There are lots of posts about how teams work together and which tools they use. Everybody has their own way of collaborating, but, when it comes down to project management tools, it’s all about easy access and quick response time. Properly used, these workplace project tools can help you utilize your day better and still maintain transparency.
blockquote p “A business should be run like an aquarium, where everybody can see what’s going on — what’s going in, what’s moving around, what’s coming out. That’s the only way to make sure people understand what you're doing, and why, and have some input into deciding where you are going. Then, when the unexpected happens, they know how to react and react quickly.” cite — Great Game of Business, Jack Stack, Bo Burlingame.
Choosing the right tool makes all the difference. For example, we use Slack for almost all our internal communications. It’s a great tool for day-to-day stuff, but not exactly the best for communicating big impact decisions. Always better to write those things down somewhere else. The downside to that big fishbowl of transparency is that you'll end up having to go through tons of archives, just so that you can discover the outcome of a certain topic from a few days ago without having to go directly to the source.
We're always working on several projects simultaneously. Small teams (around 3 to 5 people) join forces on projects and post everything on Slack, from the latest functionality questions to funny GIFs. Adding it up, each team member posts an average of 400 messages every week; our peak was around 1500 messages in a single day. Up to now, we've written all our concrete decisions in Basecamp. That way, if anyone had a question, they could post it as comment to that discussion.
Basecamp is a great tool and offers highly usable features. However, if you're creating digital products, you're probably also using a tool like GitHub. At a certain point we used Basecamp for our discussions about features and design, while debates about bugs and other code-related issues were happening on GitHub.
We've always been cautious about switching out tools. Mostly because switching too often can reduce productivity. What’s more, the whole idea of a one-stop-shop project management tool didn't seem realistic at first. To make sure we covered our, um, assets we've always used multiple tools. That is, until recently.
It no longer made sense to have discussions taking place on several different apps. Kind of the opposite of transparent, because everything needed to be cross posted and some things weren't posted at all. So we switched to GitHub. Even now, this blog post is being discussed and written on GitHub:
Now everybody at Awkward is using GitHub, and we all have access to the same information. Information that’s linked to a project (repo), the people working on it, issues, to-do’s, milestones, design and code. For each discussion or subject we create an Issue. This is where we talk about the topic, post links and images and refer to other issues, code and commits. We're so stoked about the results that we decided to move all company related discussions like new hires, office management, copywriting , etc. — to GitHub.
This is when we stumbled onto a problem: GitHub doesn't have a good solution for the total overview of all our project milestones. Sure, GitHub allows for some pretty awesome filtering. But we wanted a combined solution for all of our projects.
We discovered a way to get more out of this cool tool. We simply created a project repository (repo) without code, that gives a complete overview of all our milestones per month. For example: this blog post is part of an update for our website in the awkward-site project and part of the Release 1.1 milestone, which is defined as the madeawkward.com issue in the December milestone.
We've come a long way, and finding the right project communication tool has been one of the secrets to our success. We're totally over the moon for GitHub, and we're looking forward to making it work even better for us. Here’s to being Awkward!
TLDR: Improve your company’s decision-making process and its transparency by moving over to a single communication tool. GitHub is an excellent choice, and an easy choice if you're already using it for your code.