Even before the current crisis hit us, business analysis and product management were moving away from the office and to more distributed teams. Compared to some other roles, this can be a challenge to manage when you can’t work directly with your stakeholders. Luckily there are many tools for remote business analysis and product management which we can utilise.
However, this isn’t the standard list of google docs and skype for business! Here are some ideas which you might not be using and can give you a step up in managing your work.
When it comes to using tools for remote business analysis, they are only as good as your planning. From my experience, if you are remote then you need to be more organised and facilitate work in a different way. Making sure you are transparent, inclusive and communicate more than ever is essential. A full guide to remote business analysis coming your way soon!
Let’s jump into it.
Collaboration tools for remote business analysis
One of the biggest challenges of being remote is staying connected to your team. As a business analyst or product owner, it is your job to take input from a variety of stakeholders and communicate back outwards. If your communication breaks down then there is a real threat that the product or service won’t work out as you imagined.
Slack / Teams boards
Starting simple here, but if you don’t currently have some form of team communication channel then get one! If you are using MS Teams then the boards are a great way to chat and share updates. As you make decisions or need answers to questions, putting them out on your channel is a good way of including others without having to send out lots of emails or calls.
If you don’t have access to Teams or other platform then Slack is a good place to start. The main account is still free with limited storage so it is still very functional. As we don’t have the small conversations which naturally happen when you’re co-located, these boards act as a place to connect and chat.
Chatfox / Friday
Once you’re set up on a collaboration channel, it’s then about using it! This can be pretty hard if the team is focused on their main roles or if you’re new to remote working. One way to combat that is to incorporate another app into your platform.
Chatfox is a slack bot which prompts chat and team bonding. It shares things such as icebreakers, shout outs and coffee chats. This is essential to build up your team when you aren’t seeing each other.
If you want to take it to the next level then Friday offers a way to operationalise your updates. You can create workflows which prompts updates and sharing. An easy way to power up your slack and teams channels.
Funretro is a tool which allows a team to add different cards into columns. This is great for remote retrospectives as you can put columns such as ‘start’, ‘stop’, ‘continue’ and then each of the team can add cards underneath.
But Funretro is a tool which can be utilised for other types of collaboration. It can be used in workshops but also as a space to share updates. The boards can stay static and you don’t need an account to see them. One to try and think about all the different creative ways you can use it!
Workshop tools for remote business analysis
As mentioned in our ‘what is business analysis‘ article, the key activity of a business analyst or product manager is usually conducting workshops! This can be really hard to do when remote as it is tough to keep people engaged. By using some tools for remote business analysis you can make your workshops enjoyable and really get the most out of people even when you’re not together.
I use Miro all the time and it’s a great collaboration whiteboard. Essentially you set up a joint whiteboard with a template and post it notes. Everyone can create an account and join the board then update it at the same time. When working together you can see what other people are adding and it shows updates in realtime.
We mainly use it for similar sessions where we would use post-it notes, so things like brainstorming, prioritisation, story planning, retros or other canvases. You can step it up and collectively create things like wireframes in there too.
Miro can be a bit expensive depending on the number of users you have. It also tends to have a bit of a learning curve which might not be suitable for all stakeholders. But if you have a key team which you work with frequently then Miro is a great idea.
Mural is a good alternative to Miro. It offers very similar functionality in terms of a collaborative whiteboard. However, it generally is easier to use so may suit teams which aren’t as comfortable with new tooling. It is also cheaper for small teams to use. Definitely worth doing a trial of both Miro and Mural and deciding which one you like the best before buying.
If you’re hosting a big workshop or a wider stakeholder communications exercise then sli.do is a great place to start. Slido allows wider participant communication in a structured way.
The participants of your call have a code to access the slido platform. Once there, they can ask questions, take polls, take feedback and analyse what people are saying. The information stays there and you can export it afterwards giving you more time to engage with your participants
It goes without saying that in order to do workshops remotely, you need some video conferencing software! There are a lot of options out there. The key aspects you want to consider are:
- What are the screen sharing and collaboration options? Ideally if you can collaborate on text when you are dialed in then it cuts out the step of navigating to somewhere else.
- Can the tool do break out rooms? In the same way in which you would break out in physical workshops, having the option to do this virtually is essential. You can make it work with any software by creating separate tools but having control over it makes it much easier.
- Does it have options to make video easier? Going on video can be hard at first but it usually enhances a workshop and keeps people engaged. The video platform should allow sharing, good templates, and ideally some fun backgrounds to hide your piles of washing in the background!
Requirements / product tools for remote business analysis
It’s key to make sure any requirements, product features or product roadmaps are able to be shared and worked on by the whole team. When you are remote, things like physical kanban boards can’t be used. Check out some of the tools which you can use to communicate requirements better with your team.
While there are good options for individual requirements, Aha is a great option to manage and visualise your features and roadmap. If you are working on a product with hundreds of requirements then it can easily become out of hand. Aha does integrate with products like Jira so your changes can propagate back and forwards.
Alongside this, Aha can manage your feedback, your high level backlog and your project plan. If you find everything is a bit hard to manage when you’re remote then give Aha a try. It will keep you organised and make it easier to share your plans with others.
Trello / Jira / Asana
I’m assuming you’re already managing your requirements in some form of software so won’t go too much into that. If you are still in excel then definitely get them into some sort of shared repository!
I’ve highlighted Trello, Jira and Asana here as they are all options which allow you to visualise work and share it with others. Keeping other people up to date with your actions is key when you’re remote. It stops people working on the wrong thing, or even the same thing! Using one of these tools to track what activities different members of the team are doing each day will make it easier to manage.
Trello is the easiest to set up and use, it lets you create different columns and move cards around without must customisation. If you want lots of tags, filters and different features then try one of the other options.
Finally, I want to throw a different one out there. Canva allows you to create document designs which look great. It’s how I’ve made the sharing image below. When you are remote you need your emails and documents to stand out, especially if you’re trying to collaborate with others.
By using something like Canva, you can make images, infographics or other documents pop and encourage engagement in your team.
Learn more about business analysis in our ‘what is business analysis’ and about product management in ‘what is product ownership’ articles. Have you used these tools before or have any others to recommend? Drop a comment below with your thoughts.
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