Episode 24 — Holiday Gifts for the PM

Episode #24
Original Air Date: 12.20.2016

32 Minutes

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Our Guest This Episode: Andy Crowe, Bill Yates, Nick Walker

Andy Crowe and Bill Yates discuss the Project Management tools and apps that they suggest for your holiday stockings. Tune in now to hear their recommendations on scheduling, planning, reporting, instant messaging, issue tracking, and more!

Favorite Quotes from Our Talk:

"So my opinion, and I know you share this, it’s in the DNA of our company, is that a conversation is not necessarily an outcome. Conversation or discussion is a discussion. Basecamp facilitates those discussions, but it doesn’t really facilitate driving those to an outcome, a specific actionable outcome."

- Andy Crowe

"One of the responses I got back from a listener to the podcast was that person was a big fan of Discord. So Slack, Skype, Discord is another, HipChat is another. So there are a number of instant messaging tools or collaboration tools."

- Bill Yates

"You’ve got to know what you’re doing. So we love fun, shiny, brand new tools. But keep in mind you are a project manager, and you should be able to do this with no tools at all; right? These will just hopefully make your day shorter and improve your efficiency."

- Bill Yates

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ANDY CROWE ● BILL YATES ● NICK WALKER

NICK WALKER:  Welcome to Manage This, the podcast by project managers for project managers.  Every two weeks we get together to discuss what matters to you as a professional project manager.  Whether it’s how to get certified or how to create successful projects, we get input from leaders in the field and draw on their experience and accomplishments.

I’m your host, Nick Walker, and with me are the in-house experts, Andy Crowe and Bill Yates.  And Andy, it is holiday time.  It seems like every time I turn on the TV or the radio, I hear somebody talking about finding the perfect gift for that person on your list.

ANDY CROWE:  And all the sleigh bells in the air that you can hear.  Let me ask you a question.  Has anybody else had an issue with really well-targeted ads coming at them over the Internet?

NICK WALKER:  Oh, oh.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s been alarming this year how well they’ve figured out what’s going on in my head.

BILL YATES:  They know Andy.  They know what Andy wants.

ANDY CROWE:  They know.  That’s correct.

NICK WALKER:  They know it before I know it.  All right.  So we’ve got gifts that we want to talk about for that perfect project manager on your list.  I guess we want to answer the question:  What’s in your stocking?

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, Nick, one of the things we’re thinking about here, some of the project managers get to give a gift to themselves through some of this.  So it’s not so much that maybe you’re buying these for somebody else, but maybe you’re buying it for yourself.  And Bill and I were talking about this as we were preparing for the podcast.  You know, it’s funny, as we look at tools, as we look at technology, one of the things that really always resonates with me is the fact that it’s the process underneath it that really matters.  The technology just facilitates that process.

When I started my career in project management, somebody handed me a copy of Microsoft Project and said, “Go and make a project plan.”  Nobody ever taught me how up to that point.  Nobody taught me how to estimate, how to schedule, how to even think about decomposing the work and putting the fences around the scope.  And suddenly I was expected to make a project plan.  So the idea is we’re going to cover some tools.  We’re excited about this episode because this is a lot of fun.  But at the same time, if you give somebody a better word processor, it doesn’t make them a better writer or a better communicator.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  If you give somebody a better tool, it doesn’t make them a better PM automatically.  And these things will just facilitate getting them there once the process is in place.

BILL YATES:  And we get mesmerized by these new tools.  Sometimes they’re…

NICK WALKER:  Oh, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  They’re shiny.

BILL YATES:  They are shiny, and they come in nice boxes.

NICK WALKER:  You can geek out.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, we get geeked out.  We think, this is the coolest thing ever.  This is going to change how I do my job and make my life that much better.  And, dang, I just like every feature in it.  I’m going to go deep and figure all this stuff out.  And we lose, to Andy’s point, we lose the big picture.  What are we doing?  How much time am I spending on the tool, just for the sake of me enjoying the tool?  Or is the tool really – am I serving the tool, or is the tool serving me?

ANDY CROWE:  Mm-hmm.

