General

Why You Need to Be Mixing Your Business Tools

Has anyone ever told you about a product that claims to do everything? Maybe a handy all-in-one pocket knife or one of those one-size-works-for-everyone gloves that can fit both me and my 5-year-old cousin. But while the gloves might fit us both, the experiences will be very different.

Going for an “all-in-one” anything is a slippery road.

To be successful, you should focus on something you’re good at, and do it as best as you can. No single project management tool is perfect for executing a successful project in all its aspects – not in the real world. People work in many different ways and their different strategies need unique approaches.

For that exact reason, combining different planning and management tools is the best strategy for businesses. The SaaS scene is huge these days, with tons of software solutions available. But instead of looking for the one perfect fit, imagine that scene as a big Lego kit. Figure out what you want to build – and then pick the suitable building blocks.

To give you an example of the mixing and matching, here’s the combination we use at Teamweek. While it might not necessarily fit your individual workflow, it’s nonetheless a good example of how you can combine different tools into a working solution.

 

Trello for ideas

Trello is an amazing visual list tool that can do a lot. Possibly the most obvious and common way to use Trello, is to use it as a projects and tasks manager. But we use it as a backlog, or icebox. What this means is that we put all our ideas up on Trello cards and sort out the best for implementation.

This is what it looks like in action:

Trello

The best ideas get moved to 3 month action plans (which we’ve found to be the most flexible way of planning). We also have separate cards for work that’s in-progress, and another one for tasks that have already been completed.

Teamweek for the strategy

The Trello cards we choose to push into development get made into tasks on the Teamweek timeline.

When it comes to the visual big picture view for looking at who’s working on what and how long each task will take, Teamweek is the best tool for that (why else would we have made it?). It allows you to easily spot who’s available for a new task, and schedule upcoming projects for both the short and long term.

Here’s the strategic view for our current 3 month phase:

Teamweek planner

Basically, it makes high-level planning effortless.

Also, on our weekly meetings we run Teamweek on the office big screen and schedule the upcoming week with simple drag and drop actions.

GitHub for the micromanagement

Teamweek, then, is used for keeping an eye on the strategy and the big picture. When it comes to managing the intricate programming work, we take the Teamweek tasks and set them up as milestones in Github. These milestones then get broken up into the various smaller issues and tasks:

Github developing platform

Toggl for efficiency

Finally, to know how much time we have spent on something and to thereby learn more about our efficiency and capabilities, we track our time with the Toggl task timer. Specifically, we use the Toggl Button extension for Chrome. When enabled, it generates a “Start” button on our tasks inside Teamweek, allowing us to track directly from our interface.

Technically, the Toggl extension works inside Github too, but from a managerial point of view we find it’s more important to understand the time value of the bigger tasks – the Github jobs tend to be quite fragmented and their time value is more useful for the individual programmers.

 

Putting all the blocks together, our multi-tool workflow looks something like this:

Trello cards for ideas ->

Teamweek tasks for strategic overview ->

Github milestones for organising coding ->

Toggl for tracking efficiency

All of these tools have been designed to solve unique  challenges, without attempting to cover too much. All together, they make for one amazing planning tool that is still simple to use.

 

We hate complicated things. There’s nothing worse than a tool designed to do too much, overcomplicated to the point of uselessness, requiring hundreds of hours of practise to use effectively.

What we recommend instead, is to pick a few simple apps that suit your workflow, and see how they can work together.

Just make sure you don’t pick too many.

 

NB: Check out how to combine Toggl time tracking with Kanban methodology.

Teamweek isn’t big on keeping secrets – check out their public real-time development roadmap here!

What apps do you use to get the job done? Share your experience in the comments below.

By On March 20, 2015

  1. I read this post completely on the topic of the difference of most recent and preceding technologies,
    it’s amazing article.

  2. Asana has been a favorite of mine recently. I love the due dates. It helps me focus on what needs to be done without being overwhelmed by the other things that may not be relevant at the time.

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  3. Hah, no shame in using sticky notes if they do the trick!

    But do try Trello, it’s core service is free and functionality wise it’s about as simple as it gets.

  4. It’s reassuring to see that my Lego strategy is legit. I’ve wasted time looking for do-it-all tools, but none of them fits the way I work because nobody does what I do, the way I do it.

    As a freelancer, I need to track my time for various clients and projects (including the time I spend managing my business admin). My editing clients pay me by the word, not by time, but I need to track my time to make sure I’m working as efficiently as possible. My consulting clients are billed by the hour, so I need Toggl to keep time for me.

    I love color-coding my clients and projects and so I can see at a glance who is gobbling up my time and who needs more love 🙂

    For invoicing and project-related expenses, I use Harvest.

    For task tracking, I’m pathetically using Sticky Notes, but hey–I can color-code those too! Perhaps I’ll migrate to something like Trello. The key is to have something that is easy to get to so I can drop a thought without losing stride.

    Now if only I could find something to automagically generate my P&Ls, I’d be golden!