1. Indispensable Tech Tools Of Project Management At Info Tech

    by Pete Peterson and Lakshmi Balasubramanian, Project Managers

    As a project manager at Info Tech, one has many tech tools in his or her toolbox to get the job done. Whether it is a one day feature enhancement, a six month software development project, or a multi-year software implementation project, our project managers are up to the task with the right tools by our sides. While each project is unique, and each project manager has an individual project management style, we all share a common set of tools that are standard across Info Tech.

    The project management software system we have in place, Epicor E4SE, is designed for service enterprises and helps us staff projects effectively and manage project delivery. It is the tool we as project managers use most often to ensure projects stay on track, that the right resources are assigned to each task, and that time is charged correctly to each task.

    Info Tech as a whole uses the full suite of Google Apps. Therefore, our project managers are heavily reliant on GMail, Google Drive, Google Calendar and Google Groups. The fact that these apps are always accessible via any device at any time means that our project managers can be connected in the office, at a client site, or in the airport. Mobile accessibility has had a big impact on our project managers in recent years in that we can do more when we are away from our desks - whether that means we are in a meeting down the hall or in an airport two time zones away.

    The Google Hangouts app is particularly convenient when managing long distance resources. We can be face-to-face with just a click without having to setup a video call or webinar. Sometimes that personal touch makes a big difference to remote resources. It also eliminates delays in communication.

    While Google Apps are generally focused on collaboration and communication within the organization, Info Tech uses other tools to communicate and deliver the details to our customers.

    We use Microsoft tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, and Project. Microsoft tools are used to create proposals, estimates, presentations, flowcharts, and schedules. MS Project assists in detailing the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) tasks such as development, testing, and documentation, and in planning a timeline to complete these tasks. Within MS Project, we use predecessors and successors to manage task dependencies, and lead and lag functionality to determine the project critical path (the tasks that determine the overall project schedule).

    For communication with customers, we use Sharepoint (a web application platform in the Microsoft Office server suit) as our collaboration tool for document management and discussions. We also use WebEx to conduct webinars and technical reviews with our customers on a regular basis.

    To meet the quick turnaround demands of an Agile environment, some teams rely heavily on Thoughtworks Mingle. Mingle is a web-based Agile project management tool easily tailored to meet our needs. At a glance, we can see the status of features as they are progressed through the, planning,  development, testing and deployment processes. The service is also used as an “information radiator” to stakeholders within Info Tech, providing a view of development status and release plans.

    As we strive to continually improve our services, we are constantly evaluating tech tools that can assist us in managing projects more efficiently, and enhance our understanding of customer requirements. We specifically look for tools we can adapt to our dynamic project management principles. Examples of tools we are researching today include JIRA and Confluence -– both from Atlassian.

    Info Tech’s project managers owe a lot of our success to the very capable IT team. By keeping our equipment and software up to date, they allow us to do our jobs effectively and efficiently. If we need assistance, the IT team is readily available. They also provide documentation and resources for self-service help during off hours.