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July 25, 2010

Recent attempts to work smarter rather than harder have been an utter failure. As the business grows and we get busier and busier I’ve needed to look at our business practices and workflow. It’s so far not worked out so brilliantly.

I used to write a fair amount of our tools and all of the frameworks and code for our websites and applications. Originally this was because there was little option, there were no free or cheap versions of the tools we needed and the frameworks available were challenging at best. Of course this wasn’t all bad it gave me a greater understanding of the underlying technology and probably increased my coding skills far more than downloading plugins and other people’s code ever would. But, as many people pointed out it did make development a relatively slow and arduous process which in the new age of Agile Development would see me left behind.

It took a while for me to change my ways, I still have an OC like obsession with understanding exactly how everything works and will still rip a framework or plugin to pieces on occasion to make sure it does what it claims. I’m now a complete jQuery convert and massively happy with WordPress. I went halfway with PHP, I tried a bunch of frameworks but just couldn’t get on with any of them so wrote my own, it took about six months (mostly research) but works perfectly for us and allows us to put together full online applications in a matter of hours. It’s not ‘finished’ and never will be, I constantly add to it and improve it but it’s lightweight and flexible and does exactly what we need (and nothing more).

So with frameworks for php, javascript, actionscript and a shedload of standard setups for html and css I’ve embraced the agile, flexible world. Next step was to improve workflow and project management. This is where it’s all fallen down a bit. I really don’t want us to go back to the bad old ways of writing every tool ourselves, I need to sleep sometimes. I’ve spent a lot of hours over the last couple of months researching and testing project management and workflow tools and I have not found anything I would be happy to use. There’s a lot of dross out there combined with a lot of well written but feature-weak applications. The grind now is that I could have probably used the time better to have written something in-house. I still don’t want to but if I can’t find the right tools soon it may be the only option.

We now have two choices: 1) Use a whole bunch of unrelated tools in a haphazard manner, tying them together with apis where possible or 2) write it ourselves.

Working smarter and faster is fine if the quality tools are available but if you have standards you may be better off doing it the long way.

In case you may be able to suggest anything, our primary requirement right now is a decent project/task manager which supports:

  • Multiple projects per client
  • Client access
  • Recurring tasks. This is the absolute most important feature
  • A wiki

That’s it. To be fair we did find one piece of software that covers it pretty well but it was way outside of our current budget.

Category: Coding, Work

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    I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).

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