Table of Contents
Collaborative whiteboards are shared visual workspaces that provide a rich, digital equivalent to analog whiteboards. They enable cooperative interaction that extends beyond drawing and writing metaphors to include communication channels, file sharing, media access, and templated presentation.
Even prior to the coronavirus outbreak, there was broad interest in collaborative whiteboards as a way to enrich meetings and to bring concepts visually to life in a shared medium that can exist beyond the confines of a conference room. Now that distributed work is the norm, the demand for collaborative whiteboards has grown astronomically.
The leading solutions go far beyond shared drawings on a digital canvas to leverage social communications found in other work technologies—such as commenting, chat, @-mentioning, and video conferencing. These collaborative whiteboards also boast sophisticated integrations with other enterprise software, in particular file sharing apps, productivity tools, and work management solutions. Even the lowly Post-It Note takes on powerful elements of shared design and communication in its digital version.
The capabilities of these collaborative, digital whiteboards are so profound that I’m compelled to coin a term for them: “workboards.” While you’ll see other names used by vendors in this space—”digital workspaces for visual collaboration” and “virtual work platforms” among them—in this report we’ll refer to them generally as collaborative whiteboards or workboards.
The demand for collaborative whiteboards has been fueled by the widespread adoption of distributed and remote work environments in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has left teams unable to gather in conference rooms or other shared physical spaces to brainstorm, hash out product plans, or conduct project retrospectives.
The initial use case for these tools—provide a whiteboarding experience with a digital emulation—focused primarily on synchronous co-authoring among team members with the digital equivalents of sticky notes, pens, and erasers. However, over time it became clear that asynchronous creation, management, and sharing of information on virtual canvases has become at least as important a use case.
Whiteboards are an additional class of collaboration software with some degree of overlap with established collaboration tools like work chat (such as Slack and Microsoft Teams), video conferencing (like Zoom and Google Meet), file-sharing platforms (like Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive), and other kinds of software. As a result, integration with other software platforms is a major aspect of workboards’ value proposition and one of the key emerging trends in the marketplace.
Several of the products reviewed in this research started as collaborative whiteboards for large-format, touch-sensitive displays intended for real-time cooperative use within conference rooms. These include Microsoft Whiteboard developed for the Microsoft Surface Hub display, and Google Jam developed for the Google Jamboard. Because of the rapid migration to distributed work, companies are generally using web-browser versions of workboards, which is influencing the direction of product development significantly.
One emerging workboard trend is: Smart, model-based templates that act as a canvas that encode step-by-step processes for teams to capture the various elements of a business model. They can also be used as a project retrospective template that encourages—or requires—information to be added and evaluated according to company policies. Some market-leading vendors have developed dozens, and in some cases, hundreds of these templates. These go far beyond snapping sticky notes to a grid; they can reorganize elements on a template based on rules, calculations, voting, or other criteria.
How to Read this Report
This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:
Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.
GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.
Vendor Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.