Effective Communication Beyond Skype (Part II): Software

This week is focusing more on storage and content collaboration software --an integral part of communication that is taken for granted by on-site teams. Much like communication, storage can be better than the standard solutions. The recurring issue that we run into is that we need to reduce the amount of time that it takes for us to find that specific document that we need for a project, or eliminate the switching between different softwares, so that’s where our industry-specific solution comes in. In this case, it’s called Confluence. Confluence, much like HipChat, integrates into our project management software, and is designed specifically for the software development industry. In addition to providing the functions offered by Google Drive or Dropbox, we can also tie it directly into our individual projects. This means that you don’t need to search for the file through your well-sorted categories anymore; the files that you need are simply available to you as soon as you begin working on your project. While this software isn’t a solution for everyone, it is a good example of what industry-specific solutions can do. Rather than being content with off-the-shelf solutions, you can increase your productivity just by working with a vendor who knows your industry.
As our team has grown along with our client base, the necessity to make sure that everyone knows what needs to be done when has become greater. Emails are no longer sufficient to monitor the tasks coming in, and so something needed to change to make the lives of our project managers easier. For us, this is where PM software has made it possible for us to continue with our rate of expansion. There was a time when we managed all of our projects through Excel spreadsheets. Fortunately, we’ve moved away from that. There are several solutions out there that can help you manage projects. For a while, our solution was Basecamp. Out of the box, Basecamp allows projects to be assigned to teams and individuals, and makes it possible to break each project into a set of tasks, each of which must be completed before the project can be launched. This makes it virtually impossible to overlook the details in the project. In addition, organizing projects in this way ensures that transition times between projects are vastly reduced. Rather than having to look for the next project and locate all of the task requests associated with it, our employees can now defer directly to the software where all of the information for a given project will already be located. Finally, it has helped us in our pre-project planning. We’re able to track the time that tasks take so that we can more accurately project how long a task will take, and plan peoples’ days’ out accordingly. We’re now making the best use of employee time, while not asking them to overextend themselves. Much like Basecamp, JIRA allows us to quickly and efficiently task work for the day. The difference is that since JIRA is specifically for software development, it has additional flexibility for us to organize our projects according to the type of software that we are working on. In addition, it provides the base for our integration with HipChat and Confluence; all of the projects that we run through JIRA tie into those systems as well. This creates a very powerful set of tools that we use every day to help us collaborate and yield better products more quickly. Using software like these has been huge for us; despite a growing client-base it has given us all the ability to maintain a remote work environment, and yet we’re all able to work together more closely than ever.

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