If you’re reading this blog post, you’re probably a project manager looking for some inspiration that will make your company’s work easier. Fortunately, In spinbits we’ve got proven ways to facilitate work, so we decided to share them with you. Below you’ll find a list of tools, programs, and web applications that all people in our software house use on a daily basis. They’re fundamental lifesaving tools for project managers!
Slack is an essential tool that is used for communication between all of us in the software house. We use it instead of calling each other or sending emails. Slack is a perfect tool for a project manager and for all people cooperating on a number of projects at the same time. Each member has an opportunity to create new channels and conversations between different groups. Some can be ‘public’ - available for everyone, others ‘private’ - only participants can see the messages.
PM’s tip: A good solution is to create channels dedicated to a certain type of communication. For example, at spinbits we’ve got a General channel, that is used for announcements, and a Random channel - used for gossip, memes, and things like that. Of course, there are also channels for topics related to different departments. Every project we are currently working on has its dedicated Slack channel. If your company works remotely, then it’s nice to create something like a Kitchen channel - it’s a substitute for a normal kitchen in the office. It can be a space, where people share their food photos, or have coffee together. Just try to suit channels to your company’s and employees’ needs.
Psst! Slack allows you to update your status - you can personalize notifications and insert an emoji next to your name. For example, when you’re eating lunch - set up a sandwich emoji, so everyone will know, you’re away from the keyboard. :)
Google Calendar is a basic tool that probably most of you know and have used previously. It’s a place where you can set events that you should take part in, internal or external meetings, or just reminders of doing something if you’re afraid of forgetting. For example, all of our video conversations about our partnership with Sylius are scheduled in Google Calendar. It’s also good to have everything in one place - project managers have a lot to do and remember about. It’s also useful to create different calendars for specific projects - use different colors to distinguish between them.
PM’s tip: BEFORE you schedule a meeting with someone, check if he’s available at this time! Only if he is, send an invitation. Wondering how you can check someone’s availability? On the left bar, there is a section “meeting with”. Search for the name, surname, or email of the person you want to schedule the meeting with. Then, in your calendar view, you’ll see their calendar. You won’t be able to see the exact activity scheduled, just the information if he’s busy or not.
It is a useful and life-enhancing web application for project managers and people who often work with content, data, or presentations. Google Document enables you to create, edit, and store online documents and spreadsheets. What’s important, a lot of people can edit the same file at the same time! You can also have a discussion in the comment section and read other employees’ feedback. It’s also nice that you can always review the previous and any prior version of the document, which is really helpful when looking for a mistake or following changes. What’s more, the file’s owner decides on who can edit, comment, and see the specific files or folders. You can add people by their email address or the organization they represent - in that case, in our software house, everyone with the email email@example.com will gain access.
Google Drive is an online storage space where all employees can store and access previously-stored files: text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, videos, and anything you want. Google Drives also stores Google Documents - you’ve got all of them in one place, so the access is easier and faster.
PM’s tip: ALWAYS remind people, to give ownership to the person in charge. After creating a new file, first - share it with a chosen person, and second - click “transfer ownership” to make him or her an owner of the file by sending an invitation.
There are a lot of tools that help with project management, but in my opinion, Jira is the best option to do that. Not because it is the easiest or most user-friendly tool to use, but because it is a powerhouse, which is able to handle almost all necessary tasks. It also provides plug-and-play compatibility with any other major tool you can think of, so you can focus on the work, rather than trying to make everything work properly. For example, Slack, Zoom, Google Meet, Google Calendar, time tracking tools, and even GitHub if IT engineers need to.
On the other hand, Jira has some disadvantages as well, for example, only one sprint can be active in a team-managed project. It can be a bother sometimes, however, this is a deliberate decision made by the Atlassian team of Jira developers, to better reflect the Agile approach in project management.
At spinbits, we use Jira to organize, plan and track our work in 2-weeks sprints. How do we recommend working with Jira? Let’s have a look!
