Project management – friendly tools

Even though every project manager works with a set of programmes (tools) which are accepted and offered by the company they work for, there are a couple of tools you can easily access online and which you should use to make your life easier and your project management more efficient and effective.
Project management – friendly tools
Photo Credit: Photo: https://www.pexels.com/

Intro

Even though every project manager works with a set of programmes (Tools) which are accepted and offered by the company they work for, there are a couple of tools you can easily access online and which you should use to make your life easier.

If you work in project management then you must be aware that besides (crappy) Microsoft Office pack there are some other tools you should consider to keep you and your teams organised. This mostly applies if you work in a Waterfall model where you ‘go with the flow’ and brief-execute-deliver, without your team following a specific way of working (like it happens with Agile framework for example).

Let’s start with some of the most useful tools for Project Managers


1. SMARTSHEET

Smartsheet is an online tool I use for timelines, gantt, task lists, for overall project and event planning. Its a web-based tool and you can easily access it anytime, anywhere. What I like about this tool is the pre-defined templates and the fact that is easy to use.

Here’s how to set up a time plan for your project:

  1. Choose your template:

You have pre-defined templates you can use, depending on your project need. There are many templates you can use but I believe you only need 3 of them, for efficiency and tracking your project.

Task List  this template can act as an “Action list” in which you add all the tasks your team must do to keep the project going.

Project Sheet – standard project timeline.

This is the one I use (and probably most project managers who use Smartsheet choose) when it comes to doing timelines for projects. The left hand side bar with the toolbar has all the necessary items you need to do the timeline properly and easy to follow by anyone. Here’s an overview:

Views — pretty self explanatory, I would recommend the “Gantt” view as this offers the best insight in terms of timings, responsibilities and percentage complete.

Indent — allows you to set you the tasks and subtasks and sub-subtasks if you need to.

Formatting — very similar to MS Word – a selection of options to change font, colours, sizes, alignment and so on.

The other elements within the toolbar are very similar to the Microsoft Office package and should be a straight forward usage for you!

The columns you have in the timeline sheet are specific for a standard project timeline, as follows:

Task name — on this column you add each action needed for your project

Duration —in days, how much would your project take

Start — when you start working on that task and Finish — when you should or you think you’d be finishing the task

Predecessors – this is an important column because it allows you to automatically schedule the tasks by referring to the previous one. For example, in our screenshot, line 3 is dependent (precedes) line 2 and therefore you must do the task from line 2 which will allow you to work on the task from line 3.

Assigned to — yes, you can assign an action to somebody in your team and they will get notifications that you have made them responsible of getting that actions done.

Complete – as you go through your list of actions depending on the “Stage” (or phase or deliverable) you can add the percentage complete and Smartsheet will automatically calculate how much of that particular stage/phase/deliverable you’ve done.

Kanban Sheet – this template is good enough if you want to try some Agile project management. The back log column allows you, as the “product owner” (so to speak) to add tasks for your team to work on and be moved into the appropriate column as the project progresses.

2. Share the template

Make the team aware and share the timeline template with your team members. You have a “share” button top right corner. In order for you to share the project plan with the others they must be added as contributors in Smartsheet so they receive notifications.

You can also make the client aware of it and share a link with the client, but before you do so ensure you publish the timeline by clicking on the globe icon on ride hand side. It will give you the option to generate a link you can share with anyone and they will be able to view (not edit) your task list or timeline:

If you want to try Smartsheet, go here. They allow you to try a free trial and have a play!


2. TRELLO

Most of us working in the project management field know Trello, but how many of us actually use it daily?!

It’s a great tool (and a free one) that allows you and your team to stay organised. You have to create your own boards — for example you have created one board called “Website” and in this board you can create lists. One list can be called “To do’s” where you add you and your team’s task in there, another one can be called “In progress” and last one can be called “Done”. As you go through the To do list, you move tasks into the specific board (“In progress” or “Done”).

The only “downside” so to speak is that you have to manually move your tasks as you progress with the work by dragging and dropping.

When you set up the To do list and the tasks within it you can tag people’s names to assign the relevant tasks to each, you can also set up a deadline, add comments and attachments. That way they get notified about their deadlines and reminded that it’s time to finish the job!

Boards overview:

Adding cards to a board:

In case I convinced you to try Trello, go here and create an account. It’s a free tool to use so why not?!


Jira, Redmine or any other platform for build development efficiency

No matter what, Jira is the best platform (it’s not free) to use when you have build development projects, when you work with programmers and you have deadlines set in stone for each sprint.

Jira is a quite complex platform used by project managements, product owners and developers who are part of the team.

Very simply put, it allows easy tracking and the “Agile” approach of working with the build team: the product owner adds the tasks in backlog, after prioritising them (from a build sense) with the development team, then once they kick off, one developer starts the work (can be backend developer) on a project and another developer (can be the front end guy or gal) continues the work, each of them adding the relevant info and status of their work in Jira. The product owner reviews the backlog and checks the project is on track.

Here is a great video that explains everything you need to know about Jira, in a nutshell

Redmine is a much simpler (and free) version of Jira which does not require backlog lists or agile work between the developers. However it is good for briefing the developers and keeping the history of the project as it progresses.

Here is a great video that explains everything you need to know about Redmine, in a nutshell

Conclusion


More than using "tools"

No matter what tool you use,  you must keep in mind that Project management is more than “tools” and you need to internally manage your team, oversee the project and guide the team into the right direction as well as raise any concerns with regards to delivering the project in time and on budget.

Great project management is a talent as much as it is a skill.


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