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blog of developer & bookworm benjamin read

Tools That Fit Our Process

It's all too easy to get caught up in the delightful features this CRM or that project management tool ... but does it really solve the problem at hand? Look for tools that fit the process and you'll be happier.

One thing I'm particularly keen on is finding the right tools for the job, tools that help to collect or document what I'm doing that provide the least amount of friction in that workflow.

Recently, I've found a few that have really helped me. Here's a rundown:

1. A Whiteboard and lots of Sticky Notes

Yes it's a non-technical solution but it works excellently for my visual brain. When I finish a segment of work, I can easily look up and see what's going on, where I am in my workflow.

Because I often have involvement in leading technical projects, my board also gives me an overview of my colleagues work and that of 3rd party suppliers we're currently using.

Recently, I noticed a gap in our process. When tasks were completed, I used to put the sticky note in the 'Done' column and inform the product owner that I was finished. But quite often, the work would come back to me requiring amends. So I added a "QA Passed" column to the board. Now I have an established quality process without having to manage any other tools.

Low tech is great sometimes.

2. Trello

I think half the internet must use Trello. The advantage of trello boards over stricter project management tools like Pivotal Tracker is that they are flexible. Don't get me wrong, I will still use Pivotal Tracker or some similar tool for complex projects, but with Trello you don't have so much information to catalog before your story is complete.

You don't even have to write a complete story if you don't want to. For instance, some of my work revolves around maintaining about 30 legacy sites. Every month, I generate a report for each of these sites, and there may be additional tasks generated from my findings.

So I have created a Trello board for that purpose. Now I can see easily what sites have been maintained in any given month, and work through the tasks too.

We also have one board called "Project Overview" which is an overview of all of our projects and where they are—perhaps our client services team is working on it, perhaps the UX guys are currently in control, or it could be with developers.

Our Trello board for overview of projects in progress or to be greenlit

The 'Project Overview" is a birds-eye view of everything going on currently, at an easy glance and accessible by every team member.

Great for seeing where a given project is and who currently has ownership.

3. BugHerd

BugHerd is great for tracking not just bugs, but client feedback and also for informing developers what changes need to be made as a result of quality checks or content changes.

We use BugHerd in the final phase of a project, just before we go live. It really helps us consolidate and sort through client requests and our internal QA process.

I recently had a conversation with MacroPod, the builders of BugHerd, who said that the ability to estimate difficulty of tasks is a feature they're looking into.

I'm sure that along with our processes, our tools will continue to change and develop over time to meet new challenges. But for now, these seem to help us to get the job done.

What about you? What tools fit your processes?