What do you do with your physical Obeya wall when everybody's working remotely? How will you keep the richness of context creation that you have on a life-size physical wall if you have to move to a digital Obeya?
What's important for a virtual tool
In order to facilitate our brainprocesses, it's very helpful to make a virtual Obeya look as much like the real thing as you can. See an example of what that looks like in this blog post.
You need a tool that will allow you do to context-sharing with your team virtually as much as you would if you were in the room. These context sharing tools quite literally start with a blank slate, just like you would on an empty wall or whiteboard.
From there you start building the visual representation of your organizational system by putting the purpose on the wall, identifying objectives and key results (OKRs) if you use those, visualizing your roadmap and portfolio wall or kanban board, etc.
So in this article we'll review the ability of a few 'whiteboard' tools to help you build an Obeya as intuitively as you would be in the physical world.
Comparing functionality of potential virtual Obeya applications
Below is a list (click to enlarge) of tools that I've reviewed that start with a blank slate and allow you to add content just like on a physical wall: MS Whiteboard, MS Onenote, iObeya, Nureva, Miro and Mural.
I've summarized the functionality I'd like to see in such a tool to build a virtual Obeya and then added a score for each of the tools. This is based on my personal experience with the tool, so it is partially subjective. If I missed a certain functionality that's because apparently it wasn't intuitive enough for me to find it. I'm inviting vendors to help me correct any mistakes I made regarding their tools.
All tools have various options and are fairly close in terms of pricing per user. MS Whiteboard is available from the Microsoft store for free and OneNote might be in your office package.
Summary: Which tools should you pick?
Before we go into the details, here are my recommendations:
Use Miro if you're OK with cloud-based, want back-end connections, the best performance and most intuïtive interface
Use Mural if you don't need back-end connections but you want something that excels in facilitator functionality and ease of use
Use iObeya if you can't use a cloud solution or if you're looking for the richest functionality and integrations
Use Nureva if you're looking to get your virtual Obeya backed up with interactive touch screens (Nureva or other brands) to display on the walls
Use MS Whiteboard if you have no access to any of the other tools, though it lacks a lot of 'must haves' for a proper Obeya tool, perhaps Microsoft will add more functionality to this app, because it does have a lot of potential for the future.
This list is a best effort and I hope it helps you get some bearing in your search for a context sharing application. Please feel free to respond, add to or comment on the above.
If you may wonder, no, I wasn't paid by anybody to make this list.