Project Management in the Digital Age: My Dirty, Little Secret
It’s the end of another Easter Sunday and regardless of your religious bent, I hope you had a nice day. It was an absolutely beautiful day around these parts and I had a busy one. My daughter just rolled out a few minutes ago and my mind turns to today’s topic, the last regular Sunday entry for awhile. I’m a bit sleepy. I was up exceedingly early and could use a nap, but I thought about what I was going to talk about this morning so here goes. Apologies for the rambling nature, but my faithful readers know I sometimes have to stretch my fingers with a few laps around the keyboard before diving headfirst into my thoughts on the weekends, so no more preamble. Let’s get to the heart of it: keeping yourself organized.
When I first started out, it was just me and most of my ideas were in a notebook and later stored in my head. Yes, I managed to keep all of the product lines in my head, but it was an imperfect system. As I got projects written, they would sometimes fall from notice as I turned my attention to the heavy lifting on the next one. This is one of the obstacles of captaining the ship as well as cleaning the decks, keeping the engine stoked with fuel, and making sure we didn’t hit any rocky shores along the way.
I moved sometime after to a spreadsheet, a huge step forward, and using Dropbox, something I still consider a viable solution if you only have a few projects to work on. This worked haphazardly until I knew there had to be a better way for my team. As I sailed across the seas in a solitary fashion, I began picking up people, some who journeyed with us for awhile, some mere tourists wanting to try their hand at something different who wandered away at the next port of call, and a select handful whose skin grew tan and leathery, folks with a taste for the fresh, salt air and gentle, blurry breezes. I couldn’t let the crew down. When you’re on a catamaran all by yourself, you can sometimes let the currents take you where they will, but if you have people along for the ride, you need to set your destination much clearer.
I began searching for Project Management Software and I looked at a number of programs which don’t bear mention. Most of them were overly complicated, had too much overhead or not enough, or would not prove worth it in the long run. I could master them. I’ve had to do it in the past, but I couldn’t expect anybody coming on board to have an obstacle in the path of creation. Project Management Software needs to facilitate the work process, not suffocate it.
People have asked how I can keep up with all the different stuff. The thing is I could do it, but not as efficiently as I hoped. What started me on the journey of organizational excellence was a book recommended by my longtime friend, Frank Davis. He’s a high-powered executive these days, but we used to game together, and he told me the most important thing I should be doing is writing. I shouldn’t have the headaches and hassles of keeping up with stuff and he was right. My primary responsibility both to the company and to you is to generate content. Without content, nothing else matters. It’s the coal for the engine. If I spent a bunch of time dealing with the other stuff (all of which is very important), less writing gets done.
This was a trap I was content to be in for awhile, but not forever. He recommended a book which really changed his life and it’s one which has aided me in making great strides as well. It’ called, simply enough, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen. Frank is a savvy guy, so I ordered it immediately. From talking with my buddy, it seemed I was implementing some of the stuff, having come across some of the approaches from my corporate, managerial days, but David Allen breaks it down in ways making sense for me. I began to use his techniques, such as “if something can be done in less than five minutes, just do it”. It sounds simple, but it frees up your head space. He suggested offloading all the stuff taking up your attention (even on the periphery) into notebooks, note cards, or, most importantly, into your computer. This made sense, so the quest for Project Management Software began in earnest.
People who know me well have come to realize I’m a hard charger when it comes to business. I like to streamline workflow however and whenever possible to create a fluid, dynamic environment for creativity to thrive. My quest eventually brought me to Basecamp and I fell in love. This is the online Project Management Software without equal. It allows projects to be set up, workflow templates to be created with lists of to-do items, an excellent messaging system, a way to tag entries, and a great way to upload files (both drafts and art) into their respective projects, and it has a change management system so the various iterations can be centralized in case a file is corrupted or it is necessary to compare or roll back to a previous version. I loved all these features and after giving it a test-spin, I was hooked. The whole team was hooked. It’s easy and intuitive and it resides securely in the cloud, so files can be accessed anywhere, anytime as needed. This last feature alone made us wave good-bye to Dropbox in the rear window. Is it really as good as I’m saying? Yes.
We’ve been using it for over a year and, as you can see, our productivity has ramped up accordingly. Projects are getting checked off with great regularity and the people I’ve turned on to it find it every bit as indispensable as I do. Does it sound too good to be true? No. There is one consideration worth mentioning, however, is all this good stuff is not free. You get what you pay for and Basecamp runs $49/month starting out (but would be the size I’d recommend for most small to mid-size companies). You can have 35 active projects for that price point, unlimited users, and 15 GB of storage.
This looks like a paid endorsement, but it’s not. I truly believe in what these guys have come up with. This has enabled us to more rapidly deploy and grow the Reality Blurs brand than any other tool we’ve used. For those who’ve asked how I manage to get things done, and there have been a number of you who’ve emailed me in the past asking how I do it, now you know my dirty, little secret.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!