ServerPress Product Management DesktopServer WPSiteSync

How we manage Projects

Whew! It has been a busy couple of months at ServerPress. We couldn’t have done it without proper planning in product releases.

First, we published WPSiteSync Release Candidate last week. Now, we are quickly approaching DesktopServer 3.8.2 Release; our gateway development phase to 4.0. Talk about busy and excited all rolled into a single lollipop.

How do we do it all?

Very, very carefully. All joking aside, we’ve come a long way from Stephen tinkering around with a game changing project in his coding cave. Today, it takes a team of engineers and product experts to make things happen. Every feature we modify (even if it’s for improvement purposes) can affect the development environment of over 30,000 designers and developers. That number is growing by the minute, too. Yikes! But it’s all good!

Because of this growth, and because we take the manner in which we impact your workflow, we are extremely committed in being tentative with every decision we make in regards to our projects. Everything, and we mean EVERYTHING, is carefully considered before we pencil it onto our Product Calendar.

So, how do we really do it?

We have been able to accomplish a tight schedule by implementing five things.

First things first, we shifted our focus from Project management to Product management. Like many bootstrap companies, we’ve grown our team organically. The Truth is with limited staff, we focused most of our energy on superior Customer Service.  Internal structure was in place but not as efficient as we would like. So this year, we decided to take a good look at how we can strike a balance implementing team organization without breaking our Entrepreneurial spirit. We want to be even more effective in our workflow so we can serve our customers better, and faster.

Even though everyone on the team had a good idea of the Sky view schedule, we found that various departments were working in separate pods, each on their own granular timeline. So we started a One-Calendar System, listing all of our marketing and product release timelines, with the end goal of Customer Satisfaction. This achieves three things. One, it reminds all of us that working together in synchronicity is necessary to create the best products possible for our customers, not just for the sake of releasing new product features. Two, everyone understands there’s a domino effect between departments. On a virtual team, it’s too easy to feel like we are on an Island by ourselves. Lack of daily communication affects the Master Calendar. This is a vital success key in a virtual team environment. Lastly, having a Master Calendar eliminates accidentally overloading our team members with tasks when everyone is already working hard on multiple Projects.

Secondly, instead of individual meetings within each department, we implemented daily status meetings where major players in each department are required to attend. We still have department meetings but those are now the result of further discussions needed from the daily status meetings. Not the other way around.

With new features in development, we run into issues. In product development, it’s unavoidable. They are often unexpected, especially working with open source software. This affects all departments, not just our tech team. Just 2 weeks ago, we were code complete with a major component in DesktopServer 3.8.2 (to be released in June 2016). However, we found out that the updated version of an Open Source software we use no longer provides what we need. This piece was available in their previous versions so we were surprised it was no longer available. We had to pivot and quickly re-architect our project. Instead of calling an emergency meeting sending everyone into panic mode, we were able to address this calmly during our already scheduled daily status meeting. We agreed on an elegant solution with the input from all departments to satisfy Customer needs while not creating installation issues for our Support Team.

Third, we started to ask our Engineers to send in their status report every night when they are done working. Our Company is full of self starters so this is not with the objective of micro-managing. For us, this schedule works great since our Technical team tends to like to work late and the Product Management team is usually in the office before the Development team arrives. This allows us time to rearrange their development timeline before they step a foot in the office. It also gives us time to brew up a couple of viable solutions (and maybe a pot or two of coffee) so we are ready to make our final decision when everyone is present in our daily status meeting. The Engineers have reported that they feel accomplished listing their achievements for the day and are able to have a safe space to vent their coding frustrations for the day. It has also helped us to remind the Engineers to address issues instead of having problems fall through the cracks by accident.

Number Four, we schedule “Mental Breaks” on our Master Calendar. This is especially effective for the Engineers. The misconception of Developers is that they are 24/7 Coding Robots. The fact is, they are extremely creative. They imagine what hasn’t been accomplished in the world and make it happen with 0’s and 1’s. That, is pretty incredible to us! When they are working on products, they are essentially at work and it can be very taxing mentally, especially with timeline pressures. They want time to satisfy their curiosity on the things they are interested in. Even though, most of the time they are sitting in front of their computer writing code anyway, they are actually taking a mental break and doing something creative without project deadlines. Because of this, we respect their process and schedule a much needed mental break right after each Product Release with mini-breaks after a particular challenge within the project has been overcome. Sometimes, we’d schedule few short sessions during a long work week. This has helped them power through some long nights knowing they have “me- time” coming up. It has also helped them in productivity when they return to project related tasks..

Lastly, PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME! Never underestimate the power of some goof-off time. Whenever we successfully accomplish something, small or large, we do a little dance. Try it. You’ll like it (and you’re welcome for the ear worm)!

It sounds like we are growing up, doesn’t it?

In reality, we have been growing at a consistent rate. Every so often we forget to buy bigger pants. By upping our game in internal structure, we are essentially putting on a new outfit so we can stride in style.  What do you do to create effective workflow? Please comment below. We’d love to hear about it!

We’ve made a Commitment in bringing you the best Products possible, so we intend on delivering. 3.8.2 coming!

Besides being the Scrum Master at ServerPress, LLC, Jennifer oversees the Product portfolio, leading Projects from conception to launch. When she’s not analyzing Workflow data, she enjoys watching her dogs steal tomatoes from her veggie garden.

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