It takes flexibility and organization to succeed in today’s highly competitive, ever-changing business environment. Under these conditions, productivity software can be a valuable tool to organize work processes. Skype, Slack, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, Trello, Asana, Jira – every tool is great separately, all of them together, however, can create a mess, distracting people and overloading their routines. But...
What if you built one more app?
Okay, let me rephrase it. What if you built an app that was perfectly tailored to your team’s needs?
In general, there are two common types of task management apps: personal to-do apps for managing everyday activities, and team task management apps that help teams collaborate.
Why reinvent the wheel when we already have lots of options available? Our experience shows that it’s often difficult to find an existing app that perfectly fits your team. If you're a startup, you need to plan team meetings, delegate tasks, and let team members collaborate on use cases and documentation. If you're a publisher, you look for a tool that will help organize your materials and publishing schedules. If you're an app development company like Yalantis, you need to organize small tasks across many projects, maintain project documentation, track the time spent for each activity, and so on.
Existing task management apps tend to either be aimed at the widest number of users, and are therefore too simple and lack important features, or they are overcomplicated and target too narrow of a niche. Some can be great for certain companies and teams, but others end up relying on multiple apps to enhance their workflow.
3 key features a team task management app should provide
There’s nothing worse than a productivity app that claims to make things easier while making them harder instead. Thus, a good team task management tool must not only provide a certain set of features, but also must implement them in a way that is comfortable, flexible, and promotes collaboration.
Let's now go through this key features in detail.
Since making work organization simpler is the purpose of all productivity tools, task management apps should eradicate distractions with clean and simple visual design, intuitive UX and meaningful functionality.
While to-do apps should be simplistic, team task management solutions offer more than simple task lists, and require an extended set of features:
Write down tasks and ideas. The most basic function is creation of tasks, checklists, and taking notes.
Organize tasks. Users must be able to organize all their content to customize their workflow. Task management apps usually use boards, lists and post-it note formats.
Customize user content. Let users edit lists and notes, leave comments, attach links, documents, images and other files.
Set due dates. Setting due dates for tasks will increase your team’s productivity and remind them of deadlines.
Repetitive tasks. This feature comes in handy when you have certain routines in your team’s workflow. Automatically reappearing tasks save time.
Labels. Marking different types of activities or tasks with color indicators or other markers will help to visually distinguish content and make your project boards less messy.
Criteria. Another useful way to make sense of piles of tasks is to add filters by criteria such as priority, title, and task type – the exact filters will vary.
[Todoist presents due dates, labels, filters and more]
Synchronization across platforms
Web and desktop are natural environments for collaborative task management solutions, and they seem to be the most convenient platforms for office work. However, having each team member attached to their PC limits the whole team’s productivity, especially if you have people in your team who work remotely.
According to recent research, 80% of North American companies use at least one mobile app to enhance their employees’ productivity, and 26% of respondents claimed to rely on productivity apps heavily in their work.
Popular task management apps like Trello, Asana, Wunderlist, Toodledo and others have functionally identical versions for all platforms, including Android and iOS, and some even provide apps for smartwatches. On the other hand, some services offer only limited mobile functionality. For example, the web and desktop-based task manager Flow offers a mobile chat app that brings only its communication features to mobile.
In a perfect world, to reach the maximum flexibility, your task management apps for all platforms – from web to iOS to Android – should have identical functionalities and be synchronized, so your team members can reach their projects from any device and from anywhere.
Integrations with different apps and services can provide even more transparency and flexibility to team task management. For example, paid versions of Trello (Business Class and Enterprise) offer so-called Power-Ups, which are integrations with Evernote, Github, Google Hangouts, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, and more; Asana has a giant list of apps it can be integrated with including automation tools, browsers, project management platforms like Jira, reporting tools and many others. Many task management apps can also be paired with other apps such as messengers, email clients, note-taking tools, time trackers, schedulers and others with the help of automation tools like Zapier.
Here are some examples of the services that task managers can be integrated with:
Dropbox is valuable for synchronizing and having ready access to all your project files (mindmaps, prototypes, documents and more).
Google Services provide cloud storage, Gmail integration, an office suite with documents, spreadsheets and more.
