In my Scrum master toolbox, there was always one undisputed tool. I always used Miro for hosting retrospectives with my remote co-workers. A basic online whiteboard that fulfills most of my needs, but every retrospective takes preparation time. To be honest I spend most of my time making sure my lines and boxes are aligned correctly. As a result, I spend more time on details, than on the stuff that matters. Some people suggested for me to try Retrium, as I saw it popping up on Twitter more and more.

Retrium

To start off simple, what is Retrium? It is a tool to host retrospectives for a distributed team in your browser. With the current lockdown, most teams will be working from home and/or distributed. Retrium helps to host a retrospective that gets as close to a real physical whiteboard as is possible digitally.

On 29 of September in 2020, I started a trial with Retrium, and after the 1-month free trial, we switched to the team licensing. That currently costs 39 dollars per team per month. Being a Scrum master of 2 teams that have sprints of 2 weeks, and occasionally hosting retrospectives for other teams/departments means I have hosted around 25 retrospectives with Retrium. This allowed me to get a clear picture of the benefits and things that could be improved.

Benefits

I have found the following benefits of using Retrium to host my retrospectives:

Intuitive

Retrium works intuitively, most of the people I have in retrospectives understand how it works without any instructions. As a result, this helps tremendously in timeboxing retrospectives. I’ve noticed that software engineers usually are quite fast to understand new tools, but even for less “tech-savvy” persons, Retrium makes sense.

Anonymous

One of the things that most Scrum masters will recognize is co-workers who are not really giving input during a retrospective. One of the most heart excuses during physical retrospectives is that “My action point was already put on the board by someone else”.

There are some ways to prevent this, and Retrium has a good way to tackle this. All stickies that are placed are non-readable in the gathering stage of the retrospective. Only when the facilitator moves the retrospective to the next phase will make the stickies visible, but still anonymous. Co-workers cannot see what people are putting on the board, which is helpful for the grouping stage, If all team members put up a sticky regarding one topic, it must be important right?

retrospective
What hosting a retrospective looked like when we where still in the office.

Formats

Retrium contains a lot of pre-made formats you can use for hosting your retrospective. The basic formats like the 4L’s, Mad Sad Glad, Start Stop Continue, and others all are in there for a quick retrospective.

The cool thing however is the radars Retrium has. You can really use the radars to dive into team issues, or just get a good feeling on how the team they think thing are going. I’ve used it to get feedback from the team how they feel the development process is going or how happy they are with the work from home situation.

If all these formats are not enough, you can also create your own custom formats, for the most creative retrospectives. Most of the retrospectives shared on this blog, where written before I used Retrium, but I am able to host almost any retrospective described in the custom format.

Pricing

If I want a license for anything this requires me to go through the process of approvals. The fact that Retrium’s pricing comes in at 39 dollars per month per team means on average a retrospective costs 19,50 dollars. This really helps in the approval process, as the price is much lower than other digital whiteboard or retrospective tools I have found.

Improvements

While I am positive about Retrium there are some points that could use some improvements

Fixed order

A good way to get people to loosen up for a retrospective is to do a warmup activity. A simple weather report or this cool warmup activity I found recently: ESVP. Unfortunately this does not fit in the default Retrium flow, and requires me to either start a retrospective specially for the warmup. In some cases, I use a different tool to do the warmup. This is just a little inconvenience, but that brings me to the next improvement.

Fixed flow

The system of Retrium consists of 4 steps. Think, Group, Vote, Discuss. These steps usually work great. I can do 90% of my retrospectives in this format, and this yields good results. The downside to this is whenever I come up with a more creative retrospective that does not follow this format. It is hard to host it with Retrium. A nice improvement for the future would be to be able to have some more freedom in the flow of a retrospective, and which steps it has.

Conclusion

Retrium really helped me speed up the process of hosting distributed retrospectives. It minimizes the manual preparation I would normally have to do with digital whiteboards. Retrium allows me to spend all my time and focus on coming up with creative and solid retrospectives.

I would recommend to any Scrum master or facilitator out there that is looking for a way to host retrospectives remotely, to use Retrium.

Do you have any experience with Retrium? Let me know in the comments below what do you think.