August 23, 2017

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Project Management Tool: Meet Cardsmith, Digital Solution for Sticky Notes on a Whiteboard

By Monica Borrell

As Project Managers we have all used sticky notes on projects and wished that there was a better way to capture them!

Question:  What do all of these things have in common?

  1. To-do Lists
  2. Project Planning
  3. Work Breakdown Structuring
  4. Agile Software Development
  5. Visual Portfolio Boards
  6. Kanban
  7. Scrum
  8. Brainstorming
  9. Mindmapping
  10. Value Stream Mapping
  11. Strategy Mapping
  12. Ranking and Sorting

Answer:  They are productivity and organizational methodologies that often make use of sticky notes and whiteboards.

Meet Cardsmith, a web-based productivity tool inspired by sticky notes that works like you think!

Example Work Breakdown Brainstorm in Cardsmith

Cardsmith to brainstorm

Example of a Kanban Board in Cardsmith:

Cardsmith as Kanban board

Virtual Teams

What happens when these activities need to be done by a group where not everyone is in the same room?  Then what?

With Cardsmith virtual teams can brainstorm opportunities together, plan projects and run Scrum standup meetings, all while looking at the same Visual Board.

Anyone on the team can contribute to the process by adding, moving or changing cards and everyone in the meeting can instantly see the change.

Cardsmith brings the advantages of physical sticky note boards to the digital world. Customers have commented that “Other software exists to do these things, but Cardsmith is the closest to the experience of using a physical board with cards or sticky notes”.

Agile teams around the world are using Cardsmith to brainstorm, plan and execute on projects from startups, to multi-nationals. Teams using Cardsmith are building everything from businesses to software products to healthcare products.

Benefits of Cardsmith

Being modeled after the physical world of sticky notes and whiteboards brings some key benefits to Cardsmith users:

#1. VISUAL: you can see the “big picture” and the context of what is happening.

The “big picture” with a Project Portfolio Board:

Portfolio board template

#2. FLEXIBILITY: Cardsmith doesn’t prescribe any particular methodology.  Rather, it can conform to the team’s preferred methods. You can manage your team via Scrum, Kanban, Waterfall, or a hybrid method that suites your way of working.

#3. SIMPLICITY: Cardsmith is intuitive to use. There are not hundreds of features that are rarely used.

#4. ADAPTABILITY: The process of managing projects or other work might start out with assumptions that need to be changed as the team or the project evolves. Cardsmith Boards can be easily refined, or changed as new learning happens.

#5. MULTI-LANGUAGE: Just like with sticky notes, if you write on a Cardsmith Card, or title your Grid Columns in Spanish, you now have a Spanish application!

#6. CLOUD BASED: Sticky note boards in the Cloud give additional benefits of having a digital solution. They include:

  • The ability to move seamlessly from ideation to execution. It has been said that moving into structure or execution too swiftly hampers creative problem solving. Cardsmith supports innovation by letting the team start without structure – in what we call a “Freeform” view. Here, a picture is worth a thousand word, so check out this video to see an example of Brainstorming and Project Planning in action.
  • The ability to move from the “big picture” to the fine details. By linking multiple Cardsmith Boards together, one can allow executives to see the “big picture” (perhaps with a Visual Portfolio Board for the entire company or department). Then they can drill into individual to a Project Status Dashboard, and then finally – if needed – into the details that may be in a Project Task Board, or Scrum Board.
  • Multiple views of the same cards. A team might start out by sketching out a Brainstorm of ideas, and then move into turning the best ideas into action items. Next, they may organize these tasks into a project plan in a Grid view. Both the project plan view and the original brainstorm (“freeform” view) can be retained and referenced.
  • Supplemental information. Inside the Cardsmith cards, you can add fields that are meaningful to your team and label these fields whatever you want to, if you want to use field labels. These fields can store notes, checklists of tasks, mention other people who need to do something with the card/task/idea/project, attach images or link to other systems, including other areas of Cardsmith.  Another feature is that you can change the “card view”; the way cards are seen on the screen between several views from showing only the Card title, to showing the first few fields to featuring an Image on the front of each card.

Example of the Image Type Card View:

Team board

  • The ability to total up values such as estimated hours, or story points. The Cardsmith “Grid View” allows you total up fields with a particular label by row, by column or both.
  • Template boards. Not everything needs to be built from scratch. Cardsmith provides template boards with popular configurations. Boards can be shared and copied, so you can easily create your own template boards.
  • Template cards. Who wants to add a bunch of standard fields to dozens of cards? Once you have figured out what fields are most often needed, you can set a card configuration to be the default card so that new cards that are added have the fields that you determine to be needed. Any card can also be copied, or moved between boards.
  • Do a brainstorming with a large group. Maybe you are doing a speaking event and taking ideas from the audience. If you set the board to be Public and Collaborative, anyone with the link to the board can contribute cards, even from their mobile devices.
  • In the physical world, you can’t hide a column to get it out of sight and focus on more important things. Cardsmith allows for the hiding and displaying of columns or rows so you can focus on what is most important.

To learn more about this innovative solution, visit Cardsmith.co

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About the Author: Monica Borrell, CEO and co-founder Cardsmith.co

In between creating companies, Monica has held various positions on contract with large organizations doing change management, product management and project leadership consulting. She is also a Leadership Consultant with Project Elevate where she mentors and coaches project managers to become strategic leaders.

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