Jira’s features will be helpful for software developers, since an ordinary task manager usually can’t track time, organize the workflow with scrum boards, and keep records for bugs and issues within specific project. Hence, some teams may need both a task management and project management solutions to be mutually connected.
Slack is a tool to unify all team communication, quickly share files and set up group chats.
[Trello supports file attachments from both Dropbox and Google Drive]
Some task management tools provide unusual features or industry-specific features that may be quite valuable.
Time tracking is a vital feature if you need to keep track of time spent on tasks.
Scrum boards help software developers to organize project workflows.
Natural language recognition allows apps to understand simple words and phrases to create recurring tasks (this feature is used in paid versions of the Todoist app);
Graphics and funnels display statistics, allowing users to track and visualize productivity.
[Jira's scrum board - unlike kanban - preset makes it possible to organize the workflow in sprints]
Collaborative task managers can include communication tools such as messengers. However, native communication tools aren’t an absolute must for task management apps, and can be an unnecessary burden since teams can instead use any third-party solution. As a compromise, a task management app can integrate with a third-party messenger, just like Asana can be integrated with HipChat and Slack.
It's important to be on the same page with the rest of the team. That's why you need to send regular and relevant notifications to all team members, to certain groups of users or to select individuals. Most task management apps have email, SMS and push notifications, as well as reminders about upcoming events (note that the majority of apps only allows access to ALL these features in paid versions). An activity feed can also be a valuable addition to a productivity app.
This is not an exhaustive list of features that you can possibly pack into your own task management solution, but it’s more than enough ideas to begin planning your app.
Where exactly should you start when designing a task management app?
Make a to-do app for your team as an MVP
As always, we highly suggest to start planning your app as an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with a core set of features. It’s not necessary to rush into building a full-scale team management solution: developing such a project would consume lots of time and money, and, in the end, your team members may never give up their jiras and trellos anyways.
Start with a more personalized and targeted tool, and then develop it into a team management solution according to your team’s growing needs.
For example, take a look at the Todoist and Wunderlist apps. Their free versions are basically to-do apps that offer a limited number of features to help small teams collaborate more effectively. In the Todoist app, up to five users can collaborate on up to 80 projects, creating task lists, setting due dates, and synchronizing across devices.
However, unlike Todoist and Wunderlist, your MVP is intended for internal use, and hence its features are not limited by mass market demands.
While your task management concept will be specific to your team’s needs, you should still base it around the three core principles of collaborative management tools: flexibility, collaboration, and simplicity.
Flexibility: synchronization across platforms
Everyone uses mobile devices. If your team members work out of the office even occasionally, then mobile may be a significant platform for your business. This is why your app should be available on multiple platforms – even at the MVP stage – to ensure the flexibility you need for your team, allowing them to move between devices and keep up to date about new tasks and priorities.
Collaboration: basic collaborative environment
Though your MVP may look a lot like a to-do app, its ultimate goal is to grow up to be a fully-fledged task management tool. Start by allowing small groups of users to work together on a project, customizing and interacting with boards in different ways and integrating with vital third-party services like email clients – and don’t forget about attachments. You can hold off on chat functionality at the start, however: commenting functionality will be sufficient.
Simplicity: user-friendly interface
To make sure that your app is simple yet useful, build it around one or two features that solve the specific problems that your team faces. If you have issues with time management, combine the task organization with time tracking and due date features; if your primary problem is a lack of communication, implement collaborative features like comments and sharing.
Once your app is in use, it is crucial to look at user feedback to understand how your app is working in daily use, and to determine the future direction of development.
Task management apps are an effective asset for organizing and streamlining the workflow of teams and individuals. A functional team task management tool provides greater visibility in the development process, and allows teams to keep their priorities in focus. They help teams to avoid overlooking critical tasks, and maintain focus on a concrete goal.
If you decide to create your own task manager, you’ll be free to choose any features you wish, and won’t be restrained by the business models that existing apps offer. Remember that it’s not necessary to build the ultimate solution all at once: productivity comes with flexibility, so start with an MVP and keep growing from there, shaping continued development based on feedback from your team.