As a Project Manager (or PM), organization is key to running a successful web or mobile application project. With multiple projects on your plate, it is ideal to have a receptionist, an assistant and an intern. But, let’s be honest – they aren’t typically available, leaving you to your own devices.
One main device is email. Everyone knows that email is a wonderful means of communication, but sometimes it can also be extremely frustrating. The sender’s point can get lost in translation by the time the recipient reads the email, thusly dragging a simple email conversation into a frustrating spiral of clarifications. Therefore, certain tools are imperative to help you work smarter.
Here are a few tools I like to use to help our custom software projects run more efficiently.
All clients are different, so learning what works and what doesn’t for each client is essential for successful communication. For instance, directing a client through visual examples or pictures, instead of words, can be crucial in maintaining a healthy relationship. Maybe you just released some new functionality and your client has specific questions that may be difficult to grasp without seeing it.
I have found this TipCam to be very helpful for this type of scenario. It allows you to take a video and visually show the client the answers to their questions instead of trying to explain the answers using words alone. Once you have captured your video, simply send it to your client as an email attachment. Another great use of the TipCam is to create “how-to” demos for the client. TipCam is a free download – so give it a try and see how it helps improve your client communication!
2. Fluid Surveys
Are you managing a project that requires all decisions to me made by committee? Decision-by-committee projects prove to be challenging as every question you ask has the potential to open Pandora’s box. In projects like these, I have found a polling tool to be especially helpful.
Instead of sending questions by way of email, I create a Fluid Survey, which then can be sent to all the necessary stakeholders who need to be involved in making decisions that will impact your project. The surveys are easy to create and store all of the responses in one place, making it much easier to track and understand answers easier and quicker. This beats sorting through emails, will save you time and help move decisions along faster to keep your project timeline accurate!
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3. Schedule Once
Scheduling meetings and demos is challenging when you do not have access to the participants’ calendars. As the size of the group grows, this becomes exponentially more difficult. To overcome this obstacle, I use Schedule Once. This tool allows me to pre-define blocks of time for meetings and send the options to the participants. They then can select the times of which they are available, reducing the number of emails, cancellations and meeting updates you have to make. Schedule Once provides a free plan that is private and secure. It also connects to your Outlook, iCal, Google and other personal calendars so you don’t have to maintain two!
4. Show Me What’s Wrong
In the software world, it’s commonly understood that, to resolve an issue, one needs to be able to recreate the issue. Well, in many cases, a user doesn’t exactly know what they did when the issue occurred. A great tool for them to use while testing is called Show Me What’s Wrong. This tool allows the user to perform a video screen capture and then send you an email with the video. It is as simple as entering your name and email address, then clicking a button to generate a URL. Clicking the URL then automatically starts a video recording of your screen (without you having to download anything), where you can then perform the action that caused the issue on your screen. Show Me What’s Wrong will capture the video, format it and send you an email with the video that you can just pass onto your PM for issue resolution!
As a PM, these are four of my favorite software tools to use, increasing productivity and improving effective communication for custom software development projects. I am always open to trying new tools to see how they could potentially benefit our work to better service our clients.
If you have other tools you use, please add a comment below!