Plan, design and track projects with diagrams in remote teams

diagrams.net 11 Aug 2021

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Teams in different departments use many different methods to plan projects, but most of these plans are initially sketched on a whiteboard. Collaborate in real time and online with distributed team members, customers and stakeholders easily in the diagrams.net whiteboard-like editor theme throughout your project development process.

Note that the sketch theme is also available as a macro in our draw.io branded integration to Confluence Cloud. It is also coming to draw.io for Confluence Data Center.

Create a new whiteboard diagram

  1. Go to sketch.diagrams.net.
  2. Select the storage location for your diagram file.
    Cloud platforms, like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox, allow you to share your diagrams easily with your team members.
  3. Add a filename for your diagram and start using your online whiteboard.

Project planning process

The types of diagrams you will use in each step suit the type of project, your team’s preferences, and the project method you choose.

However, in both agile and more traditional projects, and in all teams, projects follow similar steps: Brainstorming and idea generation, research and design, implementation planning and tracking, and finishing with a review or retrospective.

Brainstorm ideas together online

Break the whiteboard canvas up into regions or columns.

  • Add sticky note shapes or basic rectangles to the different regions.
  • When you add a shape, start typing to add a text label.
  • Format the sticky notes or shapes with different colours to indicate difficulty, priorities, targets or the person who contributed the idea.
  • Show dependencies, relationships or a flow with connectors.

Brainstorm and plan projects on an online whiteboard with sketch.diagrams.net

Alternatively or additionally, brainstorm topics and subtopics, or problems and solutions around a central theme in a mindmap.

These types of rough diagrams and notes are the most common starting point for many types of structured planning documents: user stories, story mapping (as below), customer journeys, product features, process optimisation, business models, persona descriptions, and more.
An example of a use case diagram

Tip: If your brainstorm becomes too large to fit comfortably in your browser window, click on the Outline tool in the bottom right toolbar. Drag the blue highlighted section in the floating Outline panel to move quickly around your whiteboard.

Templates for planning

Start planning quickly with a template, like the business model canvas below: Click the Template tool on the left to open the template manager. Templates are organised into a wide range of categories.
Use a template to start project planning quickly in sketch.diagrams.net

Keep all research and design ideas in one place

Use the endless drawing canvas as a central project hub for design ideas and decisions. It’s easy to add links to supporting documentation or locations where your team’s code and files are stored: Right-click on a shape and select Edit Link.

Explore ways to optimise your product or process, and highlight areas that could be added to, changed, or safely removed.

Create, compare and evaluate marketing and business graphics. Click the Shapes tool to see the floating panel with more shapes.

  • Search for clip art or shapes in the Search shapes field.
  • Use the Infographics shape library: Click More shapes, enable Infographics, then click Apply.

Use a mockup template to design your site or app online with your team in sketch.diagrams.net

You can also drag and drop images and screenshots directly onto the whiteboard canvas, then add notes and draw freehand shapes to add your suggestions.

Design mockups and wireframes of web pages and applications together: Share the mockups with stakeholders or customers and invite them to add their feedback directly on your whiteboard diagram.
Use a mockup template to design your site or app online with your team in sketch.diagrams.net

Vote on what to implement

Add comments, notes and links on shapes to share the why behind your decisions.

Add a specific shape - a coloured pin is traditional in agile projects - to the ideas, designs, or changes you, your team members and stakeholders believe should be implemented.

When everyone votes on planned changes in such a way, your team will collaborate more effectively, moving your projects forward together with a single shared vision, even when working remotely.

Vote on tasks or set task priorities by placing pins or other simple shapes on your kanban board in diagrams.net

Plan the implementation and track its progress

  1. Document any necessary workflows and gitflows needed to avoid problems during implementation.
  2. Expand on the simple Kanban board template to indicate the state of each implementation step in your project, or link to a Jira board for more detailed tracking.
  3. Use a Gantt chart or roadmap template to plan the project schedule. Check in the Tables category in the template manager dialog for examples.

Use a Gantt chart template to schedule the implementation of your project in sketch.diagrams.net

Don’t forget to update this whiteboard project plan for (remote) standup meetings, during sprint planning and retrospectives.

Tip: Invite stakeholders outside the team to contribute to the planning and review process - share a link to your whiteboard diagram file stored on Google Drive, OneDrive or Dropbox and get their direct feedback.

Review the completed project or agile iteration

Use a simple whiteboard brainstorming layout to look back and see what went well, detail what problems arose and why, and note how it could be improved.

Break the drawing canvas into regions, add screenshots, images, and notes where where required to hold a retrospective and review the project outcome, the implementation process and how your team worked together.

Hold an online retrospective in the simple Sketch whiteboard theme in diagrams.net

In the Outline floating panel above right, you can see that the brainstorming, design and project implementation information are still on other areas of the whiteboard canvas. An infinite canvas is great for teams who like to keep all of the relevant information in one place.

Collaborate in other applications using diagrams.net

There are many diagrams.net app integrations with popular project planning tools and content platforms, including Atlassian Jira and Confluence, Google Workplace and Classroom, Microsoft Office and soon Teams, Trello, Dropbox and more.

As diagrams.net allows you to store diagram files in multiple cloud storage platforms, you can also embed your diagram files in a variety of content platforms and applications. For example, in Confluence Cloud with our draw.io branded app, that we build, deliver and maintain alongside the online diagrams.net and desktop tools.
Embedded diagrams in draw.io for Confluence Cloud

By default, the editor in these integrations uses a more complex interface theme, but you can switch easily to the simpler editor theme.

  • In the diagrams.net editor, select Extras > Theme > Sketch, then reload the editor to see the whiteboard-style interface.

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