Agile Email Planning & Colourful Post-It Notes
I love gadgets. Gizmoes, do-hickies and high-tech toys. Honestly, if they made a touch-screen toaster that tweeted when the toast was done, then I am the target audience.
As such, I find it easy to get caught up in the digital tools available to me in Project Management. I've been looking at iPad Project Management tools, and I feel the loss of Jira's Greenhopper task manager deeply. Give me a problem and i'll try and figure out a way that JQuery can help solve it....
However, from time to time I remember the old methods of doing things, and one of my favourite things to do is sticking things onto walls. The wall next to my desk is festooned by the colourful calendars you can produce using Project and I can tick the days off and ensure tasks are done.
One of the latest things we've done then is to produce a email schedule calendar. We've always had one of course, we've tried on-line calendars, excel sheets, all sorts and whilst they all work to varying degrees they have the problems of being 'pull notifications' someone has to actually sit down and go into them. Our new calendar is a series of A3 printouts on the wall. One for each month over the next six months.
The clever bit is the printouts are blank. The biggest issue when you are doing a paper calendar, or paper anything to be honest, is change. A digital agency moves fast and things change rapidly. Paper changes slowly and the change is decomposition, which isnt helpful from a project tracking point of view. The reason a blank calendar is clever is because we've got three stacks of colourful post-it notes. A post it in yellow signifies send date. Orange shows blocking. All solutions have strengths and weaknesses and it is important to show where you can't afford a conflict. Finally, we have my favourite. Pink=Problem post-its. These are stamped over a conflict. If two projects were planning to send an email on the same morning to an overlapping segment of consumers, that earns a Pink Problem post-it, and a requirement to resolve the overlap.
The big advantage, as anyone who's worked in a properly agile environment can attest, is that the calendars are obvious. Middle of the office, on a column by the printer, the team can all see it and it dramatically increases the odds of overlaps being spotted well in advance.