The first thing to note is that our project management system is constantly evolving. People often talk about “project management tools” as if there were a silver bullet. Alas, there is not.
Both the way we work and the technologies that help us work are changing rapidly – and they will continue to do so. As a result, we ourselves must constantly analyze and refine our project management systems – discarding the pieces that don’t work and adding in new elements that do.
In fact, we’d argue that the best project management tools are DIY. As Scott observed in his research for Making Ideas Happen, people with a do-it-yourself, home-brewed approach to project management are better at staying loyal to their systems over time. After all, you’re more likely to be attracted to something you helped create – and attraction breeds loyalty. So the more you can customize your process, the better.
Project Management at Behance
1. Our “HitLists,” hosted by Google Docs, help us prioritize our big-picture project milestones and share them transparently among teams.
We use shared Google spreadsheets – called “HitLists” – to manage and prioritize the various elements and milestones in our projects. We have one HitList for our Design team, and another HitList for our Development team.
We have a project manager, who reviews the “HitList” objectives with each team every morning to make sure the day’s priorities/objectives are clear. The HitList can be viewed by anyone on the Behance team, so we have full transparency about what everyone is working on at any given time.
How the “HitList” Works
The “On Deck” tab holds the next elements on the horizon, and “Idle” captures elements we’d like to get to but aren’t a priority now. Finally, a “Completed Items” tab captures all the stuff we’ve already finished.As you’ll see from the snapshot below, each HitList specifies these elements for each line item: Product (for many of you this might be “Client”); Project; Owner; Scope; Target Deadline; and Status.
Some line items are very small, like creating an “Advertising Sponsor Unit” for 99U (which has a production scope of 0.5 days), and they need little explanation beyond a simple conversation or email. Other line items are very large, like “Conference materials” for 99U, which includes designing a printed program, a badge, a poster, signage, motion graphics, and more, and has a production scope of 15 days.
This “scope inequality” happens because we deliberately don’t get too granular on the HitList. The goal is to track key elements and/or milestones that need to be hit on the way to achieving a larger objective. Many of the HitList line items actually function like mini-projects that will be broken down into a series of smaller tasks by their “owner,” and tracked through Action Method (we’ll get to that shortly).
We first began using Zendesk as a Customer Service solution (after first using Gmail, which we found wasn’t well setup for support tasks). With Zendesk, you can assign each Customer Service “ticket” a team member to handle the task and give it a status (pending, solved), priority (low, normal, urgent), and tags. You can also discuss the tickets amongst team members without the customer seeing the back-and-forth.Finding that the system worked well, we soon began using Zendesk for strictly internal issues and optimizations as well. As we evolve the Behance Network and Action Method and test our new ProSite beta, Zendesk allows us to record and track the progress of new features we want to add and bugs we want to fix.
Zendesk catalogs all site issues into an organized, searchable system, allowing us to move quickly without being slowed down by finding, combining, and rearranging requests. For example, when one of our designers submits a ticket for a bug fix in ProSite that’s already been recorded, the developer who receives it can simply merge the duplicate tickets. When the ticket is solved, everyone who has been involved in the process – the fix requester and the problem solver – will be notified.
3. Action Method helps us manage “everything else.”
While it’s feasible that one of our web developers could spend all day just processing tickets for a product in development, there’s always the stuff that’s happening around the fringes. On any given day, most of us are juggling a bunch of different ongoing and intermittent tasks – even if we’re sprinting to get a new product out the door. To manage the many tasks associated with the project elements on the HitLists – as well as other day-to-day tasks – we use (surprise, surprise) Action Method.Take me, for instance. Right now, I have a big, collaborative task that involves a number of Behance team members, which is designing the 99U Conference materials and getting them out the door.