If you hire a designer, you have designs. If you hire a developer you have code. If you hire a Project Manager you have... a timeline, a checklist, an organized team?
Regardless of the deliverables, if you don't see the value in good project management, it's probably the case you haven't experienced good project management. They are the glue of a team that allows anything of complexity to be built on a timeline or budget.
In our early days working with Chicago startups on their mobile apps and websites, we'd often get questions about the time our Project Managers spend on projects. Outside of the more common goals of keeping the project on time and on budget, we'd follow up with a 50 line excel spreadsheet that outlined all the responsibilities our Project Managers have on a week-to-week basis.
The current state of Project Management deliverables
Currently, Project Managers illustrate their activity and keep tabs on both their teams and clients through tools like Basecamp (http://basecamp.com), Jira (https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira), Pivotal Tracker (https://www.pivotaltracker.com), Harvest (https://www.getharvest.com/), and Trello (https://trello.com/). These tools have spent their short lifetimes making it as easy as possible for anyone to use, including non-technical users.
This has manifested into a era of transparency where any client or stakeholder can login and witness the work happen on their project. That's been helpful and few people would argue that more transparency is a bad thing. However, where it becomes a problem is when it comes time for clients and stakeholders to interpret the activity in the tool.
- Project Managers want to be able to quickly and easily identify who's ahead and behind and how this translates to budgets or other metrics so they can report them clearly.
- Teams want powerful and often sophisticated tools that allow them to quickly communicate, reassign tasks, add metadata and worry less about how this translates to the rest of the world.
- Clients and stakeholders want clarity so that they can react and make changes to priorities and process as early as possible. Instead, they are at the mercy of their teams and tool preferences, often having to be trained for how they're used and not having a gauge for what the raw data is telling them.
Because of these varying needs, tools like Basecamp that offer SO MANY great features to teams at various levels in an organization, are being dumbed down to a glorified email thread, file repository, and shared to do lists. Clients and stakeholders are going back to relying on phone calls, emails, and in-person meetings to gauge their projects status and evaluate the quality of project management. Yikes.
The fundamental problem with productivity tools
Regardless of how great the user experience is (and many are outstanding), all the project management tools in the world suffer from the same fundamental problem. Registration and logins are the gateways to two things clients, stakeholders, and teams don't want: having to remember another password and learn yet another tool for the sake of organizing and reporting their progress.
Instead of trying to invent a new way of onboarding, we decided to go back to first principles: Project Managers need to communicate between lots of teams who realistically have ideal tools for information and communication
Instead of trying to invent a new way of onboarding, we decided to go back to first principles: Project Managers need to communicate between lots of teams who realistically have ideal tools for information and communication. We set out to create something that adds value and efficiency to the project management process and prevents everyone from changing their individualized workflows.
Rebirth of the emailed status report
Email may, at times, be a necessary evil of communication, but the one thing that you cannot deny is that email is fast, connected everywhere, requires no additional setup and has next to no learning curve. It just works.
There is a few reasons emailing status reports has failed in the past.
- They were inefficient. Project Managers who elected to send status reports in the email message body would have to copy and paste user stories from development tools, to-dos from productivity tools and budgets from time tracking tools. Formatting would have to be cleared and reapplied and if things changed the day before sending the report, they'd have to begin the process all over again. It was slow, redundant, visually unappealing, and prone to inaccuracies.
- They were trying to do too much. Some chose to email Excel and Google Spreadsheets attachments. Spreadsheets are easier to manage and powerful, and made sense. Unfortunately, it turned out big spreadsheets aren't the best form factors for digesting data for clients, stakeholders, and teams because of the large breadth of information and lack of organization. Some Project Managers optimized their spreadsheets to double as a development tool which became an even bigger nightmare for larger teams who wanted to use the spreadsheets to track communication, quickly move information, and track versions.
- They weren't customized or optimized to the end user. As a client or stakeholder, if you're interested in key milestones, you had to troll through rows and sheets of information to find summaries or extract your own conclusions. Nothing about email made it easy to customize the content to each user.
The fundamental issue is that status reports in emails were never broken, it's just that nobody took the time to make them powerful enough to be formatted, connected, and superiorly relevant.
Introducing the future of beautiful, powerful and effective status reporting: Sushi Status
Today, we're introducing a tool that let's Project Managers once and for all speed up their process, granulize information, demonstrate their value and impress, without the need for anyone else to have a login or learn a new tool. Sushi Status is a two year internal project we at Eight Bit Studios built from the ground up led by our Project Managers.
Instead of making another new tool for teams to login to, Sushi Status integrates with other tools to pull the most relevant information into a beautifully designed and organized email. No more copying, pasting, and reformatting to create status reports. Pull in todos from Basecamp, user stories from Trello, and budget figures and time entry from Freshbooks with three clicks of a button.
Let's embrace the reality that every person and team has unique information needs to track the success of a project
Let's embrace the reality that every person and team has unique information needs to track a project. Some measure their projects success by hitting deadlines, others budgets, others the weekly tasks completed and so on. This is the first tool with a few clicks, a CTO can get a user story feed and high level budget, while a CEO can get a timeline and red flags, and an internal team can get a list of upcoming and completed to do's, all pulled from the freshest data sets being used on any number of other tools. Need a report from last week or last month? No problem, everything is automatically tracked and versioned.
There is a mountain of technology built on a glacier of research conducted with Entrepreneurs, Project Managers and development teams. With over 1000 Project Managers in the Facebook community, and sign ups steadily increasing every day, Sushi Status is on track in 2016 to improve the productivity and quality what we consider the most important role in the product creation process.
If this gets you as hot and bothered as us, we'll hope you'll give it a free test run: http://sushistatus.com
About the author
John W Ostler (@seahostler) is Co-Founder and Principal of UX & UI at Eight Bit Studios (@eightbitstudios), an award winning mobile strategy, design and development studio that focuses on strategizing and executing the visions of Chicago's most promising startups. He has helped lead and produce technical and interaction design engagements with brands like Cadbury Adams, Burger King, Motorola, Career Builder, Groupon, Exelon, Sidley Austin, and HSBC. His studios work has been featured in the USA Today, Brandweek, The Daily Beast, NewYork Times Tech blog, Mashable.com, featured on multiple CSS design blogs, and had multiple apps reach in the Top 25 and receive a "New and Noteworthy" nod from Apple. He is also Co-Founder of Bughouse (@bughousekids) a kids app, toy, game, books startup.