First, we create space for a specific project. Then, invite team members who participate. Take some time to set up and customize columns as you need. In our software house, the number of columns we create depends on the type of project we work on, but we usually use minimum of four columns - “to do”, “in progress”, “review”, and “done”.
PM’s tip: In each task, the project manager can set up the deadline, add documentation descriptions, and attachments, or choose a responsible employee. It allows us to maintain a steady workflow and clarify what needs to be achieved.
Clockify is a tool that makes time tracking simple. It’s helpful in two situations. First, when your employees work for your customers. Then the time tracking tool helps you to report the engineer’s working hours, so it’s easier to issue invoices. The second situation is when your company is so big that you’re no longer able to control everybody individually. Here comes Clockify to help you. :)
PM’s tip: you can connect Clockify with Jira. Thanks to that, engineers can track their working time through specific tasks on Jira, and as a result, it’s anyway visible in Clockify reports.
The worst situation in a project manager’s workday is when you need a team member to do a specific thing, but he's just not there - called in sick, on vacation, or in a car accident. Some things are sudden and unavoidable, but how many times did you just forget that John is on his vacation this week? Then you need to figure out how to deal with a problem independently. If you can handle it - congratulations! But in most cases, you can’t, because we all have different skillsets. - You can at least make sure that a similar situation won’t happen again on your watch. Timetastic is a space, where employees can schedule their vacation dates, and the boss can accept the request, or reject it.
PM’s tip: It is important for you as a project manager to accustom your team to put their vacation dates into Timetastic as early as possible. That way you will always be able to plan ahead, knowing when your engineers will be absent and unable to work on a project. Maybe someone’s planning to schedule a meeting with you at the time when you’re out of the office? Let them know about your plans, so they can manage their time better. Believe me - they will be grateful :)
Notion is a space where you can plan, think, write down your ideas, and even manage projects - organize everything that matters and run the whole company. Because in our software house we use a lot of different project management tools that you’ve already read about - we use Notion in a different way. Are you curious how exactly?
PM’s tip: In Notion, we created a Knowledge Base. We‘ve put there all the information about our company, the principles that we respect, and the rules of work that we follow. What’s more, in our KB employees can find information about the onboarding process, team members, their skillsets and responsibilities, and access to the tools and processes our company uses. Moreover, every department has separate guidelines, so each new employee, who joined spinbits, sees how we work and what we focus on in each department.
Airtable is the main tool that we use to organize our company’s workflow. It’s something like excel, but with much more power at your disposal. Unleashing this force is also much easier than using Microsoft’s product :) We’ve created different bases for each department, and they are all related to each other. Each base can contain tables. Tables and bases can be connected with each other, so there’s a smooth flow of information. Airtable is a tool that gives you the ability to set very complex automation in just a few steps. It requires almost no previous experience. You will be amazed at how much work can be automated, and therefore disappear from your calendar. New employee? Perfect, just put his data in a column, and Airtable will send his contract to HR while providing him with access to all the apps he needs to use and simultaneously emailing your building administrator that a new access card is required. Cooperating headhunting agencies will at the same time receive a message that their candidate has been employed. This is an example of just a few among many other chores, which can, and frankly should be automated to boost your productivity and make every day more enjoyable! Records in tables can be grouped by status, date, or anything you want!
The last project manager’s tool that I’ll write about in this article is Figma. This tool allows you to create and edit vector graphics like logos, websites, applications, and much more. Using shared files in Figma, you can see what others are designing in real-time. Moreover, you can add comments and discuss specific parts of a project.
PM’s tip: In spinbits not only designers use Figma, but also managers do. We create flowcharts and diagrams, to make processes, the DPA structure of the company, and things like that. Figma is easy to use, check it out!
It is said that if documents are in order, then everything in the company is in order. And I really think that's true! :) I believe that if we use tools, we should take full advantage of their capabilities. In conclusion, I want you to know that most of these tools can be connected with Slack. Then, notifications from, for example, Google Calendar, Clockify, Jira, or Airtable, come to you as a Slack message. Sounds great, right? :) Forget about remembering everything - Slack does it for you!