Springpad and Project Management - Part 1

This is the first part in a three part series about implementing the Idea Pump approach of using Springpad for project management.  Part one will focus on the why and why not to use Springpad when managing projects for teams.  Part two will cover getting started setting up your project management system in Springpad and part three will cover putting it to use.

Part 1 - What is project management the Idea Pump way?

When we discuss project management in polite circles you'll often hear terms such as "Agile", "Scrum", or "PMBOK" tossed about.  Rather than focusing on implementing a specific methodology or worse yet going down the rabbit hole of which is the best methodology, I'm going to focus on the Idea Pump approach - managing expectations.

Arguments can be made that project success is dependent on resource utilization percentages or estimated time to completion, but when you boil it down the key expectation is to get the jobs done. In the Idea Pump approach I follow the CAR model:  Capture, Act, Report.  It sounds too simple for larger projects but think about it carefully.  No matter what the project size, there is an expectation of you to get the work you are assigned finished and for others to do the same.  Using any project management solution is an application of CAR, just on varying scales.

What's the right size for Springpad?

Springpad, while a very flexible and powerful tool, is not a project management tool by design.  There is a great deal of functionality that a formal project manager would be missing when using a tool such as Springpad.  Does this preclude it from use?  Not in the least.  If you remember the Idea Pump approach, focusing on Capture - Act - Report, all the core features you need are there within Springpad including many that enhance your project management beyond basic steps.  Let's break some of them down.

Capture

One of the most common expectations in project management are requirements.  What do the project stakeholders expect when the project is completed?  How will it work? What will it look like, etc.?  You can use formalized documents such as requirements traceability matrixes for detailed tracking and planning, but what if your needs aren't quite so rigid?  Task Springs combined with Tags can be an excellent combination of identifying requirements, discussing them, and then marking them as complete when done.  Project documents can be stored in Springpad or stored in external file shares and attached as web links to Notes.  Milestones can be recorded using Task Springs or Events for tracking related to dates.  You can even library images for the requirements using the Photo Spring.  It all comes down to managing the expectation of Capture.  Things needing to be done will be recorded for action and reporting.

Act

Get the work done.  It's an expectation that needs no description.  What it does need is a way to track who is doing what, and when it will be complete.  Using some of the same structures we used in Capture, we can track tasks that need to be completed, checklists that need to be worked, and collaborative notes as the project pushes forward.  Action is a dynamic function of project management and as such the management of actions needs to be dynamic.  Applying Tags in Springpad allow you to track item owners, project phases, even when you're waiting on someone else.  Through the use of filters and sorts you can create the subsets of data that give you a strong control over managing to the expectations of the project.

Report

Sharing of the information about the project expectations and how they are being met is critical to the success of any project.  Whether the sharing is with yourself or with a large group of stakeholders access to what's going on when you need it is a must.  I've never been, nor ever will be, an advocate to reporting structures that focus more on the project manager performing in-depth CYA rather than getting things done.  Using the collaborative capabilities of Springpad, individual Springs and whole notebooks can be shared so everyone on the team is working together and meeting the expectations of the stakeholders as well as the team at large.

Now that we've established a basic approach to managing our projects, we're ready for part two...setting things up in Springpad.