Distributed Development Teams – Part II

In case you missed the first installment, go check it out. With the advent of CaseySoftware's first non-founding member coming aboard, I thought I'd revisit the Distributed Development Teams and the related project management issues that are raised.

First of all, CaseySoftware is based in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. This has never been a problem because all of the players, cohorts, and advisors have also been in Northern Virginia, usually within just miles.

Obviously, this has always put us within a simple phone call of each other, but more importantly, it allowed us weekly time to get together to review priorities of projects, check status of tasks, and lay blame where it was due. Now things will change just a bit. Our new developer is based on the Baltimore side of DC. While this looks like a short distance on a map, it can turn into a major pilgrimage to meet up. It will mean a slight shifting in priorities as tasks will have to be a bit better defined in advance and the vast majority of communication will occur via im/email.

Therefore, we are going to be using dotProject and Mantis to its fullest extent and potentially expanding the scope and interoperability with other tools. In fact, this is the first area of development which he will be assisting in. Our goal is to bring the dotProject/Mantis integration to completion and eventually move into other areas of project management in order to make dotProject the one-stop shop for online collaboration tools.

I believe whole-heartedly that in order for a tool to be successful, it must be simple to use and nearly transparent in its usage. Like the original Napster, ICQ, and a variety of other applications, it must be simple to use and perform a large amount of work with just a bit of effort. I believe that dotProject is approaching that point. As of now, a project manager can create a project, assign tasks, view Gantt charts, and a variety of other things, but it's not quite there. Integration with a groupware application – eGroupware, Lotus Notes, and Outlook all seem to be candidates, an improved robust forum system – phpBB is my favorite, and an integrated workflow with a Customer Relationship Management System – SugarCRM is another of my favorites – must happen in order to complete the effort.

A project manager must be able to accept a proposal, assign labor, create documents, track discussions, schedule tasks, and track tasks in order to have a complete snapshot of the lifecycle of the project… ideally all through a pda.