Dear beginner, after we educated you about terminology, it is time for Web Development Project Management tools. Every project should be tracked and communicated within some tool. Through my #AgencyLife period (almost seven years) I used various tools such as BaseCamp, Trello, and Asana but for the last four years, we use ActiveCollab.
Let’s be clear, all of these tools are good. Difference between them is really small. Which tool you choose depends on some unique features or pricing (but as far as I know, pricing is around 10USD/per user for most of them, so there is no significant difference).
I would like to suggest following tools, which works best for my team and I believe will work for you.
#1 “Static” PM tool such as ActiveCollab
Why static? It is less dynamic than chat tools. ActiveCollab has a timer, tasks, invoicing, Gantt and kanban views etc. Also, I have been using Trello for some projects. It is also a great tool to start. It is a free but simpler than ActiveCollab and without many features. You can check comparisons for project management software here.
#2 Chat – dynamic PM tool such as Slack
WhatsApp? Or Viber? Slack is similar to those tools but it’s been built for business purposes. You can create a room or group for a team on your project. That is an excellent thing if you want to communicate faster.
Also, it gives you an ability to connect your other tools with it. For example, if your website is down notification will arrive to chat room immediately. Or when someone completes a task…
Here you can check other tools similar to Slack and choose what is right for you. Slack has a free version which is good enough for a start.
#3 Video communication tools such as Skype or Appear.in
If you work remotely or you want skip commuting to your client, there is always a way to have meetings. Video call is necessary on every project especially in some specific situation that you can’t solve through PM tool or chat. For example, you prepared three versions of website homepage design. And this task is a significant milestone, and you should talk with the client about your idea.
Appear.in call with the client
#4 Wireframing tools
I learned one key thing in the last seven years. People are visual types, and everybody of us could understand visible things. Better than words especially when we talk about different “languages” between designers, developers, and clients. Not only “language” but experience also. That is a great way to start a project.
#5 MS Excel
For some projects, you have complicated workflows. MS Excel is an excellent way for specifications like that. I will give you an example.
#6 MS Word
All specifications should be written down and everything that is dealing with the client. And you can use versioning of documents.
#7 Cloud storage
Some files will be so large that you can’t upload them to your tool such as ActiveCollab. Cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox or OneDrive are excellent for file organization. An option we really like is file versioning – you can always restore previously saved versions. You can connect cloud storage with other tools (such as ActiveCollab and slack).
Why PM tools, not
Please stop here. E-mail is a mess. Never ever use e-mail as Project Management tool. I have had the opportunity to see how email communication looks. I know how agencies work with clients and this is the best way to miss a deadline and break a budget.
#1 What if your client forgot to put your developers/designers in cc?
Most common issue. Client forgets to put the designer in communication while replying, a designer doesn’t receive information during the design process, and everything goes in the wrong direction. Or project manager has to lose more time on communication.
#2 What if you don’t see all changes, emails and client requests?
As a project manager, you should have a clear picture and control in your hands. You don’t see requests. You lose money! You don’t see requests. You miss a deadline.
#3 What about communication between your team and client reporting?
Let’ say, your team is composed of back-end developer, front-end developer, designer and you. There are 4 people plus a client. Communication through e-mail will destroy your team productivity. Transparency between people will decrease, and a lot of pieces of information will disappear.
#4 What about task tracking?
Every project has tasks. If you work with e-mail, your team will track hours on paper? And you will collect this and send to a client on a daily basis? No. No. No. For example, here in Kontra, we track our projects on a regular basis. We report our clients on a daily basis. That is great because a client is informed and our PM has a timeline and budget control.
#5 What about task diversification?
For example, we have some bugs, function in the application doesn’t work. How you track tasks like that? Through e-mail? What we do with this after fixing? What happens if we have reopened task – same bug?
#6 What about tasks dependencies?
A lot of tasks are in dependencies, and your project could miss a deadline without controlling milestones. Let’s go with an example. A copywriter is responsible for content delivery. He missed his deadline; this deadline directly impacts designer who is responsible for design delivery to a front-end developer etc.
Task dependency is a vital thing on your project. You can predict problems with deadlines; you can see who is within your team a problem or has a problem. And this is the reason why you need PM tool.
What is essential within Project Management tool? Why?
Everything is crucial that impact your projects. There are several things I will mention in this article and will be helpful for you as a beginner.
#1 Projects (& Tasks)
You need separated projects, especially if you work on more than one project. When you start a new project, you always put some time estimations and budgets. Later you can track your estimated VS tracked time in your reports.
You should break every project into tasks/milestones etc. Every task has a responsible person, time, communication with a client.
Also, there are different tasks views; you can use depending on project management methodology. Check this guide if you are interested in more information.
#2 Time Tracking
If you want to stay profitable and accomplish deadlines, you can’t do this without time tracking. As I mentioned before, almost every task has an impact.
Also, you should report clients and your company board.
#3 Roles delegation
I like this option. You can divide clients, managers and employees.
Great thing to track the timeline of your project or employees timeline.
# 5 Real-time reports
If you want to stay billable and meet deadlines you need real-time reports.
There are a lot of tools and philosophies. I wanted to give you some essential tools that work for me. Unfortunately, I worked with a lot of experienced teams that don’t use these tools and have a lot of problems. First, focus on fundamentals, then move on.