Effective management has made possible monumental projects: the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, the Hoover Dam. Modern work management methods helped the US Department of Defense complete a aerospace and defense project in just one year after several years of struggling with the traditional Waterfall method.
Today, you’ll hardly find a company that’s only using notebooks and white boards; everyone has switched to project management apps in pursuit of effective management. The trouble is that these apps can make you spend up to $50,000 annually on additional services and often lack advanced features for risk management and project reporting. So building a custom task management system tailored to your business needs seems like a sensible idea. To help you with that, we’ll share our project managers’ experience using task management tools to solve the most burning productivity problems efficiently.
What kinds of task management software for teams are there?
To understand what task management (or project management) apps there are and which type you should create for your business, we first need to look at the most popular software development methodology used to manage projects — Agile.
Agile replaced the old Waterfall framework in 2001, bringing quick responsiveness to feedback and unexpected changes. The two most popular Agile models became Scrum (for its short sprint planning), and Kanban (for its continuous delivery approach).
Now back to team task management software. Just a year after Agile appeared, Atlassian presented Jira, the very first task management app. It easily conquered the hearts of software developers. Today, there are plenty of similar organizational apps. Some focus on Kanban (HeySpace, KanbanTool), others are built for Scrum (VivifyScrum, GitScrum). Jira and other top project management apps like Asana and Targetprocess can be used for both Scrum and Kanban, as well as for other less popular Agile methodologies.
And now, back to you and your business. What kind of task management app should you build? An app that’s only for Scrum, only for Kanban, or for both? What technology stack should you choose and how to make it suitable for your needs? It all depends on your workflow, and business strategies that will vary for well-established businesses and startups. Judging from our own experience, you might need to pivot your strategy and switch to another management methodology in reaction to client feedback and market changes. Therefore, creating a universal app for both popular models seems like a more sensible idea.
What should a team task management app help you with?
Most online task management apps will work for basic purposes like creating tasks and to-do lists, sharing files, and assigning and scheduling tasks. But we’ve promised to tell you about the most difficult team management tasks and how our project managers overcome them with software.
Planning app development
Planning work is essential for project managers and product owners. Before actually beginning app development and distributing workloads, managers have to carefully estimate potential costs and compare them to potential revenue. Here are ways to help you and your team understand if it’s reasonable to start a new project:
Build detailed shareable roadmaps with Gantt charts (in an app like Wrike) to get a strategic view of the project and its progress.
Calculate development costs based on the required number of hours (in an app like Monday) to estimate how profitable the project will be.
Plan team capacity (in an app like Confluence) based on the number of people and task difficulty to understand if your team will be able to complete the project on time or if you’ll need to hire more people.
Plan the budget (in an app like Clarizen) to show when your team will need the next round of funding to keep development going.
Visualize and successfully manage risks (in an app like Targetprocess) to account for them when building project roadmaps and plans as well as to suggest possible ways to mitigate those risks.
Our project managers often use several apps to build a project roadmap, estimate costs, plan the budget, and visualize risks. Having all of these features in a single interface will save a lot of time.
Reporting on projects
A good task management app helps you distribute tasks across your team and track them while also providing tools for reporting to product owners. Most existing project management applications provide only table- or text-based reports and project status updates, which are a bit difficult to comprehend. Instead, your project management app should provide informative dashboards with pie and bar charts to make working with data more comfortable. For instance, Asana provides reports on tasks by assignee, task number, priority, date, team, completion percentage, and more.
However, there’s one thing that most of the top project management apps lack, and that’s reporting on a whole project, accounting for all changes made and obstacles encountered. The absence of this feature makes project managers turn to project report builders like Status.net or tools like Office 365 and Google Sheets.
Communicating on a project
Establishing proper team communication processes within a team is a real headache. With multiple tools for teamwork and task management services, communication often turns into a mess, with tens of threads and chats in Slack, Skype, Hangouts, etc. For this reason, some team members lose or miss important project details.
To fix this problem, you can add comments, mentions, and real-time chat to your task management app. And don’t forget about message history so developers and project managers can always go back to past messages when necessary!
Creating a mobile app as part of your task management suite is another way to help teams stay connected. The mobile app on Android & iOS can either duplicate the entire functionality of the web based app (like in the case of Targetprocess) or offer only certain features, such as for creating and monitoring tasks (in the case of Teamweek).
Explaining how single tasks contribute to the company’s mission
To help team members achieve a high level of business productivity, project managers need to provide a clear explanation of why developers are doing tasks. However, a detailed explanation and a written description don’t always work well, as a task can seem too complicated or new to understand how it contributes to the overall mission of the company.
Our project managers say that subtasks and dependencies are good tools in this case: they show team members how their tasks can block someone else’s work. Therefore, team members get motivated to complete the task to let others proceed with their own. And if you need your teams to get a strategic view of your project, consider showing them the same project roadmaps you share with your clients.
Sharing knowledge and experience from previous projects
Confluence offers a wiki to help team members share knowledge and experience. For our project managers, Confluence is a great tool to share lessons learned from previous projects. Developers also need a tool to contribute to the general knowledge base with information on processes, frameworks, and so on. That’s why adding a wiki feature to your task management app is a must.
Navigating in tasks
Though task management apps are good for structuring tasks, it’s sometimes difficult to find a certain task in them. There may be duplicate tasks, tasks without assignees and due dates, etc. Our project managers agree that in addition to subtasks and dependencies, a task management app should restrict the creation of tasks if a team member doesn’t provide sufficient details (task assignee, reporter, and so on).
In addition, we recommend you let project managers automate adding tasks. For instance, Wrike allows you to set recurring tasks. So instead of crowding your boards with multiple tasks for the same activity, you can automatically create repeated tasks while your board remains neatly organized.
Also, team members may get used to the names they’ve given to their own workflow stages before adopting task management software. So you should allow users to rename entity types in your team task management app, as Targetprocess does.
You can create the best task descriptions with tons of great examples, but there’s always the chance that an employee will miss something because they’re loaded with other tasks. The first and most obvious way to overcome this issue is using notifications. But don’t get carried away with dozens of emails and push notifications. Allow users to prioritize them or even turn them off for specific tasks.
In addition to notifications, consider visual encoding to organize deadlines. You can let team leads and project managers set colors to show how important and urgent a task is.
Helping teams feel less exhausted
According to Adventures with Agile, up to 85% of development teams say they get extremely drained by the end of the app development process. The reason is simple: they constantly keep doing things and rarely are notified of their achievements (this mostly relates to the Kanban model). Milestones are important as they turn a never-ending marathon into iterated and clear app development stages. You can implement project timelines with milestones like in Targetprocess to show teams how close they are to a goal.
Uniting all the tools in a single user-friendly interface
Project managers and other team members often have to use a lot of additional software besides a task management app. This can be due to lack of functionality or because they’ve been using certain software for a long time and have a lot of data there.
That’s why you should consider integrating with the most popular tools by Jenkins, Salesforce, and other providers. For example, teams using Jira can get development tickets right from the HubSpot CRM, and Asana users can send their Trello tasks straight to Asana.
As you can see, it takes quite a lot of effort to build custom applications for taks management that will help you overcome the most difficult tasks during app development. So it’s okay if you feel a little lost about management system development. But the results are worth the hassle. With custom project management software, you can significantly boost your team’s productivity and achieve business goals more effectively. If you would like outsourcing services and need a provider to help you build your software, our task management app developers are at your service!