xDesign Digital Toolbox : Metro Retro

By Fraser Allen With Chris Caira

14 Apr 2020

At xDesign our team retros (retrospectives) are a core part of our agile product development process. Typically these are run in a room together, using physical post-it notes and encouraging team discussion and collaboration. Now that this is no longer possible, we’ve tested a number of tools and Metro Retro has come out on top. Find out why it is our team favourite.

So what is Metro Retro?

As the name suggests, Metro Retro is designed for running agile retro sessions and, like Miro, it’s essentially a virtual whiteboard with sticky notes. A retro (retrospective) is a key element of agile digital product development. It’s an important process that enables our teams to reflect on their work on a regular basis and make adjustments based on lessons learned.

Depending on the preferences of the project manager and the team, there are many different ways of running a retro, but Metro Retro has the flexibility and customisation features to support this choice.

How are we using in at xDesign?

We’re using Metro Retro for facilitating retros right across xDesign’s projects and it’s a great way of achieving what you would do together in a room as a team, but doing it virtually. It’s also versatile – you could use Metro Retro as a product management board, for discovery sessions, designing kanban boards and even managing product backlogs, however where it really shines is in retrospectives.

What do we like about it?

1. It’s super easy to use

A good example is that we used Metro Retro to facilitate an internal company-wide team retro, to assess how we were all getting on working from home. Even those new to the tool didn’t need to read the tutorials, because it was so intuitive – within 10 minutes, you can have it up and running virtually via Google Hangouts. It’s easy to access, features a variety of agile- based templates that are simple to set up, and many people can use it at the same time.

2. It’s well designed

The timer on the screen helps to keep the meeting on track and you can give everyone time limits for submitting feedback.

3. There are lots of other great features

For instance, everyone can write their sticky notes in private and then reveal them simultaneously. That way, nobody’s tempted to copy anyone else and you tend to get a more honest response. This is a subtle, yet incredibly powerful feature - never underestimate the human urge to conform, or tendencies to mimic!

There’s also a handy grouping tool which you can use to pull together tickets with similar themes, and you can import images to brand up sessions for clients. So a good combination of features offering ease of use, with those affording & protecting insight.

4. Metro Retro is fun too

Often, retros can start to feel a bit ‘samey’ so it’s good that Metro Retro is fun too, which helps with team engagement.

For instance, if someone has a particularly bright idea, you can celebrate with a party popper that showers the board with confetti. This might sound like a trivial feature, but celebration is an important part of retrospectives and it’s great to see that being encouraged in this tool. And as you would expect, you can also encourage collaboration by allowing comments and discussion around a particular theme.

5. As of writing...it's free!

And there’s one other huge plus – Metro Retro is currently free to use.

Any downsides?

You can take a screenshot of your session but there’s a lack of good export options. The only other stumbling block we’ve hit so far is that there’s no obvious way of deleting projects, so you could end up with quite a large archive.

Any user tips?

Be very clear at the start of the session about how you are going to facilitate it, otherwise you could lose control. And make use of the voting tool. If you have a lot of actions on the board, you can use that to prioritise what happens next. People sometimes have complicated views about what should be happening with a project but, if you get everyone to vote, you often get a clearer picture above and beyond the noise.

What other tools are we using it alongside?

We are primarily using Metro Retro for facilitating our retros, both internal and external. While we are also exploring other capabilities of the system, we are currently using it alongside Miro and this combination seems to be working well for us. If you would like to find out more about the benefits of using Miro for virtual discovery workshops and wider agile product management, check out our article here.

What next?

We’re reviewing a new digital tool each week. Stay tuned for more recommendations from xDesign’s #digitaltoolbox, and to discover more about how we put them to use, for the benefit of our teams & our clients.

If you have any questions about how to enable collaboration and drive productivity within your organisation, please get in touch. We’re always keen to share best practice and ideas.

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