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What Project Management Tools to Use for Collaboration?

My name is Rita and I am a Project Manager here at HUSPI. It’s my primary job to be the connecting link between the client’s business tasks and the developers’ technical tasks. To make this process of “interpretation/translation” more manageable and controllable, we use a set of tools.

The app market right now offers a wide variety of options - sometimes it feels as if there’s too much and a lot more than necessary. At HUSPI, we love balance in everything. This includes the desire to avoid complicating our clients’ and partners’ lives by sending them a Visio file and forcing them to figure out how to open it on their MacBooks or what to do with a Microsoft Project. 

So, what do we use for managing a project?

Tools to Work with Documents

Google Docs and Google Sheets. Yep, it’s that simple. Why? Because everyone can understand how to work with them and they are available even as apps for mobile phones. We can create project estimates there, build a Gantt chart, and describe project requirements. Everyone who needs it, can view, comment, and edit the documents simultaneously. 

Tools for Logging Time

Since primarily we work by the Time & Material model, both sides - us and our clients - are interested in a clear understanding of how much time exactly was spent working on this or that project.

We strive to be transparent and honest in this issue, but logging time in a paper notebook or excel is an option, but not the most optimal.

Initially, we tried to use Jira’s plugin for time tracking. But then we started running into situations when different projects were tracked in different apps: one project used our internal Jira, the other - in our client’s Jira that didn't have the necessary time logging plugin, yet another project - in Asana. As a result, it required extra time to set up, prepare, and export a time report. Additionally, if you’re a project manager in these three projects, you need to log your own time as well and then create a unified report.

Therefore, we concluded that we need a separate instrument. We studied the tools available on the market and stopped our choice on Clockify. This greatly simplified our internal processes by making it simpler to log our working time. As a result, the numbers are even more accurate than ever because you don’t need to manually say what was the exact time at the moment you’ve begun your work on a project.

At the end of the month, we use convenient Clockify reports for generating information for the client invoices.

Tools for Project Task Management

Each project is unique and we always are on the lookout for the best fitting framework for each particular project and it requires additional settings. 

Considering our extensive experience and understanding of different project workflows options, currently, we use Jira because of one main reason: it’s super flexible.

The features we can point out specifically: 

  • Jira has great options when it comes to user permissions and project access. For example, one project might only have developers. In other cases, clients might want to have access to the Jira board to see what tasks are currently in progress. 
  • Besides simple project access, each user might have specific permissions for task management. For example, the client’s manager might create tasks, the project’s sponsor - view the project, and developers - leave their comments only inside their group. 
  • Automatic workflow rules help to minimize the human error margin. For example, if the task is moved to the column “Testing,” it is automatically re-assigned to the QA engineer of the project. 
  • Different projects require different workflows and Jira allows to tweak the rules and statuses that are managing this particular project. For example, one project might use Kanban, and the other - Scrum. 

Tools to Create Diagrams & Schemes 

Few people love to read a lot of technical documentation. Diagrams and schemes simplify this process. We have several favorites when it comes to the tools that allow creating these documents. 

  • Miro helps to quickly and easily describe the general architecture of the application, record brainstorming ideas, or create an app’s map. 
  • Draw.io isn’t as elegant as Miro, but when you need to work with UML (Unified Modeling Language) or BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation), it’s extremely convenient. 

So, this is a shortlist of the main tools I use in my work as a project manager.

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