Image inspired by: How Project Management Apps Derail Projects
Published on:
Jul 9th, 2020

How Project Management Apps Derail Projects

There are so many project management apps out there that it is in many ways a time suck minefield of black holes which can eat away any sort of passion you have for any project quickly. Jumping projects between one project management tool to another is a quick way to create endless work, and zero progress. People get too caught up in the what the system can do, what its lacking, what extra features can be utilized etc. And even with a never ending list of features people end up with projects that are spread out all over the place, ill constructed epics, vague tickets with no explicit end goal all resulting in micro-waterfall like development patterns.

So how do we prevent Project Management apps from derailing projects?

1. Tickets must have clear deliverable resolutions

Do not give tickets vague descriptions like "Isn't updating the data". That is not definitively resolvable. When reporting a new issue, it should be a clear and concise description of what circumstances resulted in the problem. That ticket should then be scoped as either requiring research, or retitled as what the new resolution goal is such as "Force a data crawl on any ID matches".

2. Do not rely on app features to enhance productivity

Enabling all the "magic" features that come with a project management tool often results in creating more work to manage a project, adding more managers to a project can have the same effect. Instead, rely on clear communication and obvious ticket states. Is a ticket in progress or not. If a ticket is not getting complete, why, rewrite it, split it into several tickets and get them done. Developers are perfectly capable of updating a ticket with its progress and state.

3. Avoid creating Epics for the sake of Epics

All too often there is a project being worked on where you're compelled to create Epics like tech debt, or maintenance etc. These are intended to collect the various tasks that come up but do not fit into the currently defined Epics. The same issue can occur when bugs are being reported. They can easily end up in the "lost and found" bin, long after the sprint is over.

Utilize the backlog, or more so, a clear list of outstanding issues. Make it clear which tickets are priority, and which are less important. Crawling through project management suits in order to locate the next task which should be worked on is a waste of time for everyone.

In order to improve our client experience we've recently moved all our clients to managing everything in Github directly. We now create issues for all tasks and label them accordingly with labels such as: bug, enhancement, in-progress, blocked, needs-review etc. We've also implemented the use of Github's project manager component, following a simple Kan-ban style. We place corresponding tickets in the project in order to visualize the state of a project's progress. This lets us quickly close projects when they're complete yet maintain a backlog of issues that are either in need of a solution or are enhancements. Pull-requests are clearly connected to their corresponding issues and even can be easily connected to the wiki pages etc.

Though Github may not be the best solution for everyone, we encourage agencies and freelancers out there to consider using a "less, but better" philosophy to deliver work to their clients.