Have you ever been on a team? Have you tried to collaborate efficiently?
If so, you probably searched for tools that could make it work better for everyone. This post (which will be completed in two parts) is meant to share our experience on the subject and describe both the tools we end up using and the process we follow.
One of a team’s initial tasks is the selection of an appropriate work process, a way for its members to collaborate efficiently.
You can typically get there either by using a whiteboard and some post-it’s or by picking a tool that can solve the problem for you.
I tend to rely on the latter.
5 months ago I made a presentation for our monthly Agile Meetup regarding such organisational tools. At the presentation I introduced (or rather scratched the surface of) a number of tools for agile development. Trello was one of them and when the moment came (while working on Blendo with my team) we needed a tool for our software development process, we initially went with that ( here is how we used it).
Trello is a really simple, intuitive, fast and free tool! You can create boards for every process you can imagine. Development, Customer Requests, Things to Do etc. It has a nice mobile app, A LOT of ADDONS (check Chrome Web store for example Scrum for Trello, Boards for Trello, Points for Trello , Kanban WIP for Trello and many more!) and many fans/followers.
Still, as the development of our product gradually progressed, we realised we needed something more. At some point we had so many cards in Trello boards that we had to scroll all the time. The problem was even worse in the mobile version. Plus we wanted to have different layouts apart from Trello’s standard and we also needed some extra features like sorting or tracking time. You can find some Trello addons of course (see above) but you cannot rely that they will do everything, plus they do not work in your mobile edition and not everyone uses the same web browser.
As a result we decided to change our development process tracking tool and use Trello for our internal project management needs only. There was in fact a tool in my presentation list which showed a lot of promise but was at Beta at the time. When the time came it popped into my mind.
Meet TargetProcess 3
The design is pretty nice. You can have many views, e.g. have the same user stories but view them in a scrum, a kanban or scrumban board just as easily. The product is more complicated though so you have to give it some time in the beginning.
The app has a web and an iOS version. Android is coming soon. They support 5 people for free! Just perfect for our little team!
The most important difference between Trello and Targetprocess 3 is how they deal with cards. Trello has a really simple and clear logic. Every new card created is bound to a specific board. It is possible to add it to another board if you want, but you have to copy it and it is not updated when the original is. In Targetprocess 3 on the contrary new cards are not bound to specific boards. They can be accessed from various boards like the Kanban Board or the “Work by Person Board” or the “Task Board”. The card is the main element, boards are just views that may change according to user’s choice.
There are many blogs that describe and analyse the differences between almost any tool. I do not want to do this here. I will only try to explain where we found impediments… and had to solve them.
1. Kanban board
Although Trello is nicely visualising Kanban processes, large boards like ours with many user stories are not making it very user-friendly. We had to scroll down to see the cards we wanted and that was much worse for the mobile app. Other than that you can perfectly visualise your process. That is the reason we still use it.
Targetprocess 3 has a clear Kanban template you can use. Target process 3 has a “zoom” feature. You can zoom in and out, the same board can be seen as from a bird’s-eye view or from a low level to dig into details. That was a really helpful feature for the visibility of information.
We additionaly got more features that are not found in Trello:
- collapse and expand columns (greatly helps visibility)
- filter cards with advanced inline commands
- easily customize the UI (e.g. resize column size, or focus to specific cards)
As we procced with Blendo development we get a lot of feedback or requests. We make some filtering and we create our User Stories out of these. All these User stories along with ours are going into our backlog. Targetprocess 3 has a separate Backlog Board where you can work independently on these cards. We like it becasue it is a clear repository of what we have in mind and you can eaily prioritize of filter user stories and work on them.
We plan our future iterations but for the realy soon to come iterations we always has a brief outline in our head. With Targetprocess we can create roadmaps on the feature level. We use the roadmap feature where we get an overview of the product roadmap and the features we are completing in each iteration. We use much sorter iterations than the example bellow but the idea is the same.
4. WIP Visibility
As I said earlier we use Kanban and with that it comes the WIP to limit the amount of concurrent work. Trello had a Chrome extension (Kanban WIP for Trello). In Targetprocess 3 you can set the WIP limits from the Kanban Board settings. We do not have to use third party plugins any more in order for this simple thing to work. We now have a more concise and integrated solution (it also provides us with reports for visibility – more on this later).
5. Bug board
We monitor bugs -doh! There are specific template views in TP about bugs, which hugely help in visualizing status. For example there is the “Open Bugs” Board that shows all open (not fixed) bugs, grouped.
Trello has a great checklist feature but there was a minor problem. We wanted to assign the tasks in the lists and in many cases that resulted in the creation of separate cards which severely increased their overall amount.
Targetprocess 3 has a clear task and assignment functionality that is really useful for us. We can assign them, comment on each of them, add files, this that were not applicable for Trello.
In Trello we didn’t have any kind of views or reports about the progress of a project. In Targetprocess 3 we now use timelines to have an overview of how much time something takes. Just select the board you want and press timeline on the top right. We use this report for our internal processes and we find it useful. I believe the specific feature would be even more useful for bigger teams. In Trello there was not such an ability.
As I said earlier in Trello we had no reports. Comparing with Timeline feature which was ok for us, the reports and more importantly the Cumulative Flow diagrams are really useful to us! We regularly see this diagram which gives an excellent visibility of the team work. I believe that will be more useful as out team and request will grow bigger.
If you have any similar experiences with such tools please share! There are so many out there. Targetprocess 3 has many more features of course, we do not use everything with Blendo yet. We are still learning…
In Part 2 of my post I will show you how we use Targetprocess 3 to do dev work.
to be continued…
I love technology and working with people. That is why I am trying to offer as much as I can at the local startup ecosystem and at the same time building Blendo. A a platform to help you create a Single Source of Truth for your data by bring together data across multiple SaaS tools!
I am co-organizer of the Agile Greece and API Athens meetups and I contribute at the Developer Economics Blog.