Bring up childhood school projects to almost anyone and they will likely shudder. School projects are often poorly planned, uninteresting, and put off until the last minute possible. Few will not have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning the day before a project due date, teary-eyed and wishing the misfortune had never come to them.
If you’re reading this, those days are probably well behind you, thankfully. For many of us though, it seems we still haven’t learned some of the most basic lessons these assignments were supposed to teach us.
We aren’t supposed to rush into research without a plan. We aren’t supposed to start working on our project only to discover we’d prefer to go with a different topic three weeks in. We aren’t supposed to wait until the eleventh hour to begin assembling our poster board.
None of this is new information to most of us, but we do it anyway. And despite how fast technology enables us to get projects done now (or perhaps because of how fast technology enables us to do so), we still approach demanding undertakings such as building apps no differently.
Thankfully there’s a remedy for our madness, and it’s called project management software.
What is Project Management Software?
Project management software simplifies the job of guiding projects to completion by providing users with the processes, tools, and resources needed to get the job done efficiently and on time.
This software comes in the form of many different tools and applications to meet a variety of needs for project managers. Whether you’re going at it as a small business owner or working on building apps as a reseller or agency, project management solutions help you plan, collaborate with others, visualize tasks, manage resources, and more.
You’re probably already familiar with at least a couple project management tools, whether you know it or not. Software such as Basecamp and Mavenlink allow users to message each other, assign tasks to individuals and set deadlines, store files, and create schedules, among other features. They’re good examples of how project management software can keep you and your team on track, but there are other software out there that serve the same or similar functions.
Because it can be tough deciding on which software best meets your needs for managing the development of your app, we find it’s helpful to take an in-depth look at some of the features offered by various tools and how they shine during different phases of the project management life cycle.
Simplify Your Planning Process
Once you’ve come up with the concept for your app, planning will likely be the next step. In the past, this step was probably completed using a calendar or a whiteboard. This is no longer necessary thanks to project management systems. Scheduling tools allow you to break large projects down into bite-sized chunks so you can stay on task throughout the app-building process.
Let’s say you want to build an app for your coffee shop. You and your business partner have decided to split the app-building duties between the two of you, but you have different work schedules and usually don’t have time to discuss the app in any kind of detail when you do see each other in person.
Using a project management solution, you and your partner can log into the same system remotely, see what stages of development your app is broken down into, set reminders to complete tasks, and monitor progress as certain deadlines come up.
Features vary by software, but forecasting capabilities are also built into most systems to provide your team with an estimate of when your project will be complete, along with identifying key milestones along the way. Budgeting and expense tracking tools will prevent you from spending too much time or money on the project, while analyses and reports can summarize progress and overall project health.
Collaboration Enables Consistency
Just as it’s important to assign tasks to you and your partner, you also need to be able to share documents and ideas with each other as you go. Project management systems put this power in your hands, making it easy to share text files, images, and other project resources.
Back to your hypothetical coffee shop—you’re done with planning and are now in the execution process, specifically working on branding. Your partner emailed your shop’s logo to you a few weeks ago, but that email is now several pages back in your email inbox, and finding it is going to be a task. It doesn’t help that your business partner is in the habit of writing funny subject lines (or sometimes not writing subject lines at all).
With a project management software like Asana or Trello, however, you can easily navigate back to your project’s schedule and find where your partner attached your logo to the “Branding” step of your app-building project. This not only ensured that you got the logo but that you got the right logo. The graphic designer who originally designed your logo sent over several different versions in your final deliverables folder, but thanks to the collaboration feature of this software, your logo will be consistent across the app.
What might have taken ten or fifteen minutes before (or a series of frustrated texts to your business partner) now takes the time for a web page to load, cutting down not only the time it takes to complete tasks but also the number of interruptions to your workflow.
Time Tracking Saves You Time and Money
While being able to schedule out project phases is certainly useful, it’s just as important to be able to track progress on these segments while the project is in motion. Most project management solutions allow for task and time tracking. Some even allow you to track resources to keep you on budget.
You’ve finished branding your app, and now you’re editing your app’s content. You want to add an eye-catching menu, so you and your business partner hire a freelance graphic designer to lend a professional hand.
The graphic designer you hire charges $35 an hour, but you and your partner don’t want to spend more than $175 on the menu design. Thankfully, with a project management software such as Wrike or Harvest, you can set budgets for particular tasks, automatically capping your graphic designer’s time at five hours and preventing you from exceeding your budget.
It’s tempting to edit your app’s content to death. Add that to the fact that spending too much time on individual tasks is a contributing factor to why projects fail, and you quickly realize you need to monitor how much time you spend on certain objectives.
Project management platforms have a role to play here as well. You and your partner decide you don’t want to spend more than three weeks building your app. You use the time tracking feature in your project management system to hold yourselves accountable to ten hours of editing time. Scheduling out tasks is helpful for keeping you organized, but using features such as time tracking and budget capping will help to guarantee your project’s success.
Tracking Bugs Makes for Happy Customers
The app for your coffee shop is finally done, and you and your partner breathe a sigh of relief as the app is approved by the AppStore and the Google Play market. Your customers are thrilled by the convenience your app delivers and by how high-tech you are (“How many coffee shops besides Starbucks have an app?”), but as time goes on and more people download and use the app, they begin to notice some problems with it.
Interspersed among the four and five-star reviews your app has garnered since publication are a handful of troubling one and two star-reviews.
“I wish there was an option to order my coffee ahead of time,” some people say.
“Whenever I click on the menu, it takes me to the hours and location page instead,” comes the lament of others.
It’s been a few weeks now, and these comments are starting to pile up. Finally, you and your business partner decide it’s time to update your app. Your business partner heard about agile development while the two of you were building the app, and she has thankfully been logging these customer comments to the bug tracking feature in your project management system, unbeknownst to you until now.
Logging into your project management software, you can now see what issues are occurring, which systems they affect, how urgent they are, and what their status is. You and your partner split up the work of solving the issues, and your project management tools keep everyone apprised of progress until your app is bug-free.
The bugs that were giving your customers headaches before are now gone, and you and your partner watch with glee as those pesky one and two-star reviews update to the five star reviews you’re accustomed to receiving.
True, keeping track of all these issues before wasn’t impossible, but that doesn’t mean it was easy, either. Using a project management solution not only helped you get your app out into the world—it played a key role in maintaining its success once it was in your customers’ hands.
Unless you’re a developer or project manager, the term “project management software” is likely to elicit horrible visions of drowning in a sea of code lines, but the truth is, project management software are helpful companions when embarking on any kind of undertaking. Without them, projects can be immensely more difficult to finish, and we’ve all heard that prophetic saying about best-laid plans.
No matter the position you find yourself in, finding the right project management software to suit your needs can prove to be an invaluable resource for streamlining every step of your app-building process.
With something as important as building an app for your business, it’s essential that you do it right and do it well. Don’t let best-laid plans be the death of your app—check out our project management Product Selection Tool or chat with one of our Tech Advisors at 1-877-822-9526 to find the project management software that’s right for you and build your app like a pro.