Apr 18 2011
By now just about everyone knows the gist of how Twitter works. You can share 140 character messages with your followers, who in turn can share them with you. Placing an upper limit on how many characters can be typed has a lot of ramifications. The most notable of these is that people will only type words that are absolutely necessary. This limitation also allows users to quickly understand the message being conveyed.
Jumping fields over to the Project Management sector, you’ll find a different paradigm. Managers create pages of documentation outlining project requirements. These are even lengthier and more granular if they’re reviewed by HR. Job duties can be micromanaged down to the most rudimentary steps, burying workers in a pile of verbosity. This is not the way project management was meant to be.
There are a few safe havens within the field however. The agile development process has distinguished itself on valuing people’s time and keeping communication short. They’re known for stand up meetings, writing single tasks on a card and then working on just that one task through to completion. I recall one coworker who was adamant about it. One productivity tip he passed on was to work on one five minute task every hour. It turned out to be the single most effective way to stay productive on long drawn out development projects.
Now there’s a project management solution that captures the essence of some of these business practices that help keep projects simple. It comes to us as Microproject, the Twitter of project management solutions.
Microproject is a task and schedule based project management system. Each task can be added to the agenda and assigned to team members. When completed you check them off the list and work on the next one. It places some limitations on these that are resonant of both Twitter and parts of the agile development process. First is that tasks are limited to- you guessed it- 140 characters. Next is that you can only create up to six scheduled tasks per half day. This helps teams resist the temptation to overwhelm people with too many tasks at once. If you need more, then you either have to schedule them in the future, or leave them as unscheduled. When working on a project it’s almost always better to think about just one portion of it rather than the mountain of work ahead. Tasks that are assigned a deadline are placed on a Gantt chart and can be dragged and dropped as needed. This is the predominant view and conveys all the activities of a project quickly and simply.
Invariably people might want to convey more information than 140 characters can offer. To work around this in Twitter an entire industry of URL shorteners was born, redirecting users to more info. Microproject has a more project manager styled solution; you can upload documents and assign them to certain tasks.
Now, having reviewed a few project management solutions in the past I’ve begun to notice a trend. For reasons unbeknownst to designers around the world, they are almost always the most sterile and disinteresting sites we review. Their designs are bland at best, as if introducing any hint of colorful effects would immediately cause users to stop work altogether. Microproject deviated from this all too boring status quo and added just a bit of flair to their site. It’s slick really- black with orange and a series of equally bright and vibrant colors. After all, if you’re going to be looking at a site all day it might as well look good. It also sports a lights on/off feature where you can turn the background to white, giving it a much brighter look and feel.
Microproject’s combination of a simple visual project view and concise tasks makes it a unique and effective project management solution. It forces project leaders to focus their attention on what’s most important and let the workers figure out the details. This is a strong motivator that keeps the goals front and center and empowers workers to take ownership of their duties. Microproject’s enforcement of limits on task creation and deadline assignment is both thoughtful and powerful. With it, teams will be less distracted so they can work on the task at hand.