Archives for September 2015

September 24, 2015 - 2 comments

It’s Time to Start Slacking

I’ve said it tons of times: we LOVE to talk about tools, but rarely do the tools universally work for teams. Well, folks, I think I may have to eat my words. As a consultant, I get to peek in on other people’s toolset, and I’m finding more and more that people are adopting Slack, a multi-channel team communication tool.

For years, teams have relied on tools like email, Skype, instant messenger, Basecamp, and many others to communicate project updates, changes, and general information. We’re used to an onslaught of messages coming from several directions, but often feel burdened and disorganized due to the volume, type, and urgency of the messages. We create rules about how to use the tools in order to assemble some sort of consistency, but those rules are difficult to remember (or are flat-out ignored). In return, information is lost and people become frustrated…and projects go off course leaving project managers wondering how to centralize communications. Maybe Slack doesn’t fully solve that issue, but it sure is getting close.

Slack has resolved many of these communication issues for organizations and teams alike. The tool allows project communications, collaboration, and camaraderie to happen all in one place, and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s not just any old instant messenger program, it’s a robust tool that facilitates better communication practices. And I have to say, I’m on board.Here are just a few reasons why I’m on board. (In case you are wondering...NO, I am not being paid to write this. I would never do that here. This is my honest assessment.)

“Channels” promote transparency

Slack provides simple one-to-one conversation functionality, but you can also segment conversations, topics, or projects by creating “Channels” within the tool. You can assign your users to as many (or as few) channels as you need in order to keep topics visible to the team members you want to see any individual topic. This ensures a level of transparency and collaboration that is often lost with email chains or one-off conversations. This may sound overhwhelming to some, but with notification settings and opt-in functionality, each user can find the right level of communication to be a part of—or ignore to be more efficient.

Slack integrations

There’s no getting around it: every team uses a number of tools on each project. This means a number of notifications from various applications. What’s nice about Slack is that it integrates with other tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, GitHub, and more, so things happening outside of Slack are pulled in via notifications. They’re not automatic, you have to set them up and you can control the noise. So while some teams may want to know each time code is committed to a GitHub repository, others want to check it manually. There are ways to set up or hack the notification to make them work for you and your team. 

Simple search

Slack is great for quick conversations or file sharing to make a quick decision about work. Therein lies a small problem: decisions are made, and lost in a long chat history. So, as a team, you’ll want to set up your own practices for using to the tool to make sure important conversations are documented somewhere you can find them. But, it’s nice to know you can go back through history to find information discussed in Slack.

File sharing

Every once in a while, someone will be working on a document and they need some immediate feedback. Slack makes file sharing easy, so it’s easy to have that conversation without using email or jumping on Skype. Drag and drop a file in to Slack, and let the collaboration begin. It’s amazing to see how quickly a question can be answered, or a document changed based on sharing a work in progress—It’s changing the way many people work.

At the same time, Slack allows developers to share code snippets. This means they can share and discuss code while the non-tech folks can follow along and learn…or ignore if they’re just too busy. If you’ve got a team of developers working on a project, you’ll want to ensure consistency. Sharing snippets can help with consistency and can eliminate hours of code review meetings by simply staying in touch about questions, practices, and ideas.

Take Slack with you

Running for a coffee and need to check in with someone? No problem—you can take Slack with you on your mobile device. It’s not only convenient, it’s easy to use and the functionality is mirrored in both experiences. The design of the app is slick, easy to use, and customizable. (The down side? You might never catch a break.)

Team Building

There aren’t many apps that actually encourage team building. With the integration of Giphy and custom emoji, communications have a personality that your team can build together. Some teams create channels for lunch plans, topical news, jokes, and more. Others interject animated gifs and emoji in conversations to break silence, or to help make a point. The “fun” is what you make it in Slack, and there is a lot to be had—and there should be when you’re communicating with your team.

Multiple accounts

Slack makes it easy to be a part of several accounts. So, if you’re a freelancer working for several companies, you can seamlessly switch between accounts within the app and keep up to date on communications across teams and projects. 

Plus, many small groups and communities have started Slack accounts of their own. It’s an easy way to share ideas, chat with long-distance colleagues or friends, and be a part of conversations that matter to you. Think of old-school AOL chat rooms, but more personalized and invite-only. It's pretty awesome. I'm personally using Slack in this way to keep in touch with industry friends and peers, and it sure beats email!

Make the tool work for you

Implementing team communication tools can be difficult, because you need full buy-in. The scary truth is that tools like Slack won’t work unless everyone agrees to use them. So if you decide to adopt Slack—or any other communication tool—remember that your decision isn’t just about the tool itself, its about how you’ll use it and how it will help you as a team. Slack can help you streamline your communications and optimize your workflows, whether your team is remote or under the same roof. If you’re feeling like it could be a good fit, try it for free on a project to see if it’s something your team would enjoy using.

*Thanks to benjamin on dribbble for the Slack plaid pattern

September 21, 2015 - No Comments!

O Canada! Attend the Vancouver Every Day DPM Workshop

Have you heard about the Vancouver Every Day DPM Workshop?

About 10 months ago, Rachel Gertz and I were planning our new, daily blog Every Day DPM. When it launched I think we both hoped it would become a little more than just a blog. Maybe it could become a platform for more collaboration. After all, we're sharing content to the community. Sure, we pop our own content in there all the time, but the general idea is to share the great content and knowledge that's out there with the growing digital project community.

So we thought, how can we continue to share content but in a more meaningful way? And the light bulb went off.

We need to bring digital PM events to Canada (and other places too)! There's a growing local community there and Rachel is doing a lot of work to champion that, but there haven't been any workshop or conferences. I'm excited to be a part of the first one.

I'll be leaving Philly for a journey to Vancouver this coming November, and I'd like you to join us. We're not just hosting a one day workshop, though. We're offering a one day consultation with a team or organization to help them sort out their DPM challenges. If you're interested in that, we'd love to talk. Get in touch.

I hope to do more fun work with Rachel. Want to be a part of it or stay updated on what we're doing? Sign up for our email list.

And, of course. Huge thanks to our sponsors, who are truly helping us to make this happen: Harvest, TeamGantt, and Mobify.

September 8, 2015 - No Comments!

A New Home

I started this site—primarily as a blog—back in 2009. I wanted to speak my mind about all things digital project management. I did, and it led to a lot of great conversations, connections, and advancements in my career. When I went out on my own in January of 2015, I immediately knew that the design wasn’t going to work if I wanted to showcase my work—or what I’m doing. So I flipped a switch in WordPress and suddenly jumped into a new, less customizable theme. it never felt right, but it did the job for the time being. I always knew that I wanted a more customized site that allowed me to showcase what I’m doing for work in addition to what I’m saying on this blog, but I knew it would take some time.

In March, I decided to put a call out on Twitter to see if anyone would want to help me with a new brand and a new site. That’s when my friend and Every Day DPM co-blogger Rachel Gertz replied and I thought to myself, “Duh. Of course Louder Than Ten!” We had already been doing some work together and had been thinking about planning an Every Day DPM workshop in Vancouver, among other things. It just felt like the best option, maybe even an extension of all of the fun stuff we’d been working on together already. Plus, working with friends on something that is so personal just feels right.

The next week, Rachel, Travis and I were on the phone talking about next steps. They asked me the right questions: What will this “brand” represent? What did I need immediately? What could I wait for? Immediately I was excited, and of course I wanted it all at once. This is why it’s good to work with friends (and good project managers): They laid the project and costs out for me in a way that helped me to prioritize the work.

We started with a logo

We all agreed that the best place to start was with a logo. I mean, I honestly never thought I wanted or needed one, but man am I happy with what Travis designed. And the process was fun, smooth, and easy to navigate. After two rounds of looking at rough sketches, we landed on an option that felt right for me. And then some refinements, and color.

Brett Harned White Logo

 

I could not wait to apply this to business cards—and I’d been lacking those for months—so Travis whipped them up, printed them, and sent them my way. I now have a full box of cards that I will probably remember to hand out three times this year, because that’s how I roll. BUT I HAVE BUSINESS CARDS!

 

Oh, and I printed stickers too. My kids seem to love them.

Brett Harned Cards and Stickers

Then came a website

Every time I received an email through the contact form on my old site, I was met with shock and embarrassment. Shock that someone would take the old site legitimately. Embarrassment because that’s how you’d feel working in the web industry with such a junior league site.

Initially we planned to attack the project later in the year, but I didn’t think I would be able to  wait. Thankfully, Travis was able to make some time in his busy schedule and we kicked the site design out in just two and a half weeks. I handled content, he designed, illustrated, and coded everything in Semplice for WordPress, and I ended up with a site that I’m truly happy with—and proud of. I’m sure we’ll make enhancements or changes in the future, but what I have now is a site that actually represents my work and my personality.

AND WE LAUNCHED IT ON A FRIDAY. Yup, we broke the rules. There were hiccups. We fixed them, and then sent fireworks gifs over Slack. It was quick, fun, and stress-free. That’s how it should be.

Thanks to LT10

I can’t post this without sending a huge thanks for Rachel and Travis Gertz at Louder Than Ten for helping me with this project. They’re not only doing great web design work, they’re a strong voice in the digital PM community. Check out coax, the digital magazine they’re publishing for DPMs. It’s a joy to read—and full of helpful information and opinions.

 What’s Next?

This year has been fulfilling, fun, and busy (but also relaxing at the same time, if that is possible?). I’ve done a lot of work I’ve been proud of, and I’m excited to show you more. I’m always looking for new contacts and businesses to help. Now that I’ve got a real site and logo, I’d love for you to share them! I’m always open to new and exciting projects.