In this blog post I'm gonna let it all hang out. No polish. I think it is important for our community to share hurdles that we encounter and how we approach hopping over them. As a matter of fact I think we may even make this an ongoing series on the blog.

Keaton, Tad, and myself just held an impromptu meeting about communication. For years Blue Fish was just me. I had no one to communicate with except for the clients. There was no designer handing off assets to a developer. There was no project manager needing both of them to meet certain milestones in order to keep a project on schedule. It was just me.

Now, with a growing team, I find myself needing to be very purposeful in communicating. We know that we have some improvements that we can make. Some are small tweaks, others are much larger. I'll talk about the larger ones first.

In many organizations, as they grow they don't take time to stop and analyze their process to make sure that they are not introducing bugs into their process. It should not be just a "get shit done" kind of attitude. There should be a process that matures as the small team grows. This makes it easier to assimilate new members into the team as well. In our case we have found ourselves getting a bit disorganized on larger projects. Milestones were not being communicated (by me). Certain functionality was not being completed (in ways that I never communicated).

Those of you that know me will find this odd cause if I am anything it is a communicator. If I over analyze it I think maybe this is me not wanting to paint the really awesome folks that are joining Blue Fish into a corner. But there has to be a balance. I am almost 100% responsible for all communication with the client. I have a feel for the way certain things should flow based on their expectations. Capturing that and communicating it to the appropriate person internally is really important (many of you are saying "Duh!").

The second, smaller tweaks, is how all of that gets communicated. We use TeamBox for our project management. It has really been awesome for the last 6 months that we have been working in it. The one thing that we're trying to figure out is how to keep track of milestones since Teambox does not really appear to have that type of functionality. The solution that we're going to give a try is higher level tasks.

When we get a new project in I assign tasks to Keaton for what sections we need a design. So I have something along the lines of:

  • Create Design for Home Page
  • Create Design for Business Directory
  • Create Design for Business Directory Categories Listing
  • Create Design for Blog Listing
  • Create Design for Blog Article
  • Create Design for Category

In TeamBox each of those can have a due date, but what we feel is missing is an overarching task of:

  • All Design Assets should Be Delivered to Development

This clearly communicates and sets the expectation that the 6 smaller tasks should be wrapped up, prepped, and delivered to Development so that they can start on coding the site. Truth is that there is a good chance Tad has started this prior to this task being checked off, but it stands as a mile marker for me as Project Manager that if this Task does not meet it's due date then we need to adjust. We either need to get Tad some help on getting the development done, Tad may have to work hours that we don't like him working, or the project timeline will slip.

If the Milestone task due date is not met there are repercussions. It means we have to communicate with the client that their project delivery date might not be met and we don't like it when that happens. We also don't like it when Tad has to work longer hours or weekends. So we really need to try and stay on top of this task.

Many of you already have this all figured out (own it!). Make sure to leave a comment and let me know how you have communicated as a small team to make sure that everyone is staying on top of what is needed.