NICK WALKER:  So with that in mind, do you have any applications that are must-haves, some that you have to have, that you really can’t do without?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  We had fun reaching out to the community and asking other PMs, “What resonates with you?  If you were alone on an island, and you had a project you had to manage, what tool would you want to have on your last two hours of computer life, you know, before the battery dies?”  And so we got some nice feedback from people, from practitioners.  We thought about our own experiences, as well, and did some research, just to see what’s out there in the community.  And we have different categories that we’ll go through.  I think we’ll start with the big stuff, kind of the scheduling and planning tools that most people are going to use on a daily basis as a project manager.  Andy, what’s the one that you’ve used most in your experience?

ANDY CROWE:  You know, it has to be Microsoft Project.  That’s kind of the gold standard out there.  It’s something that a lot of people are familiar with.  It runs in different platforms on the cloud.  You can have it installed on your desktop.  It’s a Windows-based application that just does heavy lifting for schedule development.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  I know for back early in my career here at Velociteach we would talk about integrating a work breakdown structure with Microsoft Project.  And at first that capability was kind of clunky, and it wasn’t there.  And through the different versions through the years they’ve made that very seamless, as well.  So that’s an aspect that we like about that, too.  With Microsoft Project you can integrate work breakdown structure.  We talk a lot about, in our classes, when we’re teaching, we talk about the ability to assign work to individuals or team members and then be able to track that back to the work breakdown structure, integrate that with Microsoft Project, and be able to really see if our estimates are accurate and if the resources are doing what they said they would do.

ANDY CROWE:  So I have a trip scheduled to Redmond in the first quarter of next year.  And one of the things I’m trying to do is get with some of the people in the Project team.  I want to discuss a little philosophical issue I have with the way they do the WBS to schedule transition.

BILL YATES:  Okay.

ANDY CROWE:  And just talk through a little bit about, hey, are there better ways to make that turn because they make it in a rather unusual way.  We won’t get into the details of that, but maybe we’ll have something fun to report in Q1.

BILL YATES:  Excellent, yeah.  You know, another, with Microsoft Project, many are probably going, “What about Primavera, you know, that’s what we use.”  So I think we should mention those are really – we probably have two 900-pound gorillas in the room.  And I had a suggestion for Andy.  Nick, I know you’re probably a big fan of the Epic Rap Battles that are on the Internet.

NICK WALKER:  Epic Rap Battles of History.

BILL YATES:  So I think when Andy returns from Redmond we need to have an Epic Rap Battle with Primavera and Microsoft Project.

ANDY CROWE:  There you go.  We’ll do that.  You know, Primavera has a really good customer base.  A lot of people would argue that Primavera does better ERP integration.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And so, if you have a large ERP system – SAP, some of those, Oracle – that Primavera ties in really nicely.  I don’t know if that’s the case.  I haven’t dealt with it on that level.  But that’s one of the arguments people will make for it.

BILL YATES:  You know, that’s something that I’ve heard those complaints over and over and over, which is, “I have to maintain things in two or three different systems.  I have to track time over here.  I have to track my project in Microsoft Project or Primavera.  And then I have to interface with the financials with ERP.”  And, yeah, so that’s a constant complaint that I hear.  Unfortunately, I don’t have an easy answer to that.  I’d love to hear if somebody has opinions on that.

NICK WALKER:  There’s one on your list that I have used a lot for communication, and that’s Basecamp.  But there’s a whole lot of things that Basecamp can do, specifically for the project manager.

BILL YATES:  Basecamp started right here in Atlanta.  It was incubated here in Atlanta.  So they’ve got quite a history here.

NICK WALKER:  How about that.

BILL YATES:  And that is, when you look at what is being used most, what’s the most common, Basecamp is right up there near the top.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s a jack of all trades.

BILL YATES:  It really is.  And it’s a simplified version.  You know, you’re not – if you can live without the complexity or the features and functionality of Microsoft Project or Primavera, Basecamp is one that bubbles towards the top.  We see a lot of our partners using Basecamp.  Matter of fact, this morning before recording the podcast I was on Basecamp, tracking some of the issues that were up.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, and I might suggest that Basecamp is a collaboration tool.

BILL YATES:  Exactly.

ANDY CROWE:  More than just a scheduling-type tool.

