Deadlines: they’re something we love to hate. An equally motivating and soul-sucking force.
At We Write Code, we’re constantly striving to be the most productive, efficient team possible without sacrificing our happiness to the deadline gods in the process. Project management tools and techniques are the foundation of our success (and oftentimes, sanity), providing a sense of structure and direction while allowing room for change along the way.
We’ll be sharing a few tips and tricks that our team has used throughout the years. Taking the time to learn, understand, and implement one — or more realistically, a few — tools and techniques will help you and your team bring your A-game without all those hair-pulling late nighters.
With so many options to choose from and countless hours that could be spent researching, we’ve provided three of our favorite project management techniques that will be solid foundations for any project that comes your way.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably implemented the waterfall technique at least once in your career. Waterfalling is based on setting a plan early on in the process and following the sequence to success — no task can be started without the previous tasks being done. This more rigid structure compels you and your time to take the time to identify every step along the way, creating a very defined, organized set of tasks/roles that can be followed to a tee. If you’re looking for something that’ll keep everyone in line with a clear agenda, outlined roles, and proper planning, this may be the project management you’ve been looking for.
Perhaps the most popular and widely used project management technique. Agile, as its name suggests, is a quick moving approach at allows for flexibility and collaboration throughout the entire process. Built on “sprints”, your project is broken into smaller cycles that divide the research and communication aspects down as you go to ensure you have all the information you need before moving on to the next step. Agile is king in the development world, but can be used for any project that is looking to get lots of team and customer feedback along the way.
Definitely a buzz-worthy term you may have heard before, Scrum has becoming another popular project management technique, and for good reason. Focused primarily on improving teamwork, the ultimate goal of Scrum is improving communication to increase the speed a project is completed. A team member known as the “Scrum Master” (or “Scrum Coach”, if you’re like us and feel like “master” is too domineering of a word) is a pillar of communication and reassurance throughout the process, keeping team members on task and acting as an aid during roadblocks. Scrum is an excellent resource that can be easily combined with other project management techniques for maximum communication and teamwork.
Now that you have your foundation, it’s time to add the tools for smooth sailing to the finish line.
We’re big fans of Trello at We Write Code — as visual, hands-on workers, Trello provides a simple platform with countless ways to organize and collaborate. Similar to what many organizations already do with sticky/post it notes on office walls, Trello takes this simple yet effective organizational tool and provides digital perks, such as setting reminders, assigning tasks to different team members, sharing images and files, and creating unlimited lists.
Perhaps a little more jargon based than other platforms — if you’re not familiar with concepts like “story points” and “team velocity”, you may need to brush up — Pivotal is a great tool for not only tracking current projects, but previous performance to better inform future decisions. Pivotal will let you know if your projected deadline is realistic and how to adjust to make sure you team is setting itself up for success.
We give our clients access to the same Pivotal board we use, so they can rearrange stories based on priorities and see exactly how it affects the timeline. By prioritizing one story/feature, it pushes other stories/features out to later sprints, so it’s a good visual that not everything can be worked on all at once and helps set expectations.
Okay, so not so much of a project management tool as it is a communication tool, Slack is a great addition to your team. And with a few tricks up its sleeve, it can easily aid to your productivity. Communication is key when completing any project, and Slack allows fast, effective, personalized communication. Create private channels for certain team members, or public channels for employees and clients alike. Set desktop and phone notifications to stay in the loop any time, anywhere. And with a list of integrated apps for project management (and a few other, less productive tools — hello, Giphy), Slack can be a great bridge between communication and project management.
Though nowhere near a comprehensive list, these particular tools and techniques have been invaluable in our office’s success and sanity. We highly recommend that if your business hasn’t given any project management tools or techniques a whirl, there’s no better time like the present to whip your timelines into shape. With hundreds of options available, don’t be afraid to give something a whirl, integrate it with another existing tool/technique, or drop it cold if it’s not giving you what you need. Your business and emotional stability will thank you.