Tools to help your start-up get up and running quickly

Start-up
Tools to help your start-up get up and running quickly Michael Blythe

 

During the past 4 months we have been working on a couple of start-up based projects based with clients in Chester. As I described in one of my previous posts, I am all of the above working in a start-up environment with limited resources, tight timescales and ever changing requirements presents its own challenges.

Having the right tools available for the job is true for most situations and this is no different when you are setting up the basics as you begin on the start-up project (or any project for that matter).

I wanted to take 30 minutes out from my lunch break to share some of the key services/applications and ideas we adopted as we noticed a common pattern as we moved onto each project.

Speed, lets go faster

As with all software projects speed (or velocity) is crucial to the realisation of the benefits, the sooner you can deploy the service to market the quicker you can add value.

Empowering the team with tools which enable seamless, quick collaboration between the team members and stakeholders is crucial to success. 

One version of the truth and vision

We have all worked on projects where different team members have their own interpretation of what should be delivered and that is achieved. Having a single version of this vision allows the team to check in and validate what needs to be delivered.

In most scenarios this can be in the form of well documented user stories, designs or detailed requirement specifications.

Who is working on that and what's next

Assigning tasks to the appropriate resources and tracking those through to completion helps track progress and measure your velocity. It's also vital to plan forward and to start thinking about the next set of priorities so the team have a constant stream of tasks.

Hello, anyone there

Making sure everyone on the team is ‘talking’ to each other is another important consideration. There is no getting away with popping your head above the desk to speak with a colleague or having daily catch-ups these are a great way to keep the team engaged.

The team should also have the ability to ask questions to the wider team or seek feedback on a feature in a controlled way.

Our tools of choice

We are pretty much spoilt for choice now when it comes to selecting tools to help us manage our software projects. There are an abundance of open source and COTS (commercial off the shelf) options out there but putting a start-up lens on the tool selection means you are also cost conscious.

So what have we used recently?

I’ve personally used the Google suite of products since the beginning of time so admittedly have a slightly biased opinion when selecting the tools. When Google Docs was launched I immediately made the switch from Microsoft Office at the time (can’t remember the version).

Google Docs

We use Google Docs as a real-time collaboration platform which allows all of our stakeholders to view system designs, process flows and any related perspectives. Anyone in the team can see and comment which then enables easy collaboration.

Google Sheets

Google Sheets is used to store and track structured data which is easier to manage outside of Google Docs. For example, we store and manage user stories in Sheets so we can track requirements as they evolve through the design and build process.

Google Slides

Everyone loves Powerpoint right? No thanks. On the odd occasion we need to update the wider teams or external partners we use Google Slides as a way to quickly work on presentation decks

Trello

If you haven’t yet got a Trello board you haven’t lived. Trello makes it simple for our teams to track our activities throughout the process. We can plan in future tasks, assign the team members with actions, create new boards for specific phases of the project and track the overall status of the project.

Slack

Slack provides a way for the team to chat in a structured way through the use of channels, this allows you to keep your communications tidy so at least the requests for coffee are separate from those trying to get feedback on a feature.

Do what works for you

There really are no right or wrong answers here it's all a matter of choosing the right tools for your project. If you are already familiar and have existing licences for Microsoft products then perhaps explore Office 365 instead of the Google products.

That goes for Trello, lots of previous colleagues of mine use Jira and I also love the product but for us the objective was to keep costs to a minimal so that didnt really work at the time but we may migrate to it in the future as we evolve the project.

Anyway, my lunch is over now back to it!