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4 Free Project Retrospective Tools for Remote Teams

As working from home becomes the new normal, it’s important to find new ways to effectively manage entirely remote teams. Although Think Company project managers have had experience managing remote teams, there is still curiosity around conducting project retrospectives with fully remote team members.

What is a Project Retrospective?

At Think Company, one of our core values is to continuously improve. To improve both our clients’ and our own working experience, we take time to reflect on projects and learn from our experiences by conducting project retrospectives.

A project retrospective is a meeting held at the end of a project, but may also be held after major project milestones are complete. In Agile, a retrospective meeting is held at the end of each sprint. There are different ways to conduct a project retrospective, but the main goals are to:

  • Reflect on the project
  • Identify key successes and failures
  • Document lessons that will help us improve future work

All project team members are expected to participate and contribute to this meeting.

What is a Retrospective Tool?

A retrospective tool allows for collaboration during a project retrospective and provides a structured framework for remote teams. Since all team members are expected to participate equally in the meeting in order to have a successful session, it’s important to have a remote retro tool that allows for feedback to be provided independently of others. The facilitator or Scrum Master uses the retrospective tool to plan, manage, and execute the retrospective. An online retrospective tool can also serve as documentation of the meeting, although it should not be the sole documentation (a separate space for more detailed notes may be necessary).

What to Look for in a Project Retrospective Tool

When looking for an online project retrospective tool, consider the following factors:

  • Offers a free version
  • Offers project retro frameworks to choose from as a template
  • Allows for team collaboration
  • Easy to use

 

Free Online Retrospective Tools

The options below stood out as valid resources for upcoming remote project retrospectives. Although we’re looking into remote-friendly tools out of necessity now, we’re learning so much that will help us be more effective when we’re able to collaborate in-person again.

Fun Retro

Fun Retro is a collaborative retrospective tool that is smooth, quick, and easy to use. Whoever is leading the retro will need to create an account in order to start a retro board. However, if you have a Google account, there is an easy single sign-on option.

Once the board is set up, participants do not need to have an account in order to participate. Fun Retro offers retro templates to choose from, but you can also select from other user-created templates.

Some feature highlights of this tool are:

  • Cards can be public or anonymous to other participants
  • Participants can hide their cards until the group is ready to discuss a particular topic
  • Participants can upvote and downvote as well as comment on other participant cards
  • Cards have a drag and drop feature enabled in case it’s determined that it’s better suited under another category
  • Boards can be exported
  • Built-in timer

Fun Retro is free for up to three retro boards. If you need to create a new board, you can simply delete an inactive board to continue using the free version.

It takes about 5 minutes to set up a board and determine how to use it. Overall, there are lots of features!

Retro Tool

While Retro Tool may not look as nice as some of the other options or have as many features, it was the most straightforward retrospective tool of the bunch. You don’t need an account, but that also means your work won’t be saved for later reference.

  • Other highlights of this tool include:
  • Pre-made templates
  • Participants can hide their cards until the group is ready to discuss a particular topic
  • Participants can upvote and downvote other participant cards
  • Cards have a drag and drop feature enabled in case they need to be moved around
  • Boards can be exported
  • Built-in timer

Overall, it gets the job done.

Miro

Miro is frequently used on the Think Company team, and since I already had an account, I wanted to see how Miro stacked up when it came to non-typical use cases.

You will need to have an account in order to use Miro, but there is a single sign-on option if you have a Google account. Participants will also need to have an account, unless you upgrade to a paid plan option.

A couple of the features offered with the free version of this tool are:

  • Pre-made templates
  • Cards can be moved freely around
  • Cards are all anonymous
  • Built-in timer
  • Boards can be exported

Miro is similar to Fun Retro in that you can only have three active boards at a time with their free version. Miro also offers some fun icebreaker templates to choose from that can be incorporated to the meeting agenda.

Overall, Miro may require more manual labor and manipulation, but one of it’s biggest selling factors is that it’s extremely customizable compared to other tools.

Trello

Trello users will need to have an account in order to use the tool, but as with the other account-required tools highlighted above, there is a single sign-on option for users who have a Google account. Participants will also need to have an account. Trello offers one template to choose from.

Limited features of this tool include:

  • Cards have a drag and drop feature enabled in case they need to be moved around
  • Boards can be exported

Most teams have used it so they likely already have a login, and there isn’t much of a learning curve, but features are limited.

Enhancing Retrospective Processes for Remote Teams

Teams face a variety of challenges while holding project retrospective. However, in today’s world, running a remote project retrospective does not have to be an added challenge—especially with the number of online retrospective tools available at our fingertips. Planning and testing tools ahead of time to determine what works best for you will help to mitigate potential issues the team may encounter and set up your remote team for success.

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