Recommendations for project managment strategies/softwares

Hello CD,
I was just curious as to what kind of methods other teams have for project management within their program. I am looking for something that is relatively easy to understand/pick up and something that can map out projects in an easy to read graphical view. It would also be useful to know how a team uses said software/strategy so that I can try to understand how to properly utilize it.

My team recently adapted the spreadsheet mentioned in this video for assembly/part tracking (you can download a blank copy in the video description). Basically, every single part is added to the spreadsheet as well as relevant details such as quantity, and build type. The spreadsheet takes that info and calculates who the current owner of the part is. For example, if a part is under design, then CAD owns it, however as soon as the design is finished and a drawing is created, mechanical now owns it. Additionally there’s a whole set of analytics so you can get different breakdowns to see the overall status of the project, and specific assemblies in terms of finished parts vs unfinished parts. There’s a ton of baked in features to take a look at.

I have had to do a decent amount of leg work to adapt it for my team’s specific needs and capabilities, but it’s been an awesome tool. I have added features like an automatic timestamp when a row is edited (highlighted if changed in the past 4 hours), various conditional formating, a column to assign parts to a team member, and more. I’m currently in the process of adding priority and due date trackers. The sky’s the limit honestly with tools like Google sheets/Excel, you just have to make sure it’s still easy to read/understand and that team members stay vigilant in using and updating it (this applies to any project management tools tbh).

As a side note, I heavily recommend Martin’s channel and his marble machine x series. It’s been a fantastic journey!

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Pandamaniacs haven’t historically had a project management system, so for 2019 I started small. One Google document, shared to the team GroupMe with “anyone with the link can edit” permissions. Maybe a little dangerous, and obviously basic as can be, but it worked.

We examined Basecamp for this year, but it got held up with school district approvals. Fingers crossed.

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This is an area of focus for one of our student captains, and I’ve been mentoring him a bit as a former project manager. As far as an overall Gantt chart tool that is relatively simple, we’re experimenting with tomsplanner.com. For day-to-day sub-team work though, I feel a simple sticky note kanban board approach probably will work better. For those unfamiliar, here’s an web page I found that shows the simplest form (tasks on stickies in “not started”, “in progress”, and “done” columns), and then a more robust example a little further down. https://leankit.com/blog/2017/10/8-kanban-board-examples-for-engineering-manufacturing-organizations/

Even if neither of those approaches are used (or if both are), I think it’s important to get the team to align on what the milestones are (e.g. test chassis built), what “done” fully means for each milestone, and when each milestone needs to be done. A good exercise to try might be a “workback” plan… Start with a finished robot, practiced drive team, packed trailor, etc the night before the first competition. What set of tasks needed to be completed right before that to achieve that state? And what tasks before that state? And keep going backward all the way to kickoff. You’ll catch tasks and dependencies thinking backward that you may not when thinking only start-to-finish.

Good luck!

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We’ve tried Trello with a board for each subteam, but not many team members looked at it regularly, which made it hard to use. We have been using Slack for the past few years (and loving it) and recently found Workstreams.ai, which is sort of like Trello with a Slack integration. We’re trying Workstreams this year and we’ll see how it goes.

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We use Trello for all of our project management, but as stated above, getting buy-in is the hard part (we’ve found that putting our main design/fabrication board up on a large monitor where everyone can see it is helpful, both by drawing attention to Trello and by showing what tasks are up for grabs). We use one large board for all of our design and manufacturing work, where each part or assembly starts out in the CAD list, then gets moved to the manufacturing and/or assembly lists after it is done in CAD. We can also assign deadlines and owners to each item.