Project Management & Planning Articles

Agile? Social? Project Management Apps for You to Keep Up With Trends

by Hadley Jones
Published on 10 July 2014

Daily_sprint_meeting_518_387People change their minds. People move around. A lot of earlier project management assumed that neither happened. But the web has opened up new vistas of choice and has linked up virtual teams from Vienna to Vladivostok. So project management apps have evolved to help marketers, designers and developers to keep up with two big trends.

Keeping Up with Change and Having More Fun

  • Agile. Market requirements change even as projects are being executed. An agile approach allows project teams to adjust their output and deliverables to stay aligned with evolving end-user or business needs.
  • Social. Move over, top-down totalitarianism! People can achieve more when they are allowed to use their initiative and enthusiasm, collaborating with colleagues and other team members whether onsite or out and about.

However, just like 'agile' means more than leaping around to respond to changes, 'social' goes further than chatting about the latest product plan update. How can project management software help teams really get the most out of these two concepts? Let's dig a little deeper, with examples of apps from Atlassian( JIRA), AtTask, Clarizen, Comindware, Mavenlink, and Wrike.

How Project Management Apps Handle Agile

Agile projects are managed in relatively short, repeated cycles. In some software development projects, these cycles may be as short as a day with new software versions being produced and tested every 24 hours. After each increment, the outstanding list of end-user or customer requirements is reviewed, updated and reprioritized if necessary, to decide what should go into the next cycle. The new generation of project management applications offer a range of functions to help react dynamically to changing market demands. Mavenlink gives users information on the right time to start new projects. Wrike puts the accent on collaboration to facilitate and speed up interactions.

Team Roles in Agile

The traditional project manager responsibilities are shared out differently in agile projects. To start with, the team members themselves handle much of the task assignment (for instance, with AtTask), daily management and reporting. is important and in the agile spirit. Overall prioritization of tasks may be guided by a 'ScrumMaster', aided for example by automated priority-based planning from an app like Comindware. Project goals and feature priorities are determined by the Product Owner. Jira Agile project management offers not only Scrum (development cycle) management, but also Kanban boards (visual task status management) the moment new projects are defined.

Should Everything Now Be Agile?

Not so fast! Just because some projects can be much better managed using an agile approach doesn't mean that traditional project management methods are obsolete. The Waterfall approach is a case in point. For a long time the only PM technique used for IT development (until Agile came along), Waterfall project management requires a detailed, often static plan at the beginning of the project. And you can only move to the next stage after completing the previous one. That might be rather restrictive for IT projects, but it's still what you need for many construction projects. After all, you can't build the second floor of a building until you've put the first one solidly in place.

Project Management Software to Meet Users Where They Are

Traditional project management software may have a steep learning curve. Built for hierarchical control and reporting, it often assumes that users are experts in project management concepts and terminology, not to mention intricate user interfaces. New generation project management apps take a different point of view. They recognize that project management capability ideally needs to be shared by many different people in an organization, and they look for ways to integrate with what users already know.

  • Email is a familiar concept to practically everyone. Wrike makes use of this to turn emails into tasks that can then be managed ( Wrike was initially developed as an integration with email.)
  • Microsoft Outlook can be used as a window onto project management with Comindwareand AtTask
  • Google Apps synchronization, for instance for Calendar and Contacts, from Mavenlink, Wrike (Wrike for Google Apps) and AtTask
  • With Jira, users can choose to stay connected to project information via email, chat or RSS
  • Clarizen offers, Box, Intacct, Quickbooks, Jira (yes!), SharePoint, and Google Drive integration

Social Project Management

Where Facebook and Twitter went, social project management has now followed. Compared to traditional project management software, social project management apps have three important characteristics:

  1. They are an integral part of the social network of an organization (sometimes they are the social network)
  2. They have real project management capabilities. Unlike collaboration tools that may work for smaller projects, social management apps can also handle enterprise-size projects as well.
  3. They provide an 'activity stream' for the team and the project sponsors to build awareness of the project activity and status.

Wrike provides micro-blogging functionality for activity streams, and also offers social networking features such as comments and newsfeeds. Clarizen also offers linking of conversations from a user's news feed to tasks, actions and other items, as part of its project-specific social collaboration features. Jira lets users capture any type of work item (ideas, needs, actions, tasks) in its customizable project activity streams. Comindware's Project Management app is built on top of its Team Network software for efficient cross-enterprise collaboration.

Not Quite the Same as Project Management 2.0

'Social project management' and 'project management 2.0' may be used by some people interchangeably, but there are differences. Project management 2.0 saw the light of day thanks to Web 2.0 technologies, including blogs, wikis and collaborative software. It advocates the accessibility of information for the whole team and suggests that the project manager leads the team by serving it (the 'servant leader') instead of being a controller and routines watchdog as in the traditional model. So far so good - but (despite its name), project management 2.0 doesn't offer the scheduling capabilities or graphical representations of timelines and dependencies that become increasingly important as projects grow in size.

Finally, Never Forget the Iron Triangle!

Whether it's agile or waterfall, social or hierarchical, every project has to balance time, money and scope. A change in any one of these factors will affect at least one of the others. Project management apps need solid tools to help teams make sure they can adequately manage each one. For example:

  • Time tracking ( Mavenlink's integrated time tracker for projects, Jira and Wrike's Dynamic Timeline)
  • Scope and change request handling ( Wrike's interactive Gantt chart, AtTask and Comindware's predictive Gantt chart)
  • Project financial management tools such as those in Mavenlink and Clarizen
  • Project Portfolio management ( Clarizen, for instance) to balance all projects

Which project management app is right for you? If you don't yet know, then see what others think by reading these project management app reviews, or clinch your decision with this handy project management software infographic. And remember, a free trial with one of these project management apps could be just the thing for you to start benefiting from better project control and enhanced project deliveries!


Apps mentioned in this article