BILL YATES:  Right, right.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s something that you can share files.  It’s something you can start discussion threads.  It’s something you can assign tasks, things like that, which is a little bit different than Microsoft Project, which is a sort of a top-down view of the schedule and all the resources on it.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, that’s a great distinction.  And it brings up to me a strength and a weakness with Basecamp, just from my own experience and from others, which is the threads.  The thread capability is excellent.  It’s great if you have an issue that’s been assigned or a task that’s been assigned to someone, and they need some input from other team members.  So they can ask a question and easily collaborate and let people know to notify them of the need for their input.  However, here’s one of my complaints.  If you create a project in Microsoft or, sorry, in Basecamp, and then you have several activities or tasks that are in there, how do you prioritize or rank those?

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  And that’s – you can do it.  You can actually drag and drop to the top of the list, that kind of thing.  But as soon as you start to have multiple projects within Basecamp and trying to prioritize resources across those, it gets very difficult.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, it gets difficult because it’s not terribly actionable.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  So my opinion, and I know you share this, it’s in the DNA of our company, is that a conversation is not necessarily an outcome.  Conversation or discussion is a discussion.  Basecamp facilitates those discussions, but it doesn’t really facilitate driving those to an outcome, a specific actionable outcome.

BILL YATES:  I agree, yup.

NICK WALKER:  So is there another application that you would say maybe competes with Basecamp or does some things better?

BILL YATES:  It’s funny, Nick.  You know, we’re big fans of Asana.  We’ve used it a lot here.  So Asana is – it started out as just purely a task, assignment task management component.  They have evolved quite a bit to do a lot more than that.  But Asana is this idea of being able to create tasks, assign them to team members, facilitate discussion on them, set due dates, things like that.  And it’s powerful.  I have used it very heavily.  I like Asana.  Of course, it, like many things, has mobile components and has desktop versions, and you can use it on your iPad or your Android device.  But the real thing I like about Asana is it keeps things from falling off into a black hole.  Asana keeps things up in front that need to be upfront, that need to be prioritized.  It keeps things front and center.

And this is, again, now, if you don’t have a good process for delegating, then Asana’s not going to do a lot of good.  It’s just a list tool that keeps a list in front of somebody.  And a piece of paper would do just as well.  But delegating’s an art.  You know, this idea of breaking something down to the point, training people, setting expectations properly, letting them know in what priority, where this sits in the priority chain, et cetera.  Asana really can help, once you’ve done those things.

NICK WALKER:  There are a lot of other applications on your list here, Bill, that I’m not familiar with at all.  Are these must-haves?  Or are they optional?  Do they do specific things well?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, I would say these are all within this family.  And we’ve talked at length, or a bit, about Basecamp and about Asana.  There are others:  LiquidPlanner, Trello, Wrike, Workfront, TeamGantt.  These are some different tools that people have had a lot of success with.  Andy, you have any opinions on this other list?

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, a couple of things.  LiquidPlanner is somebody I’ve worked with before.  I haven’t worked for the organization, but I’ve collaborated with them many times.  They have an interesting take on estimating.  And so they do this, heavily factor in this three-point estimate sense.

BILL YATES:  Okay.

ANDY CROWE:  That nobody knows exactly how long an effort-based task is going to take.  And so instead you have pessimistic, optimistic, realistic, and, of course we know the formula of p+4r+0/6 for a weighted average.  LiquidPlanner takes the heavy lifting of that and really does a great job with that to build a schedule that factors in risk a lot better than some schedules I’ve seen.

BILL YATES:  Nice, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  It’s a nice tool.  It’s web-based.  They continue to evolve it.  They’re making big inroads right now into the manufacturing world of project management.  Trello, I believe, is an instant messaging app; isn’t it.  No, I’m thinking – you know what I’m thinking of?  I’m thinking of Slack.

BILL YATES:  Okay, right.

ANDY CROWE:  Exactly, I’m thinking of Slack.  And so we’ll save that because we get to that later.  No, I’m not familiar with Trello myself.  So it’d be something I want to look at.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  So, Nick, there are a lot of different tools that are very similar.  You know, you go to the hardware store, and you’re looking at drills, and you’re thinking, okay, I want a powerful drill for Christmas.  And there are so many choices, you know, what do I go with?  So in a similar way we’ve found that many project managers are passionate about the scheduling and planning or task-assigning software they use.  These are really the top.  These are the ones that are most popular.  I think for many my advice, as it is with many of these categories, is I think the PM should try one.  Talk with friends; talk with colleagues; see what their opinions are.  Try one – most of these have a trial period – and see what resonates with them and their team.

NICK WALKER:  Now, some of these, are they specifically for project management, or perhaps would they have been used elsewhere, in other applications?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  I would say these – we started out with the two tools that are really for project managers.  When you put on your big boy pants, your big girl pants as a PM, you’re probably going to be using Microsoft Project or Primavera.  However, there are other tools that are lighter weight and don’t, honestly, they don’t cost as much, either.

ANDY CROWE:  Right.

BILL YATES:  And some of those can be used by project managers or even by other people in the community.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what’s funny, Bill, I was doing some work the other day around the house.  And I have a Leatherman tool, a Leatherman Wave, I think it is.  And it’s got 25 different tools on it.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  It is really useful to have that on your hip.  But none of those tools in that Leatherman are as good, perhaps, I would, argue, as a dedicated stand-alone version.

BILL YATES:  Yes, yes.

ANDY CROWE:  So the knife on it.  Well, you know what, I’ve got a better knife when I really need to cut something.  There’s a saw on it.  But it’s a really small saw.  So if I really need to do heavy-duty sawing, I’ve got a better tool.  The screwdriver, same thing for each of those.  Now, but it’s so useful to have this all in one tool.  So that’s kind of the way that Microsoft Project and Primavera are.  A lot of these tools, though, will do specific tasks extremely well that we’ve covered in here.  So when it gets down to one particular thing, they’re going to do it great.

NICK WALKER:  Are we talking a lot of money here?  I mean, it’s like, if you start collecting all of these, you know, is it cost effective to have all of this?

ANDY CROWE:  I’m sure that Microsoft doesn’t charge much at all for an enterprise license for Microsoft Project.

BILL YATES:  They practically give it away.

ANDY CROWE:  Some of them are.  Some of them are expensive.  Some of them, there is no model to pay for them.  Some of these are free right now.  And what they’re trying to do is get market share and get eyes and then figure out, much like Twitter’s trying to figure out, okay, how do we make money at this?

NICK WALKER:  Sure, yeah, yeah.

BILL YATES:  And, you know, Nick, I think one practical piece of advice for listeners is many times their organization will have system licenses that they’re not even aware of.  And there are a number of tools.  A lot of software, before you go and whip out the company credit card or your personal credit card, I would always ask my manager first:  “Hey, do we happen to have access to this?”  Do we have a corporate account, so to speak.  And you may be surprised.

NICK WALKER:  Andy, you mentioned Slack.  Let’s talk a little bit about communication tools.  That’s one I’m not familiar with.  Skype, I’ve used that a lot, you know.  What others are we talking about that work specifically well for project management?

ANDY CROWE:  I’ve messed with Slack before.  I’ve used it.  Now, this is an interesting thing.  Let me explain philosophically around this.  We at Velociteach took all the walls and all the offices down a few years ago, and we…

BILL YATES:  Literally.

ANDY CROWE:  No, quite literally.  We made it a collaborative space, and everybody sits in the open.  From the top to the bottom, everybody in the company sits out in the open.  So that creates this sort of osmotic communication environment where you hear what’s going on, and you’re aware of the different groups around, and we try and mix it up.  So the idea, now, fortunately we have one main office and, you know, several distributed areas.  But if you’re trying to collaborate across office boundaries, suppose that you’re in an office environment that does have walls.  Suppose that you’re in a distributed, and some of your people are in your city, and some are somewhere else.  Then you can set up these communication channels.

So Slack does that really well.  It’s setting up communication channels to foster communication.  You have threads of communication going by.  I have a friend who’s a mortgage banker.  He’s got 19 offices across the Southeast.  They use this tool just to have a communication thread going through it.  There’s another one that I was more familiar with before called Jabber, I believe, or maybe I’m thinking of Yammer.  And it was a tool that was meant to be like Twitter, except for Intranets.  So it’s supposed to be internal company networks.  So that you and I could talk about what we’re working on, talk about where we are.  And it’s just sort of a common thread of communication.

