We’ve been developing software since 2006. When we first started, we only needed a good text editor and an FTP client to send files to a server. But times have changed – and our business with them. As we grew, we needed a way to keep in touch with customers, track bugs, organize the ever-expanding number of developers, and streamline communication in the company. There so many new channels of marketing and new development tools that it’s hard to keep up. Plus, the agile methodology made a huge impact on the way we work.
During the 9 years of business, we’ve tried many tools. Here are the ones we use the most for collaboration, customer support, development, and productivity. They help us each day and we can’t imagine running our business without them.
For project management, we use Active Collab. It has task management, collaboration, time tracking, reporting, and invoicing, so we can centralize most of our work.
There we keep all our projects and to-dos. We have a task for each feature request, suggestion, idea, and bug. We split our development tasks into two projects: planning (what we’d like to work on) and production (what we’re working on). This helps us focus and not get overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done. We also have separate a project for each team (like marketing, support, mobile app development).
Most of our tasks have a due date, assignee, labels, and an estimate. While working, we comment on tasks and mention other users so they get a notification and respond.
Everyone has a personal My Work page where they can see the tasks they need to do, as well as updates to tasks they’re subscribed to. We also use Activity page to see what happened across all projects.
When all we want is just to leave a comment, we don’t have to open Active Collab. Because Active Collab sends an email each time there’s an activity on a task we’re subscribed to, we can reply to that email and it’ll appear as a comment. We also create tasks by sending an email to a project.
Some of our developers are used to working with Kanban. In that case, they can use Column View and drag and drop tasks from one column to the other, like they’re used to. If a project has a lot of dates, we use Timeline View and all tasks appear on a Gantt-like timeline.
When it comes to documenting knowledge, instead of keeping it fragmented across projects, we use DokuWiki. It’s an open-source project we installed on a server and which can be accessed only from our company.
There we keep all the guides, how-to’s, and instructions. DokuWiki allows custom nesting of information so we can make an entry for each team and further categorize knowledge.
For example, under the Development section, we keep info on our Git workflow, quality assurance, working with dates, coding style, how to set up a virtual machine and IDE, infrastructure, etc. Everything that doesn’t belong to a specific project or is used for reference a lot, we put it in a wiki.
Collaboration and Working With Files
For informal communication, we use Slack. It’s a chat app we have on our desktop computers. It has channels for each team (development, support, marketing) and general channels for semi-work related stuff. We can also send private messages to anyone in the company.
Slack helps us manage information. Instead of using task comments for asking quick, disposable questions, we just send a message in Slack, get the answer, and we never have to see it again.
Have you ever followed a forum topic where there’s a lot of off-topic dialogue between a few users? Most people have no use from but which takes the time to skim. That’s why Slack is perfect for updates – you can correspond with anyone, channels are divided by topics, and you rarely see the same information twice.
If we’re away from our work computers, there are mobile apps and web interface too. You can also join Slack communities that are related to your field of work or interest. It’s a great way to connect with professionals and develop your business.
Our favorite Slack feature is file drag-and-drop. For example, when we design a feature and need proofreading, we drag and drop the design file in Slack and the other person receives a notification and downloads it. After they’re done, they send back the file.
But once we’re finished working on files, we keep them all in a shared Dropbox account. So when a developer needs an illustration or a design screen of a feature, they can quickly get it without asking the designer where it is and waiting.
For working with documents, we use Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms. You can think of them as the Google’s Office Suite equivalent to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. They are online documents so we don’t have to keep files on our hard drives, there is no back and forth sharing, it works on every device, and we don’t have to install or pay for anything.
We use text editors (like Sublime Text) to write posts, ebooks, and documentation; then we move the finished text to Google Docs for editing and proofreading. It’s a great way to collaboratively edit text. We can see who has the document open, where their cursors are, what changes they made, and comments they left.
We use Google Form for collecting feedback from our customers. We have a form which asks what feature they need and why.
All answers go to our Google Sheets, which is great for keeping tracks of all kinds of data. There, we keep customer surveys, lists of people who want to be notified when a certain feature is released, and feature requests.
To know more tools on marketing, development and productivity – Download our PDF!
You can get a complete overview of everything we use in our free ebook “Essential Tools for Running a Business”. It covers all this in more details, plus more. You can also check out what are the best communication tools for remote teams that the Ekipa team uses.
Let us know what you think in the comments and feel free to add the tools that help you!
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