leynos: (Default)
[personal profile] leynos
I've been in the process over the past few months (very sporadically, I might add) of writing a project planning tool. It still doesn't do much yet, but it's at the stage now where it will produce a simple functional Gantt chart (with an NSDate based model and view). (There are also some ugly drawing glitches).

I'm initially targeting Linux (using GNUstep), but ultimately, I aim to maintain versions for Windows and Mac as well.

You can download the source from http://bitbucket.org/leynos/gantt.app

Anyway, I'm kind of looking for some input as to where I should take this application. I have some ideas, but I'm not really sure which to give priority.

Firstly, I guess, would such a tool be of use to anyone?

I want to create something that makes time allocation easy and something people can do without thinking about too much.

If you don't use a project management tool for planning your projects at present, what is it about current PM tools that you find gets in the way or makes them unsuitable?

Stuff I hope to include would be resources (with address book integration), deadlines, dependencies, estimates and actuals, burndowns, kanban, sprints (however those might be represented),
weighting and chronological notes.

I'd also like to eventually include client/server based collaboration and plugin based integration with various issue tracking systems. This all sounds a bit ambitious just now, but you've got to start somewhere.

Anyway, looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

Date: 2010-07-29 11:34 pm (UTC)
gominokouhai: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gominokouhai
> I'm initially targeting Linux

Herein lies your problem. I suspect a majority of Linux users never want to hear the word Gantt again. A sizeable minority, yr. corresp. included, will be thrust into a homicidal rage if they hear it too many more times.

The same is probably true of yer average Mac user. Have you considered a career writing Billyware?

Date: 2010-07-30 07:51 am (UTC)
ext_159540: (Default)
From: [identity profile] leynos.livejournal.com
Given that my primary computer runs Linux, that's the easiest system for me to target right now. Eventually, it will be cross platform (using GNUstep or Cocotron under Windows).

GNUstep and Mac OS X are the primary targets though.

Date: 2010-07-29 11:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cairmen.livejournal.com
I'd agree. Using a waterfall methodology for major programming projects is on the way out. Were I you, I'd be thinking about writing something to support one of the Agile methods - my preference would probably be Scrum, but any of the agile proj.man approaches would work.

Apart from anything else, there are reasonably competent traditional project management tools in Open-Source form already.

Date: 2010-07-30 01:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] figg.livejournal.com
Aside; One of the earliest description of the waterfall development model was actually a strawman argument which was then dissected.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model has a nice summary and a link to the paper

Date: 2010-07-30 07:24 am (UTC)
ext_159540: (Default)
From: [identity profile] leynos.livejournal.com
Hence the inclusion of burndown and kanban as visualization tools. I'd like to include more support for Scrum/Agile, but I'm not sure what would be appropriate. Again, suggestions would be appreciated.

Date: 2010-07-30 11:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cairmen.livejournal.com
Sadly, neither am I - filmmaking works on a rather different process! I'll point some friends of mine who use Agile at the problem.

Date: 2010-07-30 12:17 pm (UTC)
ext_159540: (Default)
From: [identity profile] leynos.livejournal.com
I'm not actually targeting software developers exclusively. My ultimate goal is to provide a free general purpose alternative to Microsoft Project Pro and Project Server, which at £700/seat and £3000 is quite an outlay for a small charity / non-profit; Whilest at the same time fixing some of the problems that make software like this awkward to use.

Which is why I'd really like to hear input from people outside of the software development field. A plea for feedback on Google Wave met with little response from non-software developers, sadly.

Date: 2010-07-30 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] figg.livejournal.com
I believe you may fall into the trap of groupware


Date: 2010-07-30 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] figg.livejournal.com
using GNUstep

desktop applications for collaboration are a dying breed. most bugtrackers and management software now is web based.

on management software:

Personally I find organisational and project management software falls into two distinct camps -- the fischer-price and the swiss army knife. The former are toy examples of software with a limited set of features and functionality that can be coaxed into doing what you want, normally as an ad-hoc method on top (like 'tagging' by adding words at the end of the subject).

Or it is like the latter and a heaving bloated mess of options. Every screