The world of software development is constantly receiving an influx of new tools that are supposed to make life easier. However, there comes a point where you can end up with tools just for managing other tools. So where does enough become enough? For us, as a software development company, we have 5 key areas where we need strong tools to assist us.
This article will detail 5 tools we have discovered that assist greatly in these areas. We have also found ways to combine some of these categories and actually use one tool to cover 2 key areas at once.
Trying to manage multiple projects for multiple different clients with different designers, developers and support can quickly become an overwhelming task. It’s important that you have the ability to oversee as much of the project as possible from one place. This year, we moved across to Notion and it has streamlined this process immensely. The sky is seriously the limit with Notion! It takes a little bit of time to set up and become familiar with, but once it’s up and going it becomes a seriously powerful tool.
Some features of Notion that have helped in these areas are:
Project management - Ability to create custom kanban boards, create and store documents and use relations to build a project wiki containing everything about that project but you have only written it once.
Documentation - Easily write documentations and reports.We have even created a template which we now use for sending new project proposals to prospective clients.
Sharing - Share with your team via comments and assigning tasks, add guests (great for working with freelance developers and designers) and send a link with customisable permissions to view pages to clients so they stay in the loop.
It also has some useful integrations, such as to InVision and Figma, which mean you can embed design files from those platforms directly to the document, so when you are putting together the project plan and build specifications you can directly reference these.
While Notion is an extremely helpful tool, one negative aspect of the program is the cost. Although it can begin to get fairly pricey, it is definitely worth the cost if you’re going to use it as your core project management tool.
It’s extremely important to be able to easily connect with your clients and team members. There may be no surprise here, but we use Slack as our team communication tool. This has likely been covered by many teams, but it is a trusted and reliable tool.
Where things get interesting is our emails. We use Missive, a shared inbox that allows its users to direct message on email threads which makes it easier to discuss emails received. This saves having to forward the email to your team and discuss it in a separate program. Instead, the message thread is created and everything is laid out like a messaging app where the emails are essentially like attachments in the conversation/message thread.
It also has team inboxes, which many other services have, that allows multiple people to monitor a single support or contact email inbox and respond to requests. For us however, we use it for all our clients contact emails so that when we sign up for different accounts, it is easy to access verification codes or make project specific requests, as well as, monitor contact and support pages on the clients’ behalf.
Design and ideation go hand in hand, requiring collaboration and iteration. For the majority of design and ideation work we do, we use Figma and Paper (iOS only) respectively. Paper is usually where we start sketching concepts, often via video call, to get a rough plan. Then we use Figma to more accurately express our ideas and designs. We have team design kits which enable us to quickly turn our hand drawings into web based design files. From these basic web files built using our team kits we can then iterate on the design to eventually produce our final design.
As a digital agency sharing progress is key to a good relationship with our clients. Using Figma allows us to share a single link so at any time the client can see the progress of their project. Figma also enables us and the client to comment directly in the file which again helps to build a relationship with the client but also makes communication about elements of the design more clear.
Finally, we want to use this post to inform you about a new build we are working on called Timesheets. In Australia, there is a government grant called the Research and Development Incentive Scheme which allows you to receive tax rebates and sometimes even a refund for completing research and development activities within your business. Our clients that we take on are often building new and innovative systems and we found we were applying for these grants regularly. One of the requirements of this scheme is tracking the time spent on particular projects (due to wages being an expense that adds to the total R&D expenditure which is the key number in calculating your refund/rebate). With multiple projects being worked on by multiple team members, we needed a better way than the jotform we were using to track this, so we created Timesheets. We believe we have developed the easiest and least invasive team time management tool on the market. Your team receives a reminder email at the end of the day and then uses 2 drop-down menus and a text field to tell the admin staff where they allocated their time. Check it out at timesheets.co.
Many software development tools exist and, quite quickly, you can be paying hundreds of dollars per month just to maintain them. My suggestion to you is to find the smallest number of tools possible, as it will make everyone’s life exponentially easier. Spend some time finding the best tools for you and don't be afraid of paying for high quality tools that eliminate the need for 3 or 4 of the free tools you may be currently using, the time savings will pay for the tool itself!