Your collaborative project work challenge
Together, let’s take a look at a couple of common situations for teamwork in projects:
- A while back, you introduced Atlassian Jira or a similar tool at your company. But for some reason, nobody’s really happy with it. Some people think that the tool is too complicated and that it doesn’t really fully support the processes they’re familiar with. Departments have to cope with elements being called by different names than the terms they normally use. Or the tool doesn’t provide adequate support for complex processes, which means that information still has to be stored in other tools.
- Multiple departments work together on the same project or tasks. But there’s no shared platform, so the exchange of information takes place via various different channels – e-mail, phone, Slack, Confluence etc. – and nobody has a complete overview of the project. Even worse: Departments have their own systems for distributing information, and other departments have no access to these! As a result, information is lost and has to be collected anew. Moreover, the progress of work is not transparent and it is difficult or impossible to draw conclusions about the project status.
- You want to work in an agile way, but the tools you’ve been using until now aren’t really suitable. There’s no way to keep a product backlog, for example, so to create, prioritize, edit, and assess user stories. The planning of sprints is not supported. The possibilities for tracking project progress via burndown charts, for example, are inadequate.
- You might be working in an agile way already, but your resource and action planning requires functions that enable cross-project planning and control. To reconcile these requirements, you use various different tools that are not integrated with each other or are only poorly integrated. Information therefore needs to be maintained multiple times or is lost. In addition, your employees have to cope with frequent tool changes during their everyday work.
- Your development takes place in a distributed fashion at different locations, as is more and more common in all sectors. For example, a survey by CollabNet indicated that 68% of all agile projects now take place using teams spread throughout different countries. Due to the lack of personal contact and a common system, it’s hard to tell who’s working on what. This results in unnecessary waiting time because it’s not clear whether a task has been completed. The lack of transparency means that tasks might be performed twice or not performed at all.
Do you recognize your own company in one of the examples above? Do you come across similar situations every day at your company? Then we believe we can support you with solutions that perform really well.
What is task and project management?
Small teams frequently organize their projects without special collaboration tools: Ideally, they all sit in the same office at the same site. A stand-up meeting in the morning and individual, specific applications are often sufficient to optimize and speed up teamwork and processes.
But what happens if the number of employees grows, the projects get larger, and external employees that cannot work at the central site are used? Without appropriate collaboration tools for task and project management, it’s practically impossible to retain a clear overview. It’s now time for a collaboration tool that’s precisely tailored to your processes!
With the right collaboration tool, you’re always up-to-date about your projects and the associated tasks. If there are unforeseeable delays, you can take immediate action. And you can use the time saved to take innovative ideas that will drive your company forward and turn them into reality. Integrated document management also facilitates teamwork for projects and ensures that all project-relevant data is depicted and managed centrally. External employees and partners benefit from the right collaboration tool, too: They have easy access to relevant processes and to their tasks.
Are you now asking yourself “where’s the catch”? There are a couple of things you need to bear in mind when looking for the right software to optimize your projects and tasks in large teams. The various solutions differ quite significantly when it comes to their scope and cost. In addition, you face the challenge of testing the tools for usability: Some providers offer a whole range of collaboration tools whereas others specialize in certain features. You can only improve your task and project management system using collaboration software if you also make sure that certain programs and file formats that you and your employees use are supported by your collaboration tool and that your existing external systems, such as CRM and ERP, can be integrated.
Here’s another question: Where should your collaboration software be hosted? At your company’s computer center? Or in the cloud, made available by a provider in the form of an online application as software-as-a-service (SaaS)?
In order to precisely describe what we understand by task and project management, let’s take a look at the two main alternatives: Traditional (plan-driven) project management and agile project management.
What’s the difference between traditional projects and agile projects?
Let’s take a look at how these two approaches differ. What are the properties of traditional and agile project management? What is their basic structure?
- Traditional project management follows a fixed process (from phase to phase). At the start of the project, goals are formulated. The course of the project is divided up into individual phases with milestones. Requirements and the implementation of set goals are defined really clearly early on and are recorded in the form of requirements specifications and functional specifications, for example. Methods such as PRINCE2 provide specifications as to how responsibilities should be distributed in a team and how the individual phases can be controlled and changed.
- Agile project management, on the other hand, is based on “iterations” and, as such, is much more dynamic. Approaches such as Scrum assume that projects in product development and software development are so complex and can change so quickly that it’s not possible to fully define them right at the start of the project. New requirements arise constantly, often only during the course of the project, and these require dynamic action and fast planning adjustments. With this method, significantly smaller packages are developed and edited bit by bit.
