Springpad and Project Management - Parts 2 and 3

spm2-1.jpg
In Part One I talked about the ideas behind using Springpad for project management.  Now here in Part Two we'll cover one of the ways to set up your Springpad for just such a purpose.  One of the keys to setting up your Springpad environment for project management is to decide how you will handle notebooks.  My recommendation is to use one notebook per project to make things easier to keep track of and to assign to resources.

Step One - Create a Project Notebook

Inside your new notebook you will want to create some basics springs to organize your project information.  Start with what I like to refer to as, " the governance spring".  The idea with this spring is to provide the basic project information as well as a place to create all the tags you will need to manage the other springs you will be creating in this notebook.  If you look below you will see an example of a governance spring setup with basic project information as well as the tags needed for the project.

Beginning of a Governance Spring

At the beginning of the governance note put in the basic details about the project including the project title, project manager, another vital information including major deadlines and deliverable information.  The other important section within the governance note is a section listing all of the tags you will be using.  Tags are the most important part of organizing Springs for a project.  Without a master index, you can lose track of what tags you are using and what relevance they have to the project as a whole.  At a minimum you will need three sets of tags:

1. Resources
2. Status
3. Milestones / Phases

Part 2 of a Governance Spring

Tags - Resources

Using tags to identify what resources have been assigned to the various springs in your notebook makes cross referencing who is doing what much easier later on.  We'll talk about how to put those to use in Part 3, but for now, just make a list of all the team members you will have on your project.

Tip:  If you have a team that is working on multiple projects, create a notebook for their contact records separate from the project notebook and then just add the contact record to each project notebook they are going to be working in.  This way you have only one contact record to maintain information for

Tags - Status

Aside from Tasks, Springpad doesn't really have a way to track the status of Springs in a notebook.  By creating Status Tags, you can change the status of a Spring just by changing the tags that are assigned to it.  This also gives you the option to filter all the Springs of a particular status for easy reference and modification.

Tip:  If you want to have an easy time organizing your statuses, I recommend the following format:

"Status-1-status"

Put the statuses in numerical order as they sequentially progress through to completion.  By using this format you will be able to filter and sort based on Status and by order of execution.  We'll cover that in Part 3.

Tags - Milestones / Phases

If you are managing a larger engagement, it is often helpful to break it down into various phases so you can focus on the work at hand rather than being overwhelmed by the full project.  By creating Phase Tags you can assign Springs to various Phases easily and move springs between phases just by changing the tag assignments.

Example Tags for the Governance Spring

Now that you have a note with the core structures you need to get your project organized, we can move on to the next part...putting this all to use.

Part Three - Managing the Project

(please note that not all these tips transfer cleanly to mobile so I'm focusing solely on the web for this post.)

Assigning Resources

First, let's get your team members connected to the project.  Since you've already created tags for them you're ahead of the curve. Now we just need to make the resource contact information accessible from within the project notebook.  If you created a resource notebook as recommended earlier, you can just go into that notebook and use the Bulk Edit feature to select your team and assign them to your new project.  If you are not using a master resource notebook you will need to create a contact record for each resource in your project notebook.

Note:  Make sure you assign the tag with the resource's name to the resource note.  Without that when you filter for everything connected to a resource later you won't have an easy way to get to the complete resource record.

Tracking Tasks and Checklists

There's a big functional difference between tasks and checklists in the Springpad world, so I suggest you decide carefully as to which is appropriate for the work at hand.  Tasks can have due dates and each task is it's own Spring.  To me, this is good for significant items on a project, especially deliverables.  You can track when they are completed, their status (by changing the status tag you created earlier) and assigning them directly to resources.

Checklists are best used in cases when procedures or processes need to be followed but not to a line item level.  Something like a review checklist, production process, or communications plan fit well into this structure.  Since checklists are Springs you can assign a checklist to a resource and track the status of the whole list through the same process as you do for the other lists.

Filtering and Sorting - Pulling it all together

Being able to see what you need, when you need it is really the key to the entire implementation.  Here are my favorite tricks to making this happen:

Springs Assigned to Resources

  1. Switch to List View Grouped by Type
  2. Click in the Search box and select the tag for the resource want to filter
You now have a list of all the Springs for this project that you have assigned to this resource

Updating Statuses on Springs

  1. From the View Selection drop down, change to List View and then select Bulk Edit
  2. Select the items you want to assign a status to and then click on Tag As and select the Status tag you want to assign to the selected items
Example:

Changing Status on a Spring

  1. Repeat the steps listed for Updating Statuses but this time remove the Status Tag that doesn't apply and then add the new tag you want for the updated Status

Organizing your Springs by Status Tag

  1. Switch to List View Grouped by Type
  2. In the Filter box enter tag:"Status*"
When you press enter you will get back only those Springs that contain any tag beginning with "Status".  Since we also added the number after the dash, they will show up in the sequence you assigned to the Status Tags to make them easier to review.

Tip:  If you switch to List View Grouped by Tag rather than by type you will wind up with nice sections of each of your statuses to review.  They're mixed in with groups of the other tags, but they're not hard to find.

Moving Forward

There are many more tips and techniques I'll be sharing on how to get the most out of Springpad to manage your projects.  If you have questions or wonder if and how something can be done, just drop a note in the comments and I'll do my best to answer you.