A big part of my work time consists of communication, especially now when we spend most of the year working from home office and managing projects long-distance. In Ackee we use the Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) and a couple of other closely specialized tools.
Even though it can seem laughable in the current time, I have to start with e-mail. Whether we want to or not, most of our communication outside the company is done precisely this way. In this case, we are using Gmail which is part of Google Workspace combined with Google Calendar and Google Meet for video calls. In the case of Meet, it is visible that there was a bigger shift over the last year than in previous years, whether in the case of improved distribution of cameras, recording, whiteboard, surveys, Q&A and more.
In the case of Slack, our use is primarily for communication within project channels. Thanks to the fact that almost half of our clients are also using Slack and easy integration among accounts, we also have an almost real-time connection to the customer which can be used by anybody on the team who needs more information for their work.
Personally, in the case of Slack I also use Workflow Builder where I create onboarding bots for individual project channels where new members send basic information about projects or status bots that think for them about regular exchange of information within teams on smaller projects.
Apart from versioning design, from the project management view we use Abstract primarily for cooperation between different groups of users. We communicate design propositions internally first within the team and subsequently for example with clients. The communication directly over design with the possibility to mark the exact spot we are talking about and let the others express their views is far more efficient and better understandable than solving the same thing via e-mails or through other chat platforms. At the same time the design can be completed by a more precise notion of how the screen should work, be animated etc.
Planning work on projects
Apart from personal time and tasks, I have to plan the work of others on my projects as a team leader. The two following systems/apps are primarily helping me do that.
Redmine is an online project management tool for administration of projects, tasks and reporting time. It allows your own definition of workflow for individual types of tasks so it can accommodate the needs of an agency with relative flexibility. The tasks on the project can be filtered by an almost unlimited amount of parameters and specific views can be saved for easy subsequent access.
I primarily use Todoist as a personal to-do list where I write tasks within projects or send new ad-hoc tasks through the integration with Slack or e-mail. Together with Google Calendar, I can at least partially control my workload within individual days and set up more realistic deadlines for my own outputs. I also appreciate its motivating factor to fulfil tasks through karma points/levels and limits of tasks per day.
Evaluation of Projects
Part of the project manager job is obviously regular evaluation of projects not only from the financial view but also for example from the point of view of satisfaction of people on the team with the achieved results and the progress of the work. These are the tools that make this job easier for us:
Parabol serves as a helper in organizing project or agile retrospectives or other meetings. Especially the online form brings an easy environment where it is possible to easily plan the whole execution, work with cards, sort them into groups and subsequently create meeting minutes. The possibility of selecting icebreaker topics/questions for the beginning is also a great simple and fun form of getting the attention of all team members.
Google Data studio is the tool for visualization/interpretation and data filtering. It offers a lot of connectors to different data sources. I myself use it primarily for tracking financial measures of projects. I use this online tool to interpret data from multiple seemingly unrelated sources – Redmine, Fakturoid and our own expense tool Expenses. The result is an overview of information such as turnover, expenses or calculated hourly rates.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I am working with a relatively high number of different tools throughout my job – Basecamp, Jira, Redmine, Google Workspace, Trello, Todoist, Slack, MS Teams, GitLab, Bitbucket, Confluence – and that is just to name a few.
The current tools for managing projects are great but there is always something that could work a little better. Everybody prefers a different use case and an impulse for a change should be pretty big and racional so that all the effort spent on moving from one tool to another really pays off and does not just represent a change for a change.
The base for a successful management of any project is such a set of tools that makes it possible for the project manager to efficiently communicate with the team as well as with clients, plan and assign tasks, monitor progress of the work and evaluate results throughout the whole app development. All the rest will be taken care of by an experienced development team.