One more comment with this.  You know, in the early days of Facebook, it was said that what Facebook’s value-add – and again, this was years and years ago – was that it created this ambient awareness.  You knew what was more or less going on in everybody’s life.  You could see this thread.  And then it became fun and a wonderful tool to discuss politics on.  But for project management, it’s a nice thing that some organizations set this up, and then people just talk about what they’re working on and talk about their different progress with Slack or Yammer.  They can do these things, and then people just kind of see, and it creates an ambient awareness of what’s going on.

BILL YATES:  One of the things, one of the values that I see in instant messaging and this collaboration, this set of collaboration tools, is it removes some of the back-and-forth, the ping-pong that we do with email, and gives you an instant response that keeps that inbox in your email – maybe it cuts down on some.

ANDY CROWE:  Tidier.

BILL YATES:  We hope so.  But then on the flipside some of the ways that I quickly type a message in Skype or Slack, I don’t want to do that in an email.  So I have to kind of discipline myself.  And I think our teams have to know the difference.  And if I’m sending an email to a customer versus sending a quick message to Andy, it needs to be in a different tone.

NICK WALKER:  Yes, yes.

BILL YATES:  And maybe think about grammar or spelling or abbreviations a bit more.

ANDY CROWE:  Hey, Bill, can I just brag for one second and let you know that this morning I started out my day with zero emails in my inbox?

BILL YATES:  Wow.

NICK WALKER:  Whoa.

ANDY CROWE:  It was clean.  And it wasn’t that I just went and purged.  They were all dealt with and processed and organized.  And I get as much email as many of you listeners, so it’s not – it is an attainable goal.

BILL YATES:  That’s amazing.  It’s a good day for Andy when that happens.

ANDY CROWE:  I notice Outlook is not on our list of tools.

BILL YATES:  We’ll get there.

NICK WALKER:  What other messaging tools do you think would be…

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  One of the responses I got back from a listener to the podcast was that person was a big fan of Discord.  So Slack, Skype, Discord is another, HipChat is another.  So there are a number of instant messaging tools or collaboration tools.  Let me just say this one thing about Skype.  I mean, Skype is free.  How can I complain; right?  You get what you pay for sometimes.  My problem with Skype is it’s a memory hog.  Of course it updates frequently, and I get over that.  That’s fine.  But when I upgraded from one laptop to another, the issue really went away.  But with an older laptop I was having some performance issues.  And I’d bring up just the tool to be able to see what’s eating my memory, what’s going on.  And when you’re looking at the background processes, Skype was near the top, man.  I’d have to throw the flag.

NICK WALKER:  And I’m concerned, too, about security.

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  Are there anything with these communication tools that we have to be concerned about?  Because sometimes we’re dealing with pretty sensitive information.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, Nick, security is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart.  It runs through everything in here, and network security, and security in general.  So, yes, it’s something we need to be concerned with.  That said, there’s no easy answer.  It’s a very complicated topic for any of these.  So I don’t know that Skype is less secure.  I don’t know that Microsoft Project would be more secure.  It really depends on the configuration of your network and who’s out to get in.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  With you bringing that up, I want to jump into a couple of tools that I rely on a good bit, but I understand why many organizations are not.  I use Google Documents quite a bit internally.  I use Google Drive.  I use Dropbox a good bit.  And in some cases, where I’m doing projects with external vendors, that’s completely fine.  In other cases it’s not.

ANDY CROWE:  Well, and so this is funny.  To Nick’s point, are those secure?

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  Is Google Drive secure?  Well, not if somebody has your userID and password.

BILL YATES:  Exactly.

ANDY CROWE:  Not if you don’t have two-factor authentication turned on.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  And there are even issues with that.  So it really is a weird space right now.  Dropbox has been successfully compromised in the past.  It’s a tricky area.

BILL YATES:  It is.  So I think there are excellent free tools that are out there for project managers.  The PM has to be wise and think about, okay, can I even use this?  Is there a clear policy in my organization that says no, I cannot use Dropbox?  I can’t use Google Drive?  Or am I allowed to, but only in certain circumstances?

ANDY CROWE:  And I know everybody in the world uses Dropbox or OneDrive or something similar, some synchronization.  But wow, what an amazing tool that has been.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, no doubt.

