In the beginning stages of a new business venture, software project, or web development project, it’s easy to overestimate the complexity of keeping things organized. We ask ourselves all kinds of questions that seem relevant at the time:
- Where will I store these mock-ups so that everyone on the team can see them?
- How will we collaborate on this?
- How will I assign everyone tasks to make sure things move forward?
- Is there one tool for this?
- What if we lose a piece of information?
- What if the process of building this isn’t straightforward and people get confused?
- How much money will I waste if my project isn’t organized?
I remember back when I first began bringing people on board to work on IntelliTheme, I was concerned about all these things. Lucky for me, I had a great example to follow. My mentors, Joe and Justin of AdSense Flippers run a +20k a month business (with 30 employees) on Google Docs.
No task software. No Basecamp. No collaboration software. Just Google Docs.
And, Justin and Joe build 60 websites a week. So, trust me on this – if you’re just building one site (especially if this is your first go-around), using Google Docs for your project management needs will probably be more than adequate.
What You’ll Need
While the heart of your project management process will exist on Google Docs, you’ll need a few other tools to keep things running smoothly. Here’s my personal list.
- Camtasia – Most of my communication with my developers happens over email and Skype. However, if I want to deliver a new task that is a little complicated (and I don’t want to bother setting up a meeting), I use Camtasia. It’s super simple to load up the program and record a quick 5 minute video explaining what I want. And, I find it’s often more effective and efficient than having a meeting.
- Dropbox – File sharing. It’s free and easy to use. Nuff said.
- Odesk / Hivedesk – Not mandatory, but it makes tracking your programmers’ hours painless and hands-free. You don’t really want to add invoicing and time tracking to your project management process do you? Of course not. Let these tools do it for you so you can focus on getting stuff done.
- A Google Apps Account – I suppose this part is obvious, but I figured I might as well state it. You need a Google Account in order to setup and use Google Docs. You’ll also need to make sure everyone you’re collaborating with has a Google account. Most people do now, so It’s rarely a problem.
Actually Using Google Docs For Project Management
This is actually extremely straightforward. Basically I just create a spreadsheet or regular doc and then create sub headings for the different people who are working for me. See image below.
Honestly, this couldn’t be more simple. Each heading represents a person. The tasks underneath their name are the things they need to complete. The items in red are priority. This document is shared among all of the people involved in the project. As each person completes tasks assigned to them, they cross them off.
Honestly, if you’re the leader of a large software team this solution probably isn’t for you. However, most of my readers are just getting into software development, and, this system will be more than adequate for them. It’s strikingly similar to my own personal productivity system. I have a simple text file that I update regularly with all the things I need to get done. Each day I visit that document and pick the most important 3 – 6 items and do them. It’s as easy as that.
Is It Really That Simple?
Yes… and no.
Keeping track of who is doing what really IS that simple. Making sure that everyone has access to the files and information that they need to do their job is a little more complex. Not because sharing information with them is complex, but because the organizational component of a project is so often overlooked. I discuss this a little bit in: Managing Your First Software Development Project. But, I think that’s a topic for yet another post.
So, assuming you’ve taken the time to break down your project into stages and milestones, a simple Google Document shared among all the members of your team should be enough to keep everyone on task.