Project Management in FRC

Our team has been using Asana since mid-2017 to manage tasks between team leaders. While Asana is overall a fantastic website, we face two consistent problems: you can only assign one person per task, and the free platform doesn’t allow us to add more than 15 members.

Does anyone have any suggestions for project management platforms that work especially well for FRC teams? I’ve heard of some other teams using Trello, Clickup, and Wrike.

EDIT: We currently use Asana for project management and Slack for team communication

We use Basecamp, and love it. Highly recommend it to all FRC teams. It’s free if you contact them and tell them you’re a FRC team (at least, it was for us).

We started using Trello in late 2016 and with the recent expansion of Power-Ups (yeah yeah I know), it’s become even more easy to suggest than before. Very customize-able and flexible.

Basecamp is neat, but 1257 found it was a much less pleasant experience with a 40ish person group. We moved from Slacl to Basecamp this fall and actually moved back to Slack in anticipation of kickoff, and are thinking about means to supplement it such as Trello.

We have a very large team, and haven’t had a problem; the key is heavy use of sub-basecamps.

The email blasts can be annoying, but people can turn them off - just be sure people know they’re still responsible for keeping up-to-date if they do so.

I second this. We started using basecamp this fall, and it has become the all-in-one solution for our 40+ sized team. It’s got functions for group-chatting, forum-posting, assignment-delegation, scheduling, and file-sharing, each in its own discrete compartment. It is also free for students.

Last year with my high school team, we actually ended up doing the reverse of 1257 (basecamp > slack > basecamp). (It should be noted that as a smaller team, we did not run into the same issues with basecamp as 1257 and were merely looking for an opportunity to expand capabilities)

Slack is very capable, however the barrier that we ran into was getting everyone accustomed to the command-based system. If you plan on using Slack, I advise that in using it, every feature you decide to use (in this case the Busybot app) needs to be understood by everyone who needs to use/view it, instead of implementing features on the fly. If effectively managed this way, slack is a great way to go, supplemented by a more tangible and short-term list like a post-it KanBan Board

D’oh, we just use excel with start and end dates for each task and get on with it.

It’s the one that gets copied to the big white board at the end of the shop so everyone can see in in instant there is such a short time to Bag and tag Day they need to get moving.

This with some conditional formatting to show how far away due dates and deadlines are (Turns from green to red for example) seems like a great low-resource way to solve this problem.

Gantt charts in excel are sometimes a pain mostly due to updating them. You can come up with some clever auto-updating stuff with a bit of work though.

After too many years of ad hoc Project Management with the results to match, we have a group of students who are on board with actually managing a process this season.

We’ve decided to start simple with large flip charts and post-it notes on the wall in our engineering space. We an investigation of things like Basecamp will be left for the off season.

3005 uses Trello, definitely recommend

Like any tool, it relies on forcing everything through the tool though to be effective, which requires a level of buy-in from the team. We have to resist the urge to give the quick answer and remind ourselves and students to “check the Trello” for answers.

1708 also uses Trello for Mentor Project Management along with Student sub-group management.

As a project manager I’ve tried to teach people the phrase:

Plan the work, work the plan. Link is from 2009, but this phrase worked during the time I worked on building the pyramids and it worked last year.

Responding to Change Over Following the Plan

The Plan is the Strategy for the successful completion of the project. With no Plan you have no Strategy. With no Strategy, you have no guidance on how to respond to change. You driven by the “winds of change.” The first result of responding to change in the absence of a plan, is you can only know you’ve arrived at Done, when the money runs out or the date for the product’s shipment arrives.
(In this case Strategy is your build Strategy, not your game Strategy.(*)

If you don’t have a plan, all of the project management / communications tools in the world are not going to help you. Without a plan you might as well create a sign saying: “When in Trouble or in Doubt, Run in Circles, Scream and Shout.” Cause that’s what you will be doing in February.

You can start making your plan today and refine it across the next set of build days.

Work needs to be small, understandable and MEASURABLE chunks. “Build Robot” isn’t. “Assemble swerve drive pods (4), 2 hours per pod” is. You should be able to assign the min number of people needed (at least one), the optimum number (maybe 4, one on each pod?) and the max (5, to give an extra set of hands when needed).

Do the work, measure how it’s doing, adjust the plan accordingly.

And for what it’s worth, keep the final incantation of the plan from this year, it will make a great start on next years plan!

Good luck!

(*) Game Strategy -> Robot Design -> Build Strategy -> Work steps to construct.