Tale As Old As Time Management The debate over what tools are best-suited to manage software development is as old as software development itself. One thing is clear, however; the age of managing significant software projects with hastily-scribbled notes on yellow legal pads, or in binders bursting with boilerplate requirements are over—today’s software development requires more sophisticated project management platforms than ever. Custom software development in particular has needs and priorities that differ from in-house development; in particular, custom software development project management tools need to radiate project information to non-technical stakeholders in a way that is useful to those stakeholders. Three tools in particular stand out as being excellent examples of human-friendly project management platforms for custom software development projects. Basecamp Here at Shift3 Technologies, we have standardized around Basecamp as our go-to custom software development project management platform. Basecamp dovetails well with our conversational style of project management, prioritizing a detailed, unbroken narrative describing each decision point and milestone in the project, without having to resort to putting informationally dense and difficult-to-understand assets such as Gantt charts or spreadsheets in front of our clients. Those who prefer to visualize data with Gantt charts may be disappointed to learn that no such charts are available in Basecamp, but with schedules, to-do lists, a unified messaging feature, and the ability to filter extraneous information from client view, Basecamp sets a high bar for elegance and a focus on written communication and project narrative. Developed with a highly opinionated review of how projects should be managed, and what elements truly make the difference between success or failure with a project, Basecamp is best-used for teams that value clear written communication between human beings. This requires both the client and development team to be willing and able to communicate their thoughts rather than simply checking off to-do list items. It has been our experience that this commitment to written communication improves both the experience and the end product of our custom software development projects. Trello Trello is an evergreen favorite of software development teams worldwide, and for good reason; it is one of the simplest custom software development project management platforms on the market today. Leveraging a card-based, Kanban-style presentation, Trello allows a project to be decomposed into its constituent tasks, with each task represented visually by a card bearing a human-readable description of a single feature or a task. Details related to the feature or task are only a click away for each card, and cards are able to be grouped, organized, assigned to different project stakeholders, either on the development side or the client side. Like Basecamp, Trello does not offer Gantt charts natively, but does offer numerous third-party integrations to create them. Visual appeal and low-friction experience are one of the primary reasons why Trello is such a popular—and powerful—custom software project management platform. This platform is best suited to smaller teams, or teams who value a low-friction, high-efficiency task decomposition over detailed written communication, or rigid structure. Jira This enterprise software is the 800-pound, cross-platform gorilla of the custom software development project management platform market. Broken into four packages, each containing a different element of project management, Jira is a bigger, more powerful, more sophisticated project management platform that also requires more structure and effort from those who use it. Offering the ability to present Kanban-style project boards, like Trello, as well as customizable workflows to automate the progress of a project, Jira is steeped in Agile philosophy, and is intended to support Scrum, Kanban, and other Agile methodologies in the execution of any kind of project, custom software development or otherwise. Rich data visualizations, combined with robust bug tracking, are the primary draws for this powerful system. Jira’s power comes at a price though; Jira is best suited to larger software teams, and requires a higher level of sophistication and effort to set up and use the tool for managing a project. For teams that value rigid structure over human communication, on projects that are large enough to absorb a bit of friction and still remain productive, Jira is a natural choice. Find Your Communication Station Certain project management tools lend themselves to certain types of projects, with the cultural values of the team often playing as large a role in defining the right tool as the work to be done. It has been our experience—over the course of executing on hundreds of client projects— that while finding the right tool to fit the team or project is important, it is even more important to pick and use a custom software development project management platform, and to use it consistently. Even an imperfect tool, used without fail, is better than using no tool at all. Here at Shift3 Technologies, we bring diligence and a dedication to human communication to every project, while recognizing that diligence and communication alone are not sufficient to ensure the best outcomes. We must bolster and extend the efforts of our teams and our clients with the power of automation and software tools; the same power that we deliver to our clients. Be Our Guest, Put Your Project to the Test Do you have any questions about the management of your upcoming project? How can we help? For a free consultation about your idea or project, email [email protected] or call 559 560 3300 today. Prepare for your consultation with this handy dandy guide or check out Five Easy Ways to Avoid Custom Software Stalls. This post was written by Chris Hawkins, Executive Director of Software Delivery. You can find him eating heart-healthy turkey chili or posting pictures of his cats on Instagram.