NICK WALKER:  On the issue of issue tracking, you’ve got this category here.  What do you have that might be appropriate for the project manager?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, issue tracking is something very close to my – when I think about a project manager, and I think about the day-to-day activities of a PM, issue tracking is something that is just a part of the daily rhythm for a PM.  And Andy, it’s funny, I’m going to show how old I am now.  The issue tracking that I did was with Excel, Microsoft Excel.

ANDY CROWE:  Oh, I still use that sometimes, sure.  Create an issue log.

BILL YATES:  Sure.  It works great.  And we actually give out templates just to let people know.

ANDY CROWE:  But the reason it works great is you’ve got a process behind it.

BILL YATES:  Yes, yes, yes.  Excellent point.  So there are some other tools out there for tracking issues.  It’s interesting, I had another responder say, “We actually use Salesforce.  We use Salesforce.”  Salesforce has a lot of capabilities.  And they have a Quip, Q-U-I-P.  They have Quip, which allows you to track issues there.  So they’ve had a lot of success.  This listener had a lot of success using that.

NICK WALKER:  The whole category of testing and version control, you’ve got several on your list here that you like.  Is this an endorsement of these?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, well, even on issue tracking there are a number, you know, if you go back and think about, I mean, there are a number.  Let me just run off a quick list here because there are so many different ones, and I know we’re going to get pounded for those that we excluded.

ANDY CROWE:  That’s okay.  You know what?

BILL YATES:  That’s the way it goes.

ANDY CROWE:  We’ll do another one of these next year.

BILL YATES:  Yeah, exactly.  There’s Bugzilla.  There’s Trac.  There’s Mantis, Redmine, Launchpad, GitHub Issues.  There are a number of different tools that people have responded to us and say, “This is what I use for issue tracking.”  I know there are a lot of – and I’m sure Andy can relate to this.  There are a number of engagements that I worked on where there was a custom internal tool that was created for issue tracking.

ANDY CROWE:  Where you can open a ticket.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  Assign it to somebody, adjudicate it.  You know what the really important point here, Nick, is that this is not inside somebody’s head, and it’s not on one piece of paper at the bottom of a pile on somebody’s desk.  It’s that the good thing about these tools is it creates transparency and visibility.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  Stakeholders need to know that they have the ability to issue a ticket or open an issue of some kind, and that it’ll stay on the plate, and it’ll be taken seriously.  And then they can log back in and see what the status of that is.  That’s the real value here.  I think all of these – I’ve used GitHub before; and I’ve used, I believe, Bugzilla before.  And all of them offer a similar feature set.  You can kind of get carried away with the number of embellishments that you add to it.  But really what you want is the ability to describe an issue adequately; to assign it to somebody; and to see what the status of it is; and to keep it open, closed, et cetera.

BILL YATES:  Right.  And Nick, I kind of veered off.  You’d asked the same question, the same type of question on testing and version control.  And I think what Andy just mentioned is really the key.  It’s transparency, and it’s open communication, with issues and with testing and version control.  So testing and version control is a little bit different.  I mean, now we’re talking more about internal team communication, maybe across teams that are working, that are touching the same platform, adding different capabilities to it.  But there’s this need, both to understand what other team members are doing, what other project teams are doing, and the impact that you’re going to have.  When I check this code out, and I start making changes to it, is somebody else doing the same thing?  Right?

NICK WALKER:  So what programs are in your stocking for that?

BILL YATES:  Yeah.  There are several.  There’s a lot of open source freeware out there.  That’s true across the board.  But there’s one that’s universal here that is Git.  There’s Bitbucket.  I had another responder talk about Jenkins and the use of Jenkins.  Again, Salesforce comes up.  And I’ve seen, again, hardcore Microsoft Excel being used.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, that’s going to be tough.

BILL YATES:  That’s really tough, yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  Yeah, you know, GitHub does some of this, as well, as part of their core functionality.  I wonder if there’s anybody listening to this podcast who goes back far enough to remember the application called Delta, which was a check-in/check-out server.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  You would check code out.  You would make modifications.  You’d check it back in to do a build.  And then Microsoft eventually bought them, and it got rolled up into something else.  But I wonder if people remember that.  It’s a long time ago, going way back.

BILL YATES:  Yeah.

