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How we use activeCollab to Manage IT Projects

In this post we will share our experience in managing IT projects with the help of Project Management tool activeCollab.

ActiveCollab is considered to be one of the main alternatives of Basecamp. We have been using aC to manage Web and Software Development projects for about a year. Our company works with clients worldwide and we find it necessary to keep all the information at the same place where it can easily be accessed from anywhere both by team members and clients.

Let us take as an example process of corporate website development.
At the start of each project we register new member under Company Client role. Client receives notification email with password and access to the system.

Project Manager stays in constant touch with the client and coordinates all the information during all the process of website development.

Each web project is normally broken into Milestones. For full circle website development there are the following milestones:

  • Requirements Analysis
  • Design
  • HTML/CSS/JavaScript  Coding
  • Programming
  • Quality Assurance
  • Basic SEO
  • Project Launch
  • Project Maintenance

activeCollab Milestones

At the stage of requirements clarification we mostly use Discussions and Files modules.

For a typical company website we start with learning details about the company and products it offers, analyze it’s competitors and main objectives. We create list of questions that help us to learn all the necessary details. Clients reply to these questions by posting them as comments. If necessary clients attach files up to 24 Mb to the comments. Each time new discussion starts or anyone posts new comments, members of discussions receive email notifications. We separate discussions by categories so that it is easier to keep things in order this way.

activecollab Discussion

Larger files such as prototypes, source images, etc. that need to be shared are uploaded to the Files section. If we need to discuss any files, e.g. logo samples, or homepage wireframe, we upload them to Files as well. aC allows to update files to new versions and leave unlimited number of comments.

activeCollab Files

To keep both text and graphic content for the website in order and to be able to discuss and edit it online we use Pages:

activeCollab Pages

After all the necessary information is gathered and technical documentation is prepared, Project Manager breaks Milestones into Tickets and Tasks and assigns team members to certain tasks and tickets. Each ticket has due date and it’s priority so that team knows when the work needs to be done and what they should start with. We have added option for Project Manager to add estimated time to ticket.

Each project workflow differs depending on project requirements, but if we take into consideration a typical corporate website development, the tickets workflow would look the following way:
activeCollab tickets

Not only Project Manager can add tasks and tickets. Client himself can take control on the project and create new tasks for the team. Team members can create tickets for each other. This mostly concerns small tasks, such as e.g. developer creates a task for to create a “Buy” button, and assigns this task to the designer. All this process goes under control of Project Manager.

activecollab Tickets

Tasks and tickets are executed one by one. As soon as the work is done we have a rule to log time spent and mark the task as completed. The notification that task is completed is sent to Project Manager. We do not necessary send all notifications to the client unless it is important. Any time client can login to the system to see the progress of the project and recent activities on the project Dashboard:

activeCollab Dashboard

If the project goes on hourly basis all the time reports can be accessed at Time tab. We have inbuilt such a feature that members of our company cannot complete tickets and tasks without logging time. Client can view time reports by weeks and months and certain periods of time.

activecollab Time Tab

For bug tracking we also use tasks and tickets that we associate with “Bugs” category.

As a rule we keep all the necessary information about the project at the project dashboard (hosting information, ftp, access to CMS, etc.). Project name should match project’s domain name. For typical projects like this we use templates to save time.

There are also some modules we have developed to improve the work of the system and adjust it to ourselves.

This methodology has been proven to be productive and is recognized both by the team and clients.

14 Oct 2010

16 Comments to “How we use activeCollab to Manage IT Projects”

  • Nice post! Thanks for sharing your practice, I gonna give activeCollab a try for my next development project

  • Welcome, Peter.
    If you have any questions about using this system or need a hand with customization, please feel free to ask!

  • Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

    • Thanks, roclafamilia
      New post about module To-do for activeCollab is coming soon, stay tuned!

  • Really nice information, thanks!

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  • this was a really nice post, thanks

  • Very informative post. Thank You for taking the time to share it with us.

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  • Great write up, bookmarked your website with interest to read more!

  • Ania,
    Could you share your tickets workflow – what states it goes through and when? Also are you tracking design time separately from dev tickets, could you provide the details?
    Thanks!

    • Hello, Eugeniy
      Thank you for the question.

      Each project workflow differs depending on project requirements, but if we take into consideration a typical corporate website development, the tickets workflow would look approximately the following way: http://www.uswebstyle.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/tickets.jpg

      We try to keep to a certain sequence of project development, and pay most attention to the first stage – requirements analysis and planning. At this step we normally develop project prototype, and only after the client approves it we prepare detailed design requirements for each page template. Accordingly we track design, coding (CSS/HTML), and development time separately. As a rule if everything was planned properly, no design work is required at the stage of development.
      Here is a post where we describe a typical workflow of web development in detail: http://www.uswebstyle.com/workflow.html

      In activecollab we track the time separately, and each person is responsible for logging their time for the work done. We have a rule not to complete a ticket or task without logging the time. We do so not just for billing purposes, but to keep track on productivity of our team members.

      Ania

  • Hello, Is it possible to share that feature, to obligate users, to track their time before completing a ticket/task?

  • Yes, it’s possible with custom hacks in the system to prevent users close tasks or complete ticket until time is logged.
    Please fill in our contact form for this modification if you are interested.

  • This article is rocks!
    May I know how you use priorities (high, normal, etc)? And do you also use activecollab for your internal team management (without client)?

    • Thank you.
      Yes sure, we do use priorities for task and tickets for the team.
      Normally each team member has a list of assignments for the day with certain due dates. Normally we try to estimate each task and set estimated time. The urgent task have the highest priority need to be done immediately. Normally the developers do the tasks with low priority after they are done with all the rest tasks.
      To manage the team we have developed custom module HR manager. We also have an internal project that is a kind of wiki and where team members share useful information and can find any company policy information. We use statuses for internal messages as well.