How to properly set up a project and what tools to use are the most common things that my client often ask me. Their project might be a bit disorganised, and they are looking for a magic tool to solve this problem. In fact this is the wrong approach! They need to understand their workflow first, identifying the most effective process that fits into it naturally and make and habit from it. Let’s try to improve your process.

People first

As usual, everything starts from your team members or yourself. You might already have a team, people you trust, people that already work together and the worst thing to do would be to tell them to change the way they work because it’s not effective enough. Instead, the best way to find the most effective process is by listening and learning how do they currently work:

  • What makes them so effective?
  • What tools are you using?
  • Where do they waste time?
  • Which communication tools are used?
  • What do they like doing and what not?
  • What are the tasks that take the most time?
  • What are the tasks they perform on regular basis?
  • Technically speaking, what are the tasks that might be automated?
  • What part of their job could be done by simply clicking on a button?

Knowing the workflow and how people get work done is the only way to start building a process.

Building a process

“A picture is worth a thousand words”.

At this point, use diagram, post-it notes, arrows, question marks, avatars and draw the process you get from interviewing the team members. This will help you to clarify the entire system, and identify the improvement points and some possible tools that might fit into it.

Create a small presentation that explains the current workflow and the improvements you would like to work on. Explain how you want to improve their workflow and what kind of automatization need to be created. Be sure to confirm that your proposed changes would fit into their workflow and business process. Try to stick to this structure:

  • When A happened, then B do C which result to D.
  • Then when D happens…
  • and so on.

Tools

The best tool is the simplest and most accepted one! So if the team already uses one tool, try to keep it and improve the way they are using it. If it doesn’t fit, go for one that will include the entire system and also have integration with other tools. There is nothing more frustrating than managing the same information in several tools. So if your developer can make a reference in his development project or source code and automatically it is noted in you task management tool, that would be great!

Remember to start small, but think big. Don’t be shy to use Google Spreadsheets as project task list at first. If your project only involves 2 or 3 person, that might be the most effective way, even if it’s not the best solution.

Keep in mind that setting up a new tool and restructuring the workflow is a waste of time for your teammates and you need to measure the Return on Investment to be sure that is worse it!

Here is some few tools that I use on customers projects:

• Data: Google Drive, DropBox, Evernote
• Project/task management: Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Jira, Taiga
• Communication: Email, Slack, Skype
• Development: Bitbucket, Github, Beanstalk

Demonstration and pilot phase

Do not ask tens or hundreds of people to change their habits in same time. Start small, test, and then convince others of the benefits for them to change their workflow. Start with a small team and teach them the new process. Keep in touch almost on daily basis for the first weeks to be sure that your solution is the most appropriate. Feel free to adapt your process based on the feedback you get. Always start with the most experienced teammate who knows their workflow and processes better than you. This way the new process and tools are easy to implement. If not, this might be not the right solution.

Always keep in mind teammates’ difficulties and explain on the benefits that the tools you’re deploying bring to them. Calculate the amount of hours they will waste and convert it in lost revenue using their hourly rate! This usually helps people to invest a bit of time in new process and tools for better overall performance.

Once the team are convinced and are using the new tool, give them the opportunity to share their success with the rest of the organisation. They will be proud of being part of the improvement, and hopefully will convince the rest of the organisation to migrate to the new system.

Conclusion

There are plenty of tools out there, and most of them are great! So do not waste time searching for the best tool, you’ll change your tools every 2 months anyway. Go for one tool and stick to it, test it and adapt to your workflow.
How do you improve process on your end?
What type of tools are you using?
Feel free to share it with us!
As always, I’m free to answer to your questions.

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