Blog

8 tools for project management in a virtual world

December 7, 2020

Zeb Wood

Zebulun Wood is Co-director of the Media Arts and Science undergrad program

Whether your semester is Covid-free or we are all ‘hunkered down’ in our hovels doing work-from-home [WFH]; if you are a SoIC student, faculty member, or alumni, you know what it means to work on BIG projects.  These projects require constant communication, feedback loops, and iterations, file sharing, and versioning, schedules, accountability and progress charts.  Teams across the world have quickly adjusted to this new lifestyle of project management and team communications.  Our students at SoIC are no different.

Below find some rad BUT not an exhaustive list of tools to make the Covid19 virtual lifestyle more friendly to do team work, track accountability and synchronize everyone’s personal schedules. Here are the ingredients to a virtual project management lifestyle:

Just in Time/ Live Team Communication

If you are a student on a team project for an assignment or already a professional, you will find out quickly that once-a-week communications, even daily emails are far too slow to keep all the cylinders firing.

Some great communication tools that are also free and popular with students and pro teams alike are:

Discord – https://discord.com/

Discord is widely utilized in media and entertainment sectors, especially the gaming community.  You can find SoIC student discord channels, discord channels on tutorials, and even channels for classes in SoIC and around the world.  Screen sharing, live video streaming, rules based sub-threads and bots keep things organized. Take your live communications with you anywhere you go with the Discord app is available for both IOS and Android.

Slack – https://slack.com/

More widely adopted and utilized before Discord; SLACK is still one of the most popular live communication tools out there.  Yours truly has upwards of 40 project teams of various sizes and complexity and all of my courses student team projects on both slack for the PC and mobile.  Even with the free version (max 10k messages), you can mine communication trends across teams and team members.  Slack also integrates well with various task assigning software (see next heading) Photos and videos can be shared for team feedback, on the fly from anywhere.  The SLACK mobile app is available for both IOS and Android.

Tasks/Accountability Assignments

Communication is nice, but managing a team’s to-do list is another monster.  Team leaders need a way to assign tasks, schedule and understand the overall progress of a project.  Team members need to know assignments, how long they have to complete the task, and to be able to communicate when they are finished.  Lastly, everyone loves a good visual timeline to understand the health of the project; a Gannt Chart can be both a de-stressor for project leaders and the bane of existence for team members.

Redbooth – https://redbooth.com/

All my large projects and teams use Redbooth.  Redbooth uses cards, tasks, subtasks, allows team member assignments, notes, communications and calendar views.  My favorite part?  The Gannt Chart View.  A one-window view of your project, all its completed and upcoming tasks, including the finish line.  Adjusting a team members schedule is as easy as swiping left or right. Redbooth integrates well with file storage, slack, and other apps for a full production experience. Free for teams of five or less. The Redbooth mobile app is available for both IOS and Android.

Trello – https://trello.com/

Trello breaks tasks into Boards, lists and Cards. Its very visual.  If you like crossing off your to-do list, Trello may be great for you.  Trello is great for large teams or even for private one human armies. Trello is free up to certain team sizes and functionality.  The Trello mobile app is available for both IOS and Android. Used by thousands of top companies.

Monday – https://monday.com/

Monday allows for project management all from one window, it also accounts for time tracking for each team member.  It has bot integration, automations, quick setup, and third part app integrations.  There is also the esteemed, highly visual ‘work view’, essentially a Gannt Chart on steroids.  Used by thousands of top companies.

File Delivery + Versioning

Whether your team is heavy content creatives, development oriented or both.  Every team needs a way to share files and to guarantee team members are not saving over each other’s work.  Known as file version control, ensure your teams have both storage and a way to check in, check out and push file updates without destroying the project’s files, file hierarchy, code or both.

GIT – https://git-scm.com/

Free and open Source, designed for any sized project.  Its helpful to get a visual client to better understand the file structure of your project, commit and browse files. Git operates on decentralized sharing, typically better for code-only projects with small teams and fast release cycles such as web or application development.  This model requires more pushing and committing of files, branches and can translate ownership of the project between team members.

Perforce – Helix https://www.perforce.com/

Used by some of the largest media and game companies on the planet, Perforce Helix Core synchronizes entire projects on centralized private servers.  The project stays centralizes where all team members are pulling files from and synchronizing back to. Perforce can handle millions of file transactions a day.  There is now Helix4Git integration so you can have the best of both worlds.  Helix Core is free for teams smaller than five.

Shotgun – https://www.shotgunsoftware.com/

For our media, film, and game students and faculty comes an uber-niche product called Shotgun.  Shotgun streamlines workflows for the biggest creative studios on the planet.  Shotgun takes reviews and critiques seriously and streamlines the creative feedback loop from creative/ art directors to the rest of the team.  Pricing is monthly, but there is a free no questions asked 30-day trial. The software integrates directly into our most beloved 3D, film and game software packages for clean feedback requests and discussion to keep everyone on the team on the same page.

Final Thoughts

There is no replacement for regular, timely communications, a clean calendar, and team member self-accountability.  The tools and software above, while powerful, are only as good as each and every team members commitment in constant use, communications and adoption of team best practices from file naming to regular check ins.  A good team project starts with each of us committing to the same production pipeline and project management tools.   Thanks for reading.