Software Development – A Team Sport
This month we’ve been talking a lot about tools we use for different phases of development. We even wrote a whole eMagazine dedicated to tools and interviewed six power devs to find out what they’re using to build better applications. Download that here if you haven’t.
While tools for writing, troubleshooting and monitoring are critically important, we don’t spend a lot of time discussing one category of tools: Team Communications (or Comms). As we learned from our interview with Boon Lee, these tools can make or break a project. We’re talking about tools for product management, team management, day-to-day task management, feature release management. We all know these tools can either be a big help to the build process or a nightmare. We thought we’d research and share some of the best team comms tools just in case your team needs some help in this area.
Let’s start with the obvious
Slack has done something no other messaging app had been able to accomplish – sourcing and sharing animated GIFs like a boss. Makes even the least funny person on your team a GIF hero. It also keeps all conversations relevant to the project (or channel). Great for organizations working on multiple projects or teams.
Asana is an all-around great project and task management tool. When we use it for application or feature builds, we like that each task can have a related set of sub-tasks. So it’s a really functional tool for teams working in agile, and for the people managing the project to stay on top of tasks completed. On the dashboard, you can even see a high level view of the project trajectory. Bonus: Asana integrates with Harvest time tracking tool, so if your team has to track time, you can simple start the timer within Asana and it enters the time into Harvest.
Project Planning Tools
Every great product starts with a great plan. These two tools help build a proper plan, get signoff and help you track it all the way to completion.
Sometimes the only way to really understand something, is to see it. When we’re working on complicated user flows or thinking through processes, it helps to create a map. Lucid Chart makes it super easy to chart out your flows. Color coding, graphics to denote different actions and the ability to comment on each step makes it a great collaboration tool. Helps everyone know what we’re building and how it should work. Plus, creates a nice map for the product owner or client so they can understand and approve.
Todoist is a true GSD application. It’s much more than a to do list. The features we love for planning is the real-time syncing (cause we all know how often projects change) and the fact that we can prioritize project deliverables with their color coding system, so we know which tasks to work on first. It also allows you to break big projects down into smaller sub-projects. Plus, everyone on the team is notified when project tasks change.
Project Dependency Planning
One thing that can be missed in planning projects are the dependencies between tasks. We found two tools we like that help visualize dependencies and help your team understand timing and milestone impacts of tasks.
Pivotal Tracker is built for managing software builds using agile. It’s built on the user story concept, and these stories are assigned points. The points add up and then you can see how many stories will fit into your sprints. It’s also great for storing and organizing your back log and you’ll be able to see your team’s velocity toward completion and identify problem stories fast. Great planning tool for any team using agile.
Mavenlink is a solid tool if your team needs to track project tasks, dependencies and keep track of burn down on the budget. You set up tasks and durations (in days) and then see the real timeline unfold. Great for product managers who must keep track of timelines, budgets and dev resources.
With many development teams in different parts of the country (and beyond), we like Google + Live Events, as opposed to regular Hangouts. You can set up a private event with an agenda on the event page, invite your team members, and then the platform automatically records the meetings so you can share with anyone not present and if someone needs to capture meeting deliverables after. Recordings can even be connected to YouTube, if you want to share your standups with the world.
Tying Apps Together
It’s clear that it takes a lot of apps to build great software. We love using Zapier for sending data between apps. Want your channel in Slack to be notified when someone completes a task in Asana? There’s a Zap for that. There are thousands of Zap combinations no matter what application cocktail you’re using. Their Zap Books help you see what you can do between apps.
What team comms and planning tools does your team use? We’d love to know!
Want to discover more great tools? Grab your Aug/Sept copy of BuildBetter eMagazine to read about all the tools and the rest of these great interviews. We featured the toolboxes of:
Richard Campbell, Co-host of .NET Rocks
Eric A. Meyer, Author of CSS: The Definitive Guide
David Fox, Co-founder of devRant
Brian Madsen, Organizer of the LinkedIn .Net User Group
Boon Lee, Director of the Kansas City Dev Con
Matt Watson, CEO of Stackify