As Melewi is a remote working team, it takes a unique effort to make projects run smoothly. We’re distributed across multiple parts of the world, and logistics in project management can be dissimilar than that of a traditional team’s. There are timezones to consider, various working hours to take account of, and assorted working styles to get used to.
Mind you; projects don’t always go as planned. You can precisely align your goals, tasks and timeline at the start of every sprint, but some things can still go wrong. Edits at the last second or you don’t get the information you need at a crucial time, and the project pivots to a different direction that may leave you needing to reassess your game plan.
These things happen, and it’s normal.
What is not normal is when things spiral out of control, and you have to wring a solution out of a mind-boggling email thread that is pages long or an incredibly disjointed and confusing group chat log.
To help you avoid this, we’re letting you in on the system we’ve created and the tools we use to track all the different aspects of each project.
1. User-friendly Invoicing
Before every project’s kickoff, it is important to ensure all invoices have been paid. You have to get that out of the way, so you won’t have to think about it later on. Also, you can imagine how uncomfortable it would be to keep reminding the client to make their payment while the sprint is ongoing. Moreover, the handover process of the assets on the last days of the sprint will go on smoothly if all money matters have been taken care of.
The tool we use for invoices is Harvest. It’s a user-friendly and intuitive platform for managing our company cash flow. You can see how much you’ve received from a particular time frame and you can also keep track of invoices that are yet to be paid.
2. Seamless Meeting Scheduling
Now that you’ve gotten the issue of payments out of the way, it’s time to plot and lock in all the review schedules, internal meetings, and all other appointments necessary for the sprint.
It’s good form to have everything scheduled before the start of the sprint so the meetings are already in place and you won’t have to worry about everyone’s (teammates and client) availability in the middle of the sprint. Plus, the chances of being subject to everyone’s busy and conflicting schedules is low if they have been finalized beforehand.
To say that the Google suite of applications is used frequently at Melewi is an understatement. We use it for emails, calendar, video calls, documents – the works.
And because we’re a remote team, scheduling can be a tiny bit complicated because of the difference in time zones. It’s a good thing that Google Calendar has a world clock to help us with that!
And of course, we use Google Hangouts for every single call. When we send out calendar invites, it automatically has a link to a Hangouts call that you could just click. Easy peasy.
3. Understanding the Client’s Business
Before we begin our design sprints, we usually conduct one week of workshops with the client to further breakdown and understand their design needs and to plan and prioritize the things to work on. We speak with the client via Google Hangouts and collaborate with them via RealTime Board. We already have templates set for the boards, and each one has a particular purpose. We ask them questions about their business, product and users, and we make sure that everything that will be covered in the scope is necessary to the success of the product.
4. Frequent Internal Communication
As we are a remote working team and we obviously don’t have the opportunity to talk in person every day, we use Google Hangouts. Communication is critical to the success of the project. Thus, we use Hangouts for frequent internal meetings and standups where we update each other on the project’s status, define goals and solve obstacles as a team. It is important that everyone is on the same page. My job is to make sure that we are.
As for everything else, we use Slack. It serves as a supplement to Google Hangouts. We have different channels for various projects, as well as random ones for entertainment purposes and other team shenanigans. (We have a channel solely for exchanging memes and GIFs. It helps keep us sane!) It is also a good way of updating someone quickly or getting an instant answer to a question.
5. Tracking the Project
Ah, my personal favourite. We use Trello to keep track of what’s happening in every phase of the project. At Melewi, we use the famous Scrum framework. We have lists of sprint goals, backlog, in progress, done and approved. We have one board for each client and team members can refer to it at any point in the project to update it.
6. Time Management
For time tracking, we use Harvest. We set time budgets for every project to make sure the members of the team don’t go under or beyond the agreed upon set of hours in the sprints. We use it for making certain that we don’t under-deliver, or go way overboard the agreed set of hours.
7. File Storage and Virtual Displays
We are a design team, and we need a platform to manage and display our ongoing design projects effectively. For this we use Invision. We use it to upload web/branding/product designs to share with the client. We also use this website to give feedback on each project.
As we aren’t tied to a physical office, we don’t have desktops to store our files. Everything is stored in the cloud via Dropbox. It serves as a central hub for design files, templates and all sorts of documents that we need.
So there you have it, a project manager needs an arsenal of tools to make a project run seamlessly. Add in careful planning and proper communication, and you have a recipe for project success.
To find out more about how we handle remote working at Melewi why not tweet us (@Melewi) or read a few more of our blog posts.