ANDY CROWE:  But this idea of check-out/check-in.  Now, the reason it’s so important, Nick, one of the things that we pay attention to, you think about the number of versions.  And for instance, just let’s take something that everybody’s familiar with, their cell phone.  You’ve got a smartphone, and you need to put a new operating system on it.  Except there’s not just one version of that smartphone.

BILL YATES:  Right.

ANDY CROWE:  There’s multiple – I was updating a router the other day, one of the little home routers.  And there were three different hardware versions.  And you have to turn it over and figure out which hardware version you have before you can even update it for the same model.  So think about the number of different versions of that smartphone that this operating system has to work on, and the amount of testing.  And now you have to load it.  You have to make sure it installs properly.  Then you have to regression test all of these apps to see what it’s going to break.  It’s going to break something when you make changes.  This is a good way of keeping that whole process organized and sane.

BILL YATES:  Right.  Yeah, Nick, I’ll give one specific website for people to go check out.  Atlassian is a company that gets a lot of credit for many of these products that we’ve been mentioning.  And I’ll spell that out.  It’s A‑T‑L‑A‑S‑S‑I‑A‑N dot com.

ANDY CROWE:  We’ll also link that in the show notes.

NICK WALKER:  I know there’s probably a lot of folks out there who are saying, “You didn’t mention my favorite one.”

BILL YATES:  Right.

NICK WALKER:  Do we have any honorable mentions?  I mean, like, I’m saying, okay, where’s Google Drive in all this?

BILL YATES:  Yeah, yeah, again, there are a number that we could go to.  There’s some random ones, some miscellaneous things that I’ll just mention.  I thought this was clever.  I had one person respond to me and say, you know, “I like to use videos as part of my updates to quickly demonstrate the progress we’ve made on the thing that our project is producing,” for instance.  Let me just shoot a quick video and get it out to my stakeholders and let them see where things stand.  And but, you know, I mean, you’re in that business.  It’s complex.

NICK WALKER:  Yeah.

BILL YATES:  So how can somebody simply, quickly, edit a video?  So there are many tools out there to do that.  Camtasia was this guy’s favorite.  I know there are a number of even some freeware that’s available for editing video quickly and posting it where people can view that.

ANDY CROWE:  You know what, it’s funny, I’m seeing video become more and more important to project managers, as well.  That may be a future podcast episode where we unpack that some.

NICK WALKER:  Well, chances are that you have a project manager on your Christmas list.  Bill’s given us his Christmas list here so…

BILL YATES:  Made a big stocking.

NICK WALKER:  It’s very thorough.  I can never think of things, you know, my kids ask me what I want for Christmas.  I can never think of anything.  You’ve thought of a whole lot of things here.

So if you missed any of these tools on our list, you can simply look at the transcript of the program right on the “Manage This Podcast” page.  Just click on the words “Episode Details” under Episode 24.

BILL YATES:  You know, another thought, Nick, I want to hit that drum again that Andy hit right at the beginning of the podcast.  It is so important that we remember the tools are the tools.  Right?

ANDY CROWE:  You’d still better know what you’re doing and have your process in place.

BILL YATES:  You’ve got to know what you’re doing.  You’ve got to know what you’re doing.  So we love fun, shiny, brand new tools.  But keep in mind you are a project manager, and you should be able to do this with no tools at all; right?  These will just hopefully make your day shorter and improve your efficiency.

ANDY CROWE:  I’ve got a really great miter saw at home, but that does not make me a good carpenter.

BILL YATES:  That’s right.

NICK WALKER:  I’ve got a lot of tools there on the wall that haven’t been used in years, yeah.  Well, Andy, Bill, again, thank you so much for your expertise in all of this.  That’s it for us here on Manage This.  We hope you’ll tune back in on January 3rd for our next podcast.  You can always visit us at Velociteach.com/managethis to subscribe to this podcast, to see a transcript of the show, or to contact us.  And tweet us at @manage_this if you have a comment about our podcast or a question for our experts.

That’s all for this episode.  Talk to you again in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, Happy Holidays.  Keep calm and Manage This.

2 responses to “Episode 24 — Holiday Gifts for the PM”

  1. David L Elam Jr says:

    Still a relevant topic two years later. Thanks

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