Professional tools: what a project manager works with in IT
A range of tasks for the project manager can be different. It all depends on the project specifics, client and size of its company,
Mercury retrograde, and a lot of other factors. So, the tools used by the specialist on a daily basis will be also different. Among them, there is definitely a must-have, something that helps to cope with a huge number of responsibilities faster and more efficiently.
Tools for written communication
A manager’s morning usually starts from checking e-mail and instant messengers.
With e-mail it’s easy, most of the time the client or the IT team dictates their choice of e-mail services. The favourite one is Gmail.
- very user-friendly interface and it is far ahead of its competitors (the same MS Outlook) in terms of features;
- you can arrange and group your e-mails into folders;
- Google’s security has always been and remains at its best;
- user-friendly application for Android and iOS.
- limited storage space for e-mails — 15 GB, which has to be shared with Google drive.
You can’t do without Slack, which almost became a standard for corporate clients. It’s easy and convenient to create groups and channels, make calls without third-party services, remind participants about meetings and create polls.
- user-friendly and simple interface, you don’t need any special knowledge and good English to work things out;
- there are a lot of useful integrations with services such as Github, Atlassian products, Gmail, and others;
- There are a lot of bots in Slack that can help you automate some routine processes, for example, Nikabot can find out the current status of developers and automatically create reports based on their reports.
- free version of Slack has some limitations, such as searching by the last 10,000 posts, 10 integrations, and 5GB of server space per team.
Recently, Telegram has been increasingly used for rapid information exchange within the same development team and IT team as a whole.
- there are some ways to protect your account, use a password to open correspondence, set a timer to delete correspondence;
- there are supergroups of up to 5,000 people, bots and other features to moderate communication;
- any file transfer format uses RAR archives, Excel spreadsheets, PDF instructions, MP3s, and videos (file size limitation is up to 1.5 Gb);
- synchronization with devices, Telegram can be installed on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone; there are handy desktop and mobile versions of the app, you can also log in from multiple devices simultaneously, and the number of simultaneous sessions is unlimited;
- instant message and file delivery without glitches or freezes.
- no previous avatars are deleted;
- to have two separate accounts (personal and business), you should register them separately from different telephone numbers.
Videoconferencing is particularly relevant in IT. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic and mass shifting to remote workplaces, video-call software enabled communication between distributed teams from different countries. Very often customers are far away, we have different mentalities, language and cultural barriers. Video calls make it possible to establish contact and show that people behind the avatars are highly qualified and competent experts.
Zoom and Webex are most commonly used for video calls. I think everyone has used Zoom in one way or another, so let’s talk about Webex.
- there is a virtual assistant, who will help adjusting your sound, adding a note, enabling recording, etc.
- there are other useful features: intelligent noise reduction, speech-to-text transcription, auto titles, integration with Slack, calendars, and even real-time translation in 10 languages.
- corporate versions are paid, but there is a free one that can be used for short-term meetings.
Tools for task setting and monitoring
When e-mails and messenger chats checking is over, it’s time to discuss the tasks with your team. Managers often work successfully with different task trackers (Asana, Trello, Click up), but Jira is the best of them.
- possibility to implement Agile projects using Scrum and Kanban;
- desktop version and mobile applications for iOS and Android;
- integration with a huge number of services: Gitlab, Slack, Trello, MS teams, Gmail;
- convenient search and customization options;
- dashboards that allow configuring and displaying information for one or more projects, track progress and milestones of the project.
- high entry threshold: you should spend some time and read more than one page of documents to learn how to use effectively all the features of this task tracker;
- it is a paid tool, and tariffs depend on the size of the teams, for example, for a company of 100 people, Jira will cost $750 per month ($7.5 per user).
Tools for project documentation
This topic deserves its own article, but we will try to describe the most important aspects. The documents should be prepared somewhere, stored, and somehow shared with the customer and the team. This is where Confluence, Google Drive, and Box come in. These services are well known, so we will not describe them in detail.
Project managers often need to supplement their documents with diagrams, charts, and mock-ups. That’s when such services as Lucidchart, Gliffy, and Draw.io are often used. We recommend Draw.io.
- it has a good set of tools and functions for creating organization charts, flowcharts, network diagrams, UML;
- you can save the project in JPG, PNG, SVG, PDF, HTML, XML formats;
- integration with Google docs, Dropbox, OneDrive, JIRA, Confluence, Chrome and GitHub (add-ons for Confluence and JIRA Cloud are paid);
- the tool is completely free and works on any device.
- no particular disadvantages were observed 🙂
Tools for project planning and analytics are also worth mentioning. Besides MS project and Jira with its various widgets for reports, and the possibility to create road maps (project goals, task sequences, and deliverables visualization —ed. note), we recommend GanttPRO.
- very simple and user-friendly interface;
- various integrations, including those with popular Slack and Jira;
- possibility to create public links (static and dynamic) in order to share them with the clients, without adding new users to the project.
- no mobile version.
Tools for personal productivity
While team tasks are securely stored in the task tracker, it’s important not to lose or forget your own. A huge number of large or small daily tasks would make even the most confident manager to have his/her own Trello board, list in Todolist, Notion or Remember the milk. Let’s talk about Remember the milk.
- task lists are displayed as tabs, where you can add new lists, and not only regular, but also dynamic ones;
- it’s very easy to filter the lists and customize the tasks, e.g., you can change time, frequency, duration, location (by selecting a spot on Google Maps), add URLs and different tags;
- lists can be shared with other users and exported to popular calendar apps, including iCal and Google Calendar;
- you receive task reminders by e-mail, which is especially useful for recurring or pending tasks;
- it’s very easy to add the tasks to the list by sending an e-mail to each user’s unique e-mail address.
- limitations in free version, for example, there is no option to attach files to the task;
- in iOS version, any task created in one time zone changes its execution time if you move to another time zone.
What else is useful?
We can add a list of tools and services, as a small bonus, that can help your team depending on their tasks.
Loom is an app that records video with audio from the screen and/or webcam which can be emailed or shared as a link.
Canva is an excellent service for presentations, information booklets, different infographics, and much more. A large number of templates and modern design is an advantage.
Mural is a visual workspace for joint team communication. It is a handy thing when everyone needs to brainstorm together and quickly visualize the results. Many people use Mural during product backlog preparation sessions (grooming sessions) to decompose complex tasks, identify dependencies, do retrospectives for the project, and visualize progress and reasons why the tasks can’t be taken up at collaborative multi-team Scrum meetings.
Read Aloud is a browser extension that converts any text file into an audio file. It can be useful if you need to quickly review the document without reading it, e.g. on the move or while driving.
Useful resources for PM in IT
Finally, there are some interesting and useful resources that we recommend to look at and read in your spare time: