Doing better than the usual project management software?

Seeing the world through Teamwork How can we improve Teamwork, and more in general, how can we help people and teams manage their work better and better?

Teamwork today is a stable, well known and widely used application – its sales getting better every month. We are always improving it and searching for new ways to make it better. The feedback given by users through the feedback service and the answers Q&A gives us a lot of ideas.

But people’s way of work change evolve all the time. With software we should try to foresee changes, and in the case of structuring work, be compatible with new ways of working. Now, project and work management is a field where there is a lot of competing software, and new solutions are created quite often. So in the last weeks I checked competitors for new ideas and evolution that would cover the recent trends in ways of working, like for example having the browser as the “operating system” where more and more applications operate, and so in many organizations a considerable amount of activity is on applications in the browser. Yes, of course Teamwork is web based, but one can do much more than that today. New ways of working need new ideas, sometimes radically new ones. Is anyone proposing different models, or reacting to new working ways?

Well, to my surprise, no. The same mistakes are simply repeated, again and again, like trying to “trap” user communication flows and other user usages in the project / work management software; development is done under wrong beliefs like “using e-mail is wrong, and users should be ‘educated’ to centralized communication systems”. Such tasks are destined to fail: it is simply assumed that users will happily and daily spend a considerable and growing amount of time on your specialized project / work management application because of their stakanovistic dedication to organization, which is the opposite of what is happening: people use more and more different, specialized applications for their tasks, and dislike and refuse single, centralized “monster apps” which attempt to replace all others.

In my review of “solutions” I’ve even seen a specific content manager connected to a popular issue tracking system that offers users a blogging platform. Now, how likely is that? How happy will employees be of being forced to blog in that corner of the bizarre issue tracking software instead of using their preferred blogging platform? This kind of ideas just don’t make sense: you have to improve work management without directly impacting software usage, and without trying to replace high quality specialized solutions with centralized (low quality) ones.

We have learned a minimalistic, relational approach and deposited it in Teamwork years ago. Now what about going beyond that? Well, no concept evolution is happening in direct competitors.

image So in my search, I ended looking at personal productivity software, after seeing this nice presentation by Scott Hanselman, and there indeed there are some original ideas; consider for example Evernote ©.

The high level of interactivity, openness to devices and compatibility with user habits of this application is striking. The aim of Evernote seems not as much managing work, as simply collecting notes for personal usage. But there is a lot of stuff to look and learn. And many users will start work management from a personal perspective, and then will try to propose it as a shared approach: I believe this is a path that currently lacks appropriate tool support. There is a divide between project / work management tools and personal productivity ones that should not be there. On one side project / work management tools still pursue the centralized application option, on the other the sharing features of personal productivity tools are weak.

So we decided to open an experimental platform where to try and test different approaches to managing work, in particular starting from the personal / to-do point of view. In the meantime, Teamwork will keep evolving and improving, eventually getting new features and improvements from this experimental platform. We will blog about our experiments here in the coming months. If you any suggestion to make, post it on the feedback service: thanks!

P.S. Teamwork release 4.4 should be out in a couple of weeks (a free upgrade to all users of version 4), and will introduce the notion of “public” project – keep in touch.

Open Lab and Teamwork are not associated with Evernote in any form.