The best method for a specific project can be determined using the Ralph D. Stacey matrix:
Do you work with a known technology, and are the requirements in your project clearly defined or unlikely to change much or at all over the course of the project? In that case, your project is a simple one. In this case, traditional project management is the right choice. The project is easy to plan and will not be endangered by changing requirements.
At the other end of the scale (leaving aside chaotic projects) are the complex projects. In the case of complex projects, the requirements are unclear or there’s a high probability that they’ll change over the course of the project. At the same time, the technology used is new to you or is extremely challenging. Product development and software development projects are often complex. In this case, an agile approach is the best way to go, since the project can be tweaked with each iteration (with Scrum, these are the “sprints”).
The Ralph D. Stacey matrix in our depiction has been enhanced with a third dimension – the people (team members). This is because the stability of the team plays an important role in the selection of the right method. Want to know how your company can successfully introduce agile methods, too? Through our agile methods consulting, we are familiar with the relevant challenges and can help you to master them.
Both traditional and agile projects can be found at our customers’ companies. It’s not rare to find both types of project organization in a single customer. In this case, tools from the traditional project world are required again, e.g. for resource and capacity planning. Or it might be the case that projects are interdependent, so different methods are used for project management at different levels. Often, we discover that the tools used here, e.g. Trello for agile projects and Microsoft Project for the traditional approach, are not integrated. As a result, information is lost or entered multiple times.
The interaction of task and project management
Tasks arise at different levels: Personal tasks, that you manage yourself. Team tasks, so tasks that arise when formulating a solution to a problem that are passed to a team for processing. And, of course, tasks at project level, which often require the participation of multiple teams.
It’s not particularly helpful if a separate system is used for each of these levels. Quite the opposite: In order to keep a clear overview, integrated task and project management is essential. Then, each employee has a single system where all tasks arise centrally and can be prioritized for all. In addition, overall progress can be tracked here. Such integration also ensures that project planning takes place at the multi-project and portfolio level using the same database as is used for the projects and work packages at lower levels.
The benefits of using an integrated task and project management system
For many years, we’ve been helping our customers with their transformation to agile methods. It’s useful here that we also know the traditional approach really well and can therefore fully understand the concerns of our customers when switching to agile methods. We also know which problems will need to be solved.
Regardless of which method you’re currently using and the direction in which you want to develop, your teams will benefit from an integrated task and project management system.
- Are you already agile but want to achieve more with the right tools? In this case, your teams really need product backlogs with prioritization and assessment support, options for planning and performing sprints, burndown and velocity charts for tracking project progress, and tools for release planning.
- Are you pursuing a plan-driven method and need support for the traditional processes on a shared platform? If so, your teams need Gantt charts for planning and formulating dependencies, tools for planning and tracking resources, and planning functions for milestones.
- Are you at the start of your transformation, wanting to use agile and traditional elements at the same time? In this case, you’ll need a mixture of the tools in the previous points, with the best possible integration of the two.
We’re experts in building platforms for working together. Frequently, we use Atlassian Jira for this. We know this tool like the back of our hand. On the basis of your requirements, we configure the tool to precisely meet your needs as well as finding the perfect plug-ins (Atlassian apps in the case of Atlassian) so that your processes are supported in the best possible way. Together, we decide whether a central platform with associated authorizations is required or whether you’d be better off with multiple instances and the required integrations. For small teams, we often recommend Trello as an alternative.
As well as adapting the tool to meet the needs of your company, we tailor it to the needs of your company’s departments. This includes special workflows and the correct naming of elements with terms that are familiar to the employees of your departments. For example, the Development department talks about user stories, issues, and bugs; IT support discusses incidents and service requests; your Marketing department uses terms like “social media posts” and “print media”. We’ll configure your system so that cross-departmental processes are possible without those involved suddenly having to learn an unfamiliar language. For example, an incident in IT support will automatically become a bug in Development. And IT support will be informed about their “incident” once the “bug” has been solved by the Development team.
Task and project management is not restricted to software development. Today, a machine construction product generally consists of 75% mechanical components and 25% software, electrotechnology, and IT hardware (according to a survey by the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association/VDMA)). This ratio is quickly changing in favor of more IT components, since software and automation engineering play an increasingly important part. In particular in projects in machine construction and production engineering, where different disciplines interact, a shared platform for communication and the exchange of information is therefore vital. In addition, a platform of this kind enables a view of the entire project, making the current status and progress transparent.
Do you want to roll out the task and project management system used only in your software development until now throughout the entire company? Or do you not yet use any tools at all for collaboration? We’ll show you the perfect way to allow your various teams to work together successfully on the same platform. Let’s take a look at some of the technical details and find out about the important issues.
