How much time am I, as a manager, ready to spend to automate a working process? The less work management takes me, the better. It doesn’t matter much which instrument I’ll use for this. I can cope perfectly well with almost any online project management software, and I can excel, email, whiteboard, no matter what. The thing is I want everything work, and the less time I spend to set it up, the better.
Project management ‘solutions’ are just another problem instead.
Most of software solutions that are supposed to help me reduce time and effort, simply engage me into another kind of work, but don’t reduce its amount. I am really not fond of the fact that building an automated working process is difficult and involves programming. Sometimes, the logic of this programming leaves me puzzled. At the same time usability is not always as intuitive as it should be. Finally, I found solutions that position themselves as project management tools, but they don’t have workflow automation features in it. You can manage tasks, take it or leave it. I think I’d better leave.
I need a solution that would administer my working processes. Let’s take a software product development process. Product manager demands a new feature and makes an item. Then it goes up the workflow scheme to the CTO for approval When approved, it goes to the developers. And after the feature is made, the item is forwarded to the QA professionals. There might be several iterations for it, task can go back and forth between developers and QA. The whole approval process can be much more complicated. The essential is that I want to set this process up quickly, and then I want it to run on its own.
Ease of use counts
There is a large choice of online solutions for this purpose, yet all of them are not quite easy to use. First unpleasant thing to face is that configuring automated workflows for your processes can take time. Good news is that a number of developers have finally understood that the end user doesn’t want to spend time on coding the workflow, finishing and polishing their product. As the result we see new generation of solutions coming to the market. Their interface makes it possible to build a workflow with a simple drag and drop. Then you hit save, and there you go: start creating items, the machine will start distributing tasks to the team players. One of such solutions, the one I’d like to mention today, is Comindware. And I want to thank you guys, for making it simple first of all.
What exactly did they do? They made a graphical workflow builder:
With the graphical workflow builder, you can create a process on your own, or take one of the templates they offer and improve it. Use Kaizen power: improve your process later, when you got a better idea, without interrupting daily working processes of your team. Most of solutions require from you to kill the workflow automation scheme and replace it with the new one you’ve just made. In this case, what will happen to the item that users are working on right now? True, they will be deleted along with the workflow scheme. Or, you have to interrupt the process and tell everyone you’re going to do it so they back their current activities up. That’s not what I wanted.
Comindware helps you avoid this pathetic situation when workflow automation works against you and brings you another pain instead of a solution. After you drop new arrows and circles to the scheme and hit ‘save’, new items will start running the new scheme, old ones will just have another option where to go, but they will be perfectly save. And in case you delete one of the states in which some of existing items currently reside those items won’t be deleted either: they’ll just go to the beginning of the scheme. That’s what they call ‘bring changes on-the-fly’ on their website, but you will never feel as happy as I have felt, before you try.
Go mobile, be free
After the recent update, Comindware has now mobile version of the product. I have already appreciated it when I was out of the office and got updates on our project status live, on the screen of my phone. To me, online means mobile, so previously when it was only accessible from a desktop browser, the solution was incomplete.
Item creation by email is another feature that nobody else but Comindware has offered until now (or please correct me if I’m wrong). You can create tasks and items by sending an email to a special address. Here is a decent article about how to set it up for Comindware Task Management. It’s as easy as pie. Now when I get an incoming email, I can just forward it to the special address with all the information and attachments in it, and Comindware Tracker will do the rest – the process has started.
Definitely, Comindware Tracker has a number of advantages. Right now, anything can be labeled as a project management solution. To me, a project management solution has a must-have features list:
- Online & mobile access
- Automated workflows (easy to build, easy to change)
- Built-in task management system
- Discussions, files attached and all that stuff that is usually called ‘collaborative features’
- Some other juicy features like MS Outlook integration or item creation by email.
Comindware has it all. To me, this means Comindware has future. I wish luck to the developers of this product, you’re going the right way, guys. Share comments with me if you’ve already played around with this product, especially if your company uses it. I will gladly answer your questions as well.