5 Ways we keep our Communication Untangled

10 February 2015 by Jinesh Parekh 4 comments

communicate

Ours is a time of technology, an era of non-verbal communication and the age of texting, tweeting, status updates and even, the now rudimentary email. Alright enough with the dramatics. But really, considering communication is almost completely not face-to-face nowadays, why does it bewilder us when we find that we have issues in communication?

In software development and even more so, in agile development, communication is key. Whether it’s communication within the team or communication with the client, it is necessary to make sure that non-communication, or worse, miscommunication is not the reason work is lagging.

When we first started out, we were just a couple of guys, two PCs, two tables and a mosaic floor (Our CTO fondly remembers the mosaic floor and I’m a sucker for tiny details like so!). At that point, communication was a non-issue. I mean, if two people couldn’t communicate, we might as well have just shut down the company and gone home. When things finally did kick off, we started growing. And now we’re a team of about 50 odd individuals, comprising development, testing, outbound marketing, content strategy and our very own Happiness officer, located at offices in three different cities.

And this is precisely why we always make it a point to be on top of our communication game. To keep up with this growth we’ve encountered, we tried several communication tools and several basic ideas as well, in an attempt to see what fitted us best. Here’s what we can’t do without in 5 succinct points-

1. Hall:

Their tagline is “Bring your team together” and that is literally what it lets us do. The basic functionality of Hall is quite fundamentally chat. It has all the regular features of a chat application like private and group chats, as well as video calls from their web app. Additionally, you just have to search for the name of any Hall user and you can chat with them directly. Client communication works great as well because you don’t need to do anything special to add a client. You look up their names, add them to your team chat and just start communicating.

2. Basecamp:

We use Basecamp primarily for requirements gathering and general discussions. Basecamp is however, primarily a project management software.A team member can log into Basecamp and get the full story of a project’s progress. Basecamp also has a dashboard, which tells you everything that has changed in a project and what is relevant to you. It doesn’t break the mold of usual project management software but we must give it a +1 for usability and compatibility with various external technologies.

3. Pivotal Tracker:

We fulfill our project management needs with Pivotal Tracker. This is possibly one of the best tools out there, that caters so well to agile development. We track user stories using this tool and once again, ease of use is a pretty significant factor for our bias towards this software. Additionally, Pivotal Tracker also provides a fairly uncomplicated method to make clients understand agile development.

4. Microsoft Excel:

Okay, don’t judge us for using just Excel. I can imagine some of you scoffing at the thought, but the truth is, at this stage, we haven’t really found the need to complicate our time tracking with a more directed tool. Perhaps, when we grow bigger, we might need a proper software to log hours, but for now, Excel works just fine.

5. Daily status updates:

We like daily status emails. At the end of the day, instead of having a meeting to find out how much is done and how much is leftover, everyone sends a daily status update that details exactly how much they got done on that day. This lets us not waste time, be aware of what everyone else has done and what we need to be on top of, the next day. Also, it doesn’t encourage micromanagement (which is by far, a curse to team morale), and allows for more transparency within the organization.

One thing we have discovered is that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. What one person might find confusing, another would possibly love. It would take some trial and error for you to find the right communication tools to fit your organization (Case in point: Using excel for time tracking). So don’t be afraid to try different tools and to switch from one to another. Your team and your clients will be thankful for it.

Jinesh Parekh

Founder CEO, Idyllic.

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4 thoughts on “5 Ways we keep our Communication Untangled”

  1. We use Pivotal Tracker too! Not sure if you use something like Slack but they allow it to be synced together so it’s a great way to get passive updates from the dev team.

  2. @Mark @Phillip Thanks for the inputs. Like I said, it has always been a lot about usability for us and getting our clients familiar with the tools we use. Being a close knit organization, we generally are open to suggestions from team members, clients and of course, from our readers as well. Discovering new ways to improve our communication has always been part of our end game! We will definitely take a look at Bitrix24 and Comindware.

  3. +1 to Phillip. I also wonder if it isn’t easier to transfer all communication, project management and tracking into one system.

    E.g. we use Comindware Project (http://comindware.com/project/ ) which covers all the options listed above and even more for my team. It has discussion rooms where you can chat with your team and clients or build a separate room for a private discussion. It might easily replace Hall. Besides it has built-in team network and allows to search for people with relevant skills or whatever other filter. In regards to project management it is as usable for PMs and team members as Basecamp and additionally provides automatic priority-based planning and a shot view of a workload of your team members. In Comindware Project we also have timesheets that can be imported into MS Excel if needed. Daily status updates can be sent automatically, just some settings are needed. It seems that Comindware Project can hardly replace Pivotal Tracker having nothing for agile development and being all about effective collaboration and project management. I hope my comments will make sense for you.

  4. Sounds like a good set of tools. But isn’t it easier to transfer all communication into one cross functional suite? There are plenty of solutions nowadays, like Bitrix24 or Freedcamp. And many of them are free (like the above-mentioned Bitrix24, for example).

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