring a little more discipline to the process. This new ScrumMaster had never run a distributed retrospective before, and she had never seen or heard of Retrium.
She chose to facilitate a 4Ls retro (the team's favorite technique) in Retrium and Mandy essentially left her to figure out how to run the process. The ScrumMaster's first distributed retrospective with our product went great.
The product was so easy to understand that it really reduced the stress and anxiety of running a meeting with people from lots of different locations.
In the end, it was really clear to the ScrumMaster that running a distributed retro is incredibly difficult; in fact, it was much harder than she thought it would be. Later, when she and Mandy debriefed about how that first retrospective went, the ScrumMaster asked ‘how would anyone ever do it without Retrium?'
Mandy joked with me that distributed retrospective would be near impossible without Retrium. In her experience, without our product, remote retros were "a complete mess."
Now, Mandy's team is consistently running retros in Retrium and loving it because it really helps them dive into issues, yet is super simple to use.
We often talk about the value and impact of Agile (and thus retrospectives) with development teams, but other departments within an Agile organization can really benefit too.
The Sococo sales team went through an Agile transformation just a few months ago, another great story Mandy shared with me. Now, they're also using Retrium, and they go through their retrospective each week and store action items in the tool. Since using Retrium, they've had deep discussions that have helped them continue on their Agile journey, and of course, checked off tons of tasks.
When Mandy said Retrium has transformed the entire team, she meant it. It isn't just one team using it; the whole company is seeing the impact and value. She emphasized, "I would never go back to an online sticky note board or Google Doc because Retrium is so much more that that!"
It isn't just the product features and functionality that Mandy loves. She gushed about my colleagues David and Ryan too. I already knew they were awesome (and ultimately, that's why I joined the team), but it's great to hear that from a customer.
What I love about the Retrium team is that they really listen to customers. I've used the product since the beta, and I do a happy dance with each release. I don't think the product can get better, and then it does.
Mandy loves the grouping functionality in Retrium because it invokes the most insightful thinking of the retrospective process. She gets excited when themes emerge that help the team dive into big and important issues. This really helps the team stay organized and have a focused discussion on what really matters, creating an efficient and meaningful meeting for all involved.
Want to have more efficient and organized conversations with your team like the team at Sococo? Try two free retrospectives in Retrium and see the value for yourself!