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Work environment and Papuasian tribes: how to solve team conflicts

You can think of open space offices and flame mails, but team conflicts are a little bit older than that: Cain and Abel, you know..? Since that time we learned the lesson: conflicts can destroy a team.

At the present time the concept of team is reshaping itself: open space offices are not for everybody (and, if they are not your cup of tea, they can also affect your performance: good insight about this issue in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain); tons of emails are not for everybody; almost – digital – only relationships (I am currently working also for people that I have never met in person, did it never happen to you too yet?) are not for everybody as well.

Nevertheless we are still speaking of teams, and a team is supposed to be a group of players forming one side in a competitive game or sport. And business is the most competitive sport on this planet. If you don’t find a way to make out a team from a bunch of people, you are going to lose the match.

 

A team is a system of relationships and different personal needs.

Without a way to bring together that relationships and needs, the system fall apart: it is the concept of Schismogenesis, ”the generation of opposition” a concept developed by the anthropologist Gregory Bateson in the 1930s while studying the Papua New Guinea Iatmul culture.

Your team and an Iatmul village are a system. There are two different ways to destroy it: the Complementary schismogenesis (dominant-submissive behavioural pattern) and Symmetrical schismogenesis (same behavioural pattern, as in the arms race).

In the passage rite named Naven, Iatmul people create a context in which the usual roles are “played” in the opposite way: male becomes (disguising) female. The key of the Naven rite is to allow men and women to experience – in the context – the emotional lives of each other, achieving a psychological integration.

Finding a way to bring this kind of experience to your team is a good way to keep it not alive, but lively! Programmers and creative designers (but it can be sales and buyers, or sales and logistics, HR and administration…): these are probably the men and women of your “village”.

All of us are under pressure. But finding an opportunity to experience a different pressure, the pressure that “the other guys” are experiencing, is a great way to improve the team manager: we have the tools, we have the culture, we just have to build up the opportunities. Because a lot of what makes the difference between success and failure in teams is a matter of empathy.

Think about it next time you are going to share a pizza with a guy of a different department… Meanwhile, a tool that helps team – working is a good way to keep low the schismogetetic fibrillation level…

tour-operator-load

 

Easing work relationships on a project-by-project basis

Twproject is a project management tool, and as such it represents work relationships in form of projects, assignments and roles.

But what it can do better with respect to classical hierarchical and role based modeling is that organizations can be projects – related: the same user can be project manager, worker, stakeholder and tester at the same time on different projects. You can get suggestions in a project you lead, and make suggestions in a project you follow.

And indeed you can set up projects where the manager / execution roles are exactly specular, so that users can compare the two experiences. It is not by chance that Twproject is used as a didactical tool in so many universities.

User and projects can spawn different areas, and you can involve resources from other departments in cross area projects: just in the “Naven” ritual, it’s a matter of point of view!

This contextual role playing can be a way to experiment and understand problems relative to your position in a project in different cases, just like in the rites above.

 

We have the tools, we have the culture.

The never ending Twproject “war” with Microsoft Project

Through our customers and contacts we frequently get reminded about Microsoft Project© enduring existence.

Twproject was in fact first born as the limitation of Microsoft Project (it was 1999 🙂 ) were unsolvable by using the Microsoft Project API available at the time. And the two project management solutions are born to differ in their core philosophy – and they do. Web applications became possible at the time and Twproject development started, around 2002, and Twproject got developed as wed based and around the idea of making information gathering as easy as possible.

Why care about Microsoft Project then? The team that develops Twproject and the set of its customers are often large, even enterprise companies, and we have the experience and sensitivity to typical corporate problems of software and IT integration. In these contexts we are still frequently asked how Twproject and Microsoft Project compare as solutions for corporate customers, e.g.

I actually downloaded it and I am trying it on my localhost. I would love to hear though what advantages Twproject has over Microsoft Project Server. We are in the process of trying to decide. If you have a comparison white sheet I would be grateful.
Some information follows.

Twproject is web based (since 2001)

Twproject around 2002

Being web based then and today meant ubiquity, adaptiveness, flexibility, inclusiveness. This in our opinion is what Microsoft Project always lacked.

Microsoft almost made it (in 2014!) making a web version of Microsoft Project the reference one. Still if you check their user interface it tries to emulate desktop software, using an iconic language alien to the web.

