One of the most important decisions you can make as a leader at a startup is choosing your tech stack. The options available are seemingly endless. So, let’s focus on one of the most important aspects of choosing the right tech stack for your growing team: selecting the right project management tool.
Obviously, you need a project management tool that works for your current team, right now. It needs to support the number of people on your team and their relative skill levels, among other things, so it can’t be too cumbersome or bulky.
Choosing a project management tool that solves your short-term gaps, without considering what your long-term challenges might be, is a recipe for disaster. After all, startups can turn into scaleups very quickly, and your growing team needs to stay nimble. You also want to avoid a Frankenstein solution for the same reason: trying to splice two tools together with shoddy APIs or integrations will be clunky at best.
While not impossible, switching tools can result in a ton of wasted time and money, so it’s important to try to get this right the first time (no pressure!).
So, how do you make the choice? Well, here are a few things to look for.
Choose a flexible and customizable project management tool
Very few business owners have functional crystal balls and the ones that do tend to guard them jealously. But one of the few constants in business (and basically everything else) is change. And one of the best ways to ensure your business is ready for anything is by choosing tools in anticipation of your changing needs.
As your teams get larger and take on new tasks and you have more teams to coordinate, your workflows and project management tools must be flexible and customizable. Being able to customize features such as pipelines on your Kanban board, workflows, labels, and more will provide the flexibility you need as your company’s goals and focus shift.
Your project management tool should also make it easy to organize and filter information. And for development teams, the ability to combine multiple repositories into a central workflow with filters gives you the best of both worlds: your team has one source of truth, but they don’t get overwhelmed trying to sort out the entire matrix all at once.
As time goes on, you and your team will find better ways to organize workflows and streams of information. To keep up, your information pipelines will have to be highly customizable as well. The ability to add bespoke features will help you increase agility and pivot rapidly.
Your project management tool should facilitate clear and efficient communication
If your team fits in one office or all the members live in the same city, then maybe communications are straightforward: you’re all more or less in the same silo, so no problem.
But we all know situations like that are the exception, not the rule. In today’s world, teams are dispersed: some people work remotely at least some of the time, some of them from different time zones. If your team isn’t currently dispersed, planning for potentially allowing remote work will future-proof you for our changing norms of working.
All teams, especially growing ones, benefit from a workflow and project management tool that facilitates clear and effective communications. This ensures adding people to the team doesn’t add confusion. Team members directly involved in development will discuss issues and align workflows, often asynchronously, so look for tools that enable that–Asynchronous communications and automated workflows are two easy ways to help teams stay coordinated without scheduling nightmares, endless meetings, and 3:00 a.m. emails begging for updates.
Stakeholders outside development teams need the scoop too, so the ability to create streamlined, easy-to-read reports with updates on progress, trajectories, and other KPIs is critical. If the tool generates these updates automatically, even better. You can save valuable developer time and keep management happy.
Workflow automation and ease of use are key to scaling
Automation is a fantastic way for growing companies to scale up easily and efficiently. After all, every task that can’t be automated is one that must be done by either an existing employee or a new hire; either case is a drain on your business growth and focus.
Developers are expensive and very busy people. Automation lets them focus on developing. Busy work, especially things like handoffs and progress updates, can and should be handled by your project management tool.
Automation also reduces the risk of human errors. Fixing errors is inevitable, but swapping valuable development time for an error is a bad trade.
Another excellent way to save developer time, reduce human error, and ease onboarding is by choosing an easy-to-use tool with a clear and intuitive UI that minimizes context switching. It’ll be easier to teach new hires and make for a much smoother development experience.
That project management tool that takes you from free to full scale
Many free tools punch above their weight, but most struggle to scale. Conversely, paid tools often offer far more functionality and support than a small team can benefit from. But they may add a lot of value in the future. That’s a dilemma.
The best answer is to choose a tool with flexible pricing and plans that can grow with you. It should be easy to add users or get more support—but only pay for what you need.
Also, look for a project management tool with an expert customer support team. That team will be able to help you fully leverage the tool’s capabilities today and discover new ways of working as you grow and your needs change. They know that tool inside-out, so they have a lot to offer.
From the tool to the tech stack
Choosing a project management tool is a tricky part of choosing your tech stack, but one that’s critical to get right at the earliest stage possible. Rethinking your tool or stack can be a difficult scenario to contemplate, but sometimes it really is the best option. Here’s how to tell if it’s time to take another look at your stack or if your SaaS stack is scaring off top talent.