When starting this company, I quickly realized just how involved actually running a business is and how a lot of running a company is not actually making the product. So I figured I would start a series talking about the business tools we use, how we use them and what other alternatives there are. Today’s post will focus on project management and planning tools.
The important thing to note about all the things I am about to show you, is you need to find a system that works for you. If that means you use a tool not listed here that’s fine! As long as it works for you!
We currently work in an agile environment with two week Scrum sprints. For those who are unaware of how agile development/scrum works, essentially we just work in 2 week increments where we try to get a certain number of tasks done. Usually in each sprint there is a goal we’re trying to achieve (e.g. finish development on feature x) and if a feature changes or an unexpected bug comes up there has been space allocated in the sprint to accommodate that.
If you’re a software developer you’ve probably used JIRA before. JIRA is a software development tool by Atlassian that allows you to keep track of tasks, bugs, sprints, etc. Not only that they also have a lot of project archetypes that help with non-software developers. These include things like task management, lead tracking, content management, etc.
The only thing about JIRA, is it is one of the few tools I will list in this series that is not free for small teams. You can host a JIRA server yourself, or do what we do, which is use JIRA Cloud. JIRA Cloud costs $10 USD/month or $100 USD annually and you can host as many projects as you want with up to 10 users. After trying out a few open source project management tools I actually prefer JIRA and recommend it over things like Trello. You can essentially set up a project any way you want and they have integrations with a bunch of other tools like GSuite, and other Atlassian products like Bitbucket and Hipchat.
Trello is a free project management tool that has a focus on ‘boards’. Each of your projects is a board full of lists, and each list has a number of cards on it. The cards are your tasks where you write out what needs to be done and you can move the cards from list to list. Then when you’ve completed tasks/cards, you can archive each individual card or you can archive an entire list.
When we started 56 Game Studios, we initially tried using Trello for our project management since it was free. However, we found it didn’t really flow as well as JIRA did in terms of agile development (at least using Scrum). We also didn’t really like how the lists scrolled horizontally and there was no automated sprint reporting which made it difficult for us to figure out how many points per sprint we completed on average, and therefore how many we should take next sprint.
Team Gantt is a online gantt chart software that allows you to have 1 free project with 3 users. Gantt charts are useful as they illustrate a project’s schedule and helps to quantify the status of your project (i.e. Our project is 15% of the way done and 1 month ahead of schedule). Using a Gantt chart also forces you to sit down and flesh out each of your software’s features, meaning you can determine at what point you need to start development on those features in order to meet your deadline. Creating a Gantt chart can actually be a bit of a sobering experience as well; if your product definition isn’t well formed you will quickly find that out.
In the next Business Tool Kit post I will be talking about user management and communication tools, so stay tuned for that!