I couldn’t talk about any project management tool, without first talking about the people behind it. I have the distinct pleasure of leading Springthrough’s talented group of project managers. We’re more than task and budget managers. While time, cost and profile are important; we value the human element. To meet each client’s unique personal and business needs, we actively adapt our approach to each project.
We structured our Project Management Office (PMO) and our process to work this way, but early this year, we identified one missing piece - a highly adaptable and collaborative tool to communicate with clients and keep everyone on the same page. Internally we used TFS (our tool for source control) for task management. While it’s a great tool for our developers, it fell far short as an easy-to-use communication tool.
As a PMO, we were left sending TFS screenshots to clients, searching through old emails for a single conversation string, keeping track of tasks across multiple meeting minutes - which were simply word docs scattered across SharePoint… you’re getting the picture, there was room for improvement.
We were missing something to tie everything together. So we set off on a mission to find that something. Perhaps, a project management tool.
Functionality I was looking for
- Task management
- Communication tool
- Document storage
I briefly goldilocksed my way through trials of Trello and Basecamp. Then I came across Teamwork Projects. Feature-rich task lists, Milestones, Messages, Notebooks, Risk tracking, Comments, Calendar, Gantt charts, advanced privacy control. To be honest I was initially overwhelmed with everything available to me. Where to start? How do we want to utilize this? I realized figuring out how we utilized the tool would take more effort than finding the tool.
Over the next few months I tried a variety of different structures across different types of projects, fine tuning our process to the tool so that it was complimentary, not overbearing.
For example, one of the most robust features for our team has been the task list. Obviously, it met my first functionality goal of task management. We could create tasks within a project and highlight milestones along the way. Furthermore, the task management feature also simplified our needs around communication and documentation. For each task, team members can also add comments, notes, or files. All attached to this one activity. As a PM, I can’t emphasize enough how much easier that feature makes my life. We all get a good view of how a project is moving. It puts everything in one, easy-to-understand place and ensures that the team and clients are on the same page.
The task feature set offers just one way that Teamwork met our need for a project management tool. As we get more comfortable, we continue to explore how Teamwork connects with our other technologies. For example, TWP works with HubSpot, Slack, and a number of other systems that we use on a daily basis. TWP has a fully open API, so you can either write something custom or utilize one of the many pre-built integrations out there. Just this week, Teamwork’s support team introduced me to Cloudpipes, which is allowing us to build a custom integration between TFS and Teamwork – keeping both platforms automagically in sync.
Adopting Teamwork into our process - and our process into Teamwork - has transformed communication on our projects. Clients quickly jumped on board and began utilizing comments and messages on Teamwork over separate email chains. Status reports and meeting minutes are all stored as notebooks and viewable in your browser. Files are uploaded, embedded into messages, and versioned - all in the same place. Having everything in the same place has been the transformative part. No more searching through massive email chains titled “No subject” for that comment you swore you read at one point.
Teamwork has been a very successful tool for us. That said, we don’t have it all figured out. We continue to iterate on how we utilize Teamwork, and I hope we always continue to challenge the way we think about and approach it. Stay hungry, stay foolish.
You may have noticed by now that I’m a rather big fan of Teamwork, but is it the silver bullet for everyone? Nope. Perhaps you need something simple like Basecamp or Trello, or different set of features that Jira, Connectwise, etc. offer. The important thing is to find what works best for you and adapt that tool to fit your specific needs. Finding that right tool for us has transformed the way we work together and manage projects.