Twproject is cost effective

Let’s consider costs:
is available for $58 per user, per month

Microsoft marketing in the referenced videos stress the simplicity of the price model, probably as an effort to distract from prices. Well Microsoft’s model is actually quite complex, price ranges from $33 to $58 (per user / month!) – and if you want to use the desktop client, prepare to pay $1556 for each client!

That is way more expensive than Twproject, which gives you a full user for less than $5 per month!

twproject-prices

Twproject is not Gantt centered 🙂

gantt-new

jQuery GanttIt is a bit funny to write this, because we released a free, open source amazingly popular JavaScript web based Gantt component :D, which is also part now of Twproject.

Twproject has a Gantt-like editor where we tried to get the advantages of the Gantt user interface model without adopting the unrealistic

(planned time = project effort)

equation which constitutes the core of the Gantt model.

Twproject focuses on real work done

While in the current version planning is fully supported, still the core of Twproject is collecting information about real work done.
So it collects multiple projects, allows temporary dis-alignment of dates and statuses, collects issues, to-dos, worklogs, does all it can to encourage users to insert information in the simplest, fastest possible way. Planning is supported, but Twproject works with and without planned work.

Twproject integrates with different IT structures

it-integration

Microsoft Project depends for everything on Share Point©, so including its collaborative aspects. it is strongly integrated with Microsoft Exchange©.

So you have to get the whole Microsoft package, like it or not, to adopt Microsoft Project. Meh.

Twproject instead is functionally and technologically widely compatible with different solutions and is built to be non-intrusive.
This is true for both the installed and the online version of Twproject.

For example, the installed version runs stand alone in Tomcat (a Java web server), and can run anywhere, supporting easy integration with say LDAP, single-sign on and directory services.

The on-line version comes as a dedicated server instance that comes with its own mail server for a dedicated notification email.

Twproject works fine without Microsoft Exchange©, simple connection with an SMTP and POP3 service gives you full e-mail integration.

Twproject has an “open” approach (even if is not open source, sources are available for our customers). It runs on every operating system and can use any database. It is available both on cloud on or customer premises. It is web based and you can use it with every “modern” browser. Twproject is a wise choice from the IT manager perspective because of its open data and infrastructure features, as IT infrastructure changes over time.

Twproject developers are people, easily reachable on-line

Twproject is built by a small, solid and very efficient company. Its developers are ready to give support on the solution; moreover complete sources are available for free for all customers. Twproject is structured to support customization, custom extensions, reports, wizards, complete custom forms, and export and import with other data sources.

We deployed and maintain many customized parts for our over 3000 customers, all compatible with Twproject main release and hence compatible with updates.

Conclusion

After 15 years, the divergence of the two products is still considerable. In the meantime, the road of the web as a platform for applications has become the main path for collaborative software. And the diversity and richness of IT environments has increased. So we believe there are ever more good reasons to pick a safe, compatible solution as Twproject instead of the closed Microsoft Project universe.

References

http://windowsitpro.com/office-365/microsoft-announces-project-lite-cloud-based-productivity-team-members

http://www.microsoft.com/resources/technet/en-us/office/media/video/video.html?cid=pstc&from=sharepermalink&VideoID=ebe00785-db66-44d6-8ed3-86eafa63c7e4

Twproject is not affiliated in any form with Microsoft. Microsoft Project, Microsoft Exchange Share Point may be Registered Trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.

 

The many sides of issue tracking

An issue in a productive environment is something smaller than a project or task, but that is important enough to deserve separate treatment. Lets take a look at the life of issues.

 

  • Issues simplify

    Being easy to create, they save people time and help make thinks stick. Issues can be the main two sided relationship with management, and the tool through which all members of the team contribute to the whole project.

  • Issues multiply

    Issues grow on projects in time. The fact that anytime issues can be added on a project without changing the project status and timing is useful – and can of course be a source or symptom of a problem. Issues can be used as an idea repository, even before the project starts.

  • Issues transform

    In time some issues can become tasks, others . Also who has to deal with them may change in time; an issue can reveal a larger problem or opportunity. Issues may move from one project to another, from one resource to another.

