Successful project management comes with certain rules, terms and tools which is not easy to achieve. For that reason, my acquaintances in the tech industry expect valuable functionality and productivity in these tools and they want to rely on their resources in order to deliver qualified work.
While working at an IT startup, I’ve been in search of a smart solution with unique features to help me improve efficiency and I’ve started my software research based on this.
First, I found this article about Evidence-Based Scheduling on Wikipedia and thought that somebody finally started understanding what a developer needs in a project management software. Then it made me think; what more is out there?
A successful project manager is one who can track and visualize the entire project from start to finish, who could envision milestones and estimate delays. To keep pace with business and IT, project managers need support to expand their visions and make their management practices more adaptable. Here are the tips to utilize that support:
Be Agile, Develop Agile: Stop thinking traditionally and acting rigid, instead focus on being more flexible and moving quicker. Either have a ton of whiteboards or find an online space but get as visual as possible in order to make quick decisions and build an accurate backlog.
Do Not Manage People, Manage Tasks: As weird as it may sound, you will see the benefits once you focus on task management instead of micromanagement. Create cases to contain the necessary information to understand each task, so you can stay productive, with fewer meetings, and monitor your team’s activities clearly.
Update Your Project Management Practice: Have a powerful search engine, allowing you to instantly search complete contents of cases, wiki articles, and customer correspondence. Your issue tracking tool should be your right hand.
Learn From Your Past: Make accurate estimations based on your past project experiences. Make sure to log all your previous project activities, deadlines, delays, assignments and timelines to look back and compare your set goals with the actual achievements.
Time Is The King: You will want to know how much work you’ve left, how much time you’ve spent on each case, ensure a balanced workload, predict project completion dates, improve estimates and deliver on time.
Communicate All Deliverables and Activities: Share technical specs with your entire team, design docs and enable them in your shared library, create knowledge base articles, public documentation for customers, complete specs and user documentation.
Create Step-By-Step Milestones: Divide your project into manageable tasks and assign milestones for each task you had created in order to accomplish your project goals. The milestones will help you with qualifying events and crucial deadlines.
Clear Communication: Prioritize the email sequence throughout the assignments. Set automated responses where necessary and appropriate. Save time with templated, pre-created responses.
TBQ (Time, Budget, Quality) Rule: Efficient time tracking, resourcefulness and smart scheduling are the key tools to fulfil the TBQ Rule. You may meet the deadline and accomplish the goals. However, your project will be marked successful only if you are able to manage your priorities effectively, use your sources efficiently and know the impact of unforeseen events.
FogBugz is back … actually, we never left. We’ve rebranded back to our origins. We began 2018 as Manuscript and we wrapped-up the year as FogBugz!
FogBugz was born in 2000, created by the legendary Joel Spolsky, following a very simple and effective philosophy: “Listen to your customers, not your competitors.” The idea was for it to be an off-the-shelf company, so FogBugz didn’t work with customized offers, rather, listen to our customers in order to build a product that works for everyone. Every time there was an interesting feature to develop, we’d put more effort into it, and build it in a way that would fit all our customers.
That’s how Fogbugz was created; a tool born from real needs and feedback from people that were using it. FogBugz became the first issue tracking tool in the market, and other competitors started to appear, trying to copy what we built.
FogBugz continued to grow, becoming everything a dev team needs to start managing a project effectively, without complicated workflows getting in the way. As customers shared more needs with us, we created Kiln, the version control tool … exactly what developers were asking for: a place to keep track of any part of their code, making it available to branch, merge, clone, push, or pull.
In November 2017, FogCreek, the company that created Fogbugz, decided to change the name of the product, and called it Manuscript, giving it a new website and changing the branding of the product.
We acquired the app in August, 2018, with big plans of giving it a new face, and improving what is already a very effective tool. Even with the new name, Manuscript kept having the spirit of Fogbugz, and was well known by that name. That’s why we decided to change the name back, to return it to it’s true essence.
We had the pleasure to interview the coder, developer, entrepreneur and trainer Naomi Freeman last week. She shared developer tips, entrepreneurial secret sauce, her success formula and more. Here are the keynotes from our fun, honest and learning experience interview:
Startup Secret Sauce
We had to ask Naomi, who is a serial entrepreneur: what’s the secret sauce to a startup?
“You can find tons of articles talking about startup secret sauces but I think the simplest thing is to make money. That seems obvious, but when you’re in the technology space at least (and sometimes in nonprofits, too), you can kind of lose track. It’s very simple: if you’re not earning money, you don’t have a business,” she said.
If it’s such a simple secret, though, how do people get off-track?