In our opinion, Jira is an indispensable platform for companies of any nature and size. Regardless of whether you want to create a simple mobile app, develop a challenging IT system, or carry out a project in machine construction consisting of hardware and software components, Jira is the first choice for bringing your teams together. Our opinion is shared by the respondents of a CollabNet survey in which 67% of all agile teams said that they use Jira for project management. This is far ahead of Microsoft Excel at 40% (incidentally, we see this as a poor example of collaboration).
So what can you do with it? This flagship product by Atlassian helps you to manage multiple projects through planning, the assignment of tasks, the tracking of problems, and reporting about all work done. Jira is an agile environment that supports all people involved – whether marketing or IT employees, Scrum masters or developers, testers or product owners – in their team work through a single system.
Jira helps with understanding and classifying projects through the creation of epics and roadmaps and the saving of to-dos in a backlog. You can use Jira to:
- Track the progress of your team using Scrum or Kanban boards
- Create and assign items such as user stories, bugs, and tasks
- Manage sprints
- Define story points
- Estimate the time required to carry out work
- Enter times for items
- Upload and exchange files and add comments
- Prioritize and hierarchize tasks
Plug-ins for Jira
The special thing about Jira is its plug-in concept, which you can use to enhance the platform really easily. Atlassian Marketplace contains a large number of valuable applications – Atlassian apps – that can enhance Jira to meet practically any desired usage purpose. Examples include:
- ScriptRunner from Adaptavist for the automation of processes
- Personas, User Story Maps and Roadmaps from EasyAgile for product and software development with a focus on customer benefits
- Big Picture from SoftwarePlant and Structure from ALM Works for multi-project and portfolio management
- Tempo for capacity, resource, and budget management
- Xray Test Management from Xpand IT for the integration of test management in Jira
- Elements Connect from Elements Apps. We use this to enable the connection of your external systems such as your CRM or ERP system.
These are only a few examples of the possible enhancements. And naturally, we’ve entered into partnerships with the most important app providers, so we have a fast line to them if questions arise or if solutions are required that are not available off the peg. When choosing plug-ins, it’s important to ensure that they have a stable run behavior, so they do not negatively affect the basic system or its update capability. We have been following the development of many plug-ins for years now, and we know which are actively maintained and which are already over the hill. This means that we can make a justifiable choice of enhancements that will not cause any problems to the operation of your platform in the future.
In addition to the implementation of the basic system and plug-ins, certain processes are required beforehand, and we’re happy to work with you to model and optimize these. The first attempt is often already fairly good, but it’s only during routine operations that the knowledge is acquired that can be used to shape processes to your advantage.
Connection to external systems
Each of your departments will have different requirements when it comes to the connection of external systems. For example, your software development team will need a connection to the DevOps pipeline, your IT support employees will need a connection to the ticket system, and your marketing department will want a connection to the CRM system. All of these connections are possible and have been achieved by us many times, so there’s no risk of insular solutions.
One important decision is the operating model to use: The options here are your own server, a high availability cluster in your own computer center or an external one, or the Atlassian cloud. Each of these models has its advantages and disadvantages. The choice made depends on your requirements for operational reliability and data security, for example, but also on costs. Naturally, the decision is also based on the possibilities offered by the selected software. For example, Jira is available as a server, data center, or cloud version.
Our services for integrated task and project management
You’ve now seen the benefits that you can enjoy as a result of integrated task and project management. The result of a step-by-step implementation is:
- A platform for collaborative work that’s perfect for your needs
- The perfect choice of plug-ins to optimally support your processes
- An authorization management concept tailored to your requirements
- Functioning workflows that use terms that all people involved can understand
- Dashboards that enable an overview of the entire project and make the current state and progress of the project transparent
We’ll be happy to advise and help you with the following in order to tap into the existing potential at your company:
- Digitalization and optimization of your business processes
- Analysis of your IT infrastructure
- Design, implementation, and configuration of applications for successful teamwork
- Connection of existing systems (cloud, CRM, DMS etc) to collaboration tools
- Optimization of your existing applications to enable better teamwork by your employees
To complement this, we’re happy to hold workshops and training courses for your users and administrators – remotely or on-site as required.
Why are we the ideal partner for the introduction of an integrated task and project management system at your company? We have been successfully implementing solutions of this kind for our customers for years! We’re familiar with all kinds of projects at all levels, from smaller projects with a single team to extremely complex, large projects that take place across departments or even involve more than one company. Our experiences with Jira by Atlassian are extensive and in-depth. We also maintain partnerships with the providers of a large number of important plug-ins.
And last but not least, we ourselves are Jira power-users: We use it to handle all of our projects, all of our company’s task management takes place through it, and we have a whole range of workflows in use in all areas. This fits in perfectly with the saying: “Eat your own dog food!”