  • Issues ease teamwork

    Issues create a shared base which benefits all team members. Bad communication sparkles contrasts, and having a reliable source can ease creating and maintaining good working relationships. This also eases team expansion with new members.

  • Issues are a knowledge source

    Work, discussions and changes get saved on issues, so their body constitutes a valuable knowledge source. Being small scoped and simple issues work as attractors, people put stuff on them and in time issue tracking ends up creating a knowledge base for the project.

  • Issues give you timing

    By fractioning large tasks in smaller issues, what looks impossible can get done a bit at a time.

  • Issues have several meanings

    “Issue” means different things for different people: improvement, suggestion, note, little problem, bug, doubt. In all cases, this constitutes project information.

 

How does Twproject help us in issue tracking?

Twproject can deal flexibly with the many sides of issue tracking, with user friendly and powerful functionalities. Over the years we have met many different ways of using issues and we have evolved Twproject in order to support a variety of scenarios.

Lets see how Twproject meets the different needs listed above.

Issues simplify

Twproject multi-row issue editor makes a breeze creating and updating all the issues you have in mind and could forget. Supports simple drag-and-drop of images / documents on the issue. And who is interested will be notified, who isn’t won’t. Of course you can deal with all issues on your smart phone, if you wish.

And you can discuss issues – this too is a part of the project’s story.

2014-10-09 12_15_24-Twproject

Issues multiply

Twproject can deal with large sets of issues, providing graphical tools for handling them. Filters, reports, custom views, Kanban like management, bulk move, all can easily be done in Twproject.

twproject-kanban

Issues transform

Twproject provides you with all tools needed for transforming and moving issues.

2014-10-09 12_28_25-Twproject

Iss2014-10-09 12_30_23-Twprojectues ease teamwork

Twproject supports sharing issues through projects, tasks, areas, involving the team implicitly defined.

Issues are a knowledge source

Twproject lets you group issues in any way: by task, date, resource, gravity, status, contents, tags … . And the resulting groups can be printed, exported as spreadsheet, bulk edited, discussed, linked.

2014-10-09 12_42_43-Twproject

2014-10-09 12_46_13-Microsoft Excel - issueList.xls [Compatibility Mode]

 

Issues give you timing

Twproject supports distributing issues to projects and in time via simple screens that let you quickly distribute tens of issues.

2014-10-09 15_29_58-Twproject

Issues have several meanings

In Twproject issues can be used with a variety of meanings by the same group on the same project.

Twproject also supports custom fields. for issues, which can also be used in search and aggregation criteria.

Try Twproject free trial

Teamwork 5.2: refining planning, costs and more customization flexibility

customizable worklog week

We just released Teamwork 5.2 (build 59000) here:

http://www.twproject.com/download.page

This release comprises a wide set of improvements, ranging from custom fields in several new sections to cost management, to improved planning integrations. We’ve also done several user interface improvements and bug fixes.

This is a free upgrade for all users of version 5. Database schema will be updated, it’s the first schema update since version 5.0: columns will be added for budget on assignments, and four custom fields on costs and worklogs; the schema update is done automatically by the application on first start after update (database user for the app must have alter schema rights).

Together with the web application update, we also released a wider spectrum of installers, better supporting 64-bit servers. Also the installation procedure has been improved, in particular for Oracle and PostgreSQL databases and Linux servers.

Major feature updates

more customizable parts

Custom fields expanded. Now custom fields can be created not only on tasks and issues, but also on assignments, worklogs and costs.

Moreover the types of possible custom fields have been extended, with fields based on internal and external database querying, and fixed values case. So now custom fields are so powerful that they even support external database querying for filling up values!

more customizable types

It is all documented in-place (where you add and define fields) in the web application, just access it through the admin page. N.B. This requires some “development awareness”.

assignment expenses

You can now add custom fields on costs and assignments, but one of the coolest features is adding custom fields on worklogs: say you want to make it possible at worklog insertion to insert additional info, e.g. location and “pair partner” (say that your quality policy requires work in pairs). Just define the two custom fields in the admin section, and you’ll get an expanded worklog insertion form in the worklog week page:

custom fields on worklog week

The new custom fields types are available also for tasks / issues.

Advanced: customize Excel exports, custom forms on worklog week.

Teamwork now allows enabling / disabling of powerful customized parts, in such a way that also customers with customized parts can update Teamwork without danger of losing any customization. There are several such features that can be enabled / disabled concerning planning and worklog insertion (see the user guide “Custom Features”).

split assignments

An example of such features that can be enabled is splitting assignments: any given assignment can now be split between resources. This allows for the following scenario: you can assign the task to “virtual” resources, filling up planned work for an entire group. When production starts, .

The custom fields language also allows customization of Excel exports through a scripting language; again this is a quite advanced feature, and see the user guide “Customize Excel exports”.

There are even more customizations possible, injecting entire forms on worklog week and creating custom permissions for specific portlets, but these are advanced topics which we can discuss if needed in the support pages.

more links from plan

More cross-linking. Costs, expenses, planning and load are teamwork functionalities that are interconnected. We added several cross links in order to make it easier to jump preserving references from one section to the other.

search on expenses
The assignment expenses screen is more reachable and now has also a specific search function. Moreover we added the “budget” field on the assignment that is computed against assignment expenses.

– Plan view shows estimated load and work done.

Japanese translation. We are very happy to announce that the user interface is now available also in Japanese.

Teamwork UI in Japanese

We will present Teamwork also in Japanese on the site.

admin as listAdministrator page redesigned. We redesigned the administration page as a list in a clearer form, with also the links to the new customizations entry points.

64-bit installers and more. We now release Teamwork also with 64-bit compatible installers.

Teamwork 64bit installers

Teamwork relies on Tomcat by default, of course if you have your own configuration, simply use 64bit Java to maximize performance.

Minor improvements

operator load zoom

– Operator load now can be zoomed in / out by 1, 2,3 weeks or full month

compact view for task and issues

– Task and issues have now a compact view option (issues already had it, but now it is even more compact).

– Change of person on assignment does now remove subscription on the previous one.

– External calendars on Teamwork agenda are now shown in a different style. Moreover agenda events that are created externally are not editable from teamwork – you can only remove yourself.

– Gantt improved: starts focused on today.

– Improved layout compatibility for task with very long names.

– Issues’ text area grows as you type longer text.

– Operator load in case of failed tasks does not consider them in load calculation for the future.

no disabled assignments on plan – Plan can be filtered showing only active assignments.

– “Plan by resource” can now be filtered by a workgroup!

– LDAP now updates names and surnames on repeated imports.

– Now team events imported from an external calendar (like Outlook) cannot be changed in time in Teamwork – as we always said, this must be done at the source of the group event.

– New subscription on assignment: “overtime”, when worklog exceeds estimated.

Bug fixes

– In case of e-mail download activation and invalid e-mail re-sent to server address, the invalid e-mail notification process could loop, stressing the e-mail server.

– The home menu is always visible even when not on home.

– Agenda editor: problems on chrome when scrolling hours combo.

– Portlet “issues created by me” issues not displayed correctly.

– Workload approval and worklog analysis: refined security on search.

– LDAP import exchanged names and surnames in import for OpenLDAP and Apache Directory.

– When changing assignee it didn’t update hourly cost if resource is new.

– Again possible to pass from “failed” to “active” task status.

– Some fixes on internationalization settings.

Teamwork patch 5.0.1 released

image

We just released a patch for Teamwork 5, version 5.0.1 (build 53500). Download it here.

This patch contains mainly bug fixes:

– installations with “non empty context path”, that is, where Teamwork is not running as root application had problems

– fixed a bug in setting English or American default settings.

– read SVN logs  now works also in https

– fixed an occasional bug when creating resources on SQL Server

Moreover the update contains a better portlet “project summary extended”.

Get Teamwork on the cloud

image

You can now get your own Teamwork server hosted on Amazon cloud: this will be a dedicated server, so you will have all the advantages of having an internal server without having to do any maintenance. E.g. in case of upgrades these will be performed by Teamwork’s staff.

imageFor groups of up to 15 users, you will pay only 83 Euro /month if you buy a year hosting, getting a server completely dedicated to your group.

A dedicated server

Having a dedicated server means for example choosing the DNS name to attribute your server; means having your own time/zone settings and agenda synching options.

On request we can give independent access to the server and to all database backups. You can anytime upgrade your server to more powerful instances, actually the full scalability of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud is available. So you can start small and upgrade when needed.

So… get your Teamwork online:  here are all the details.