Naomi built an AI prototype and co-founded a company around it. With that in mind, she explained:
“If you build something – and, for me, I built this prototype myself, so I was really deep in it – and the building is great but as soon as you do something cool in the technology space, suddenly you’ve got cameras on you, you’ve got venture capitalists, you’ve got accelerators coming after you. It can be really exciting but if you look on your calendar and do an exercise where you write down every single thing you do for every single hour of a week for one week or two weeks or three weeks, then go back with gold star stickers or little gold money stickers and see where you were actually doing revenue-generating activities (not trying to get venture capital).
We’re talking about meetings for partnerships, we are looking for actually talking to clients who want to pay for things and if you can’t find them anywhere on the calendar where you can put a money sticker without really stretching it, you have a problem.”
It can be exciting to be part of the Silicon Valley culture, but venture capital success doesn’t necessarily mean business success. Quite often, Naomi argues, most businesses aren’t even a good fit for the venture capital model. That doesn’t make the business a failure. It just means it’s not the right kind of business for venture capital.
What would you say to prospective entrepreneurs if you could only say one thing?
“I think the greatest advice to prospective entrepreneurs is ‘You got this! No one is gonna take you seriously, but you totally got this!’” she said.
When asked what the best advice for those wanting to dive into entrepreneurship is, Naomi stressed that there’s no single path.
“I guess, more seriously, you hear all kinds of advice about how to do a startup, how to be a founder and at the end of the day it really is a little bit unique for every single person. Some people need that support of multiple co-founders and big boards right out of the gate, some people are really most comfortable once they have a big financial partner or they’re more comfortable when they have their own autonomy.”
Given that there can be so many different ways a start-up can be structured, how do you know if you have a start-up or not?
“At the beginning with that first spark, when you move from ‘I have an idea I want to share with everyone’ to any kind of action, either you have to be all in or you have to know that it’s a great business. These are both start-ups. Whether you’re in R & D for 2 years on venture capital funding or you’re earning money but it’s not your purpose in life, you’ve still just started something. That’s a start-up.”
The best way to beat up competition with a low startup budget
“What makes a startup an unbeatable entity is the community. Again, that’s my perspective, but if it’s just me and you [two co-founders who] want to team up against the world, yeah, the wind can blow us around a lot. But if we build a community of people who come to us, who know us, root for us, it’s a lot harder to get rid of the company. It becomes a much larger, more intangible, less targetable entity.”
How do we make an unstoppable force of the community to support our business?
“There are concrete ways to build a community and it will depend on your business.
Let’s say you’re one of those subscription boxes that goes out every month – you’ve got makeup or books or food in the box. It’s really easy to put on the inside of the box ‘hey, Instagram it, tweet us, show us what you got, tell us how you’re feeling’. If it’s a book, maybe let’s talk about a book club kind of question that you post on Instagram, or blog or tweet about, where everyone can connect. In other cases, say, if you were selling socks, it could be that when you send it out – first, you make sure your boxing is amazing, the unboxing experience is like nothing you’ve ever felt before. It’s like joy comes out of that box, not just socks. Second, when you unwrap the box, there is a thank you card saying thanks so much for being part of this bigger thing.
There are different ways to create community and engage but the key is that people need a way to feel like they’re part of your team and they’re on the journey too. The funding might go but your users and people won’t.
Why are people on Facebook? Cause everyone else is on Facebook. It’s a network effect and people want to be a part of it.”
She went on to explain that you have to create that kind of community and feeling for every company. A company is not just the product(s) it’s selling. It’s also the brand identity that they sell and the community they build up around that not only shares with the company but also shares with everyone else in the community and anyone watching from outside the community.
The most common challenges developers face
What do you think the most common challenge is that developers face?
Naomi explains that the biggest challenge developers face is actually in how they connect – or disconnect – from the people around them.
“It comes back to some other things I’ve been talking about: people get inflexible and isolated. When you think you know better, even though everything around you is changing, and you cut yourself off from your team or your peers because you’re pretty sure you know better, you end up in a really dark place.
There is this myth in Silicon Valley of the individual coder – a hacker in the basement that’s doing all this crazy wire work (or whatever they’re doing) but the truth is, when grown-ups go to work, they interact with lots of other people. That’s just how modern life is.
Unless you own your own business, you don’t get the final say on ‘well, this is the future!’ Unless you own the business it’s actually not your decision what the future looks like, because what you’re really saying is that you are the best person to know what the future of the company looks like, and that’s just not true. I mean, you can take ownership for your decisions at your table but that’s within the framework of whoever owning it saying it’s okay, right?
I don’t want to discourage people but I feel like when people get a little too comfortable sitting where they are, they can end up in that place.”
We hope you enjoyed this interview and got the chance to learn a lot from Naomi’s experience, for us, FogBugz, it was very enlightening and we’re grateful to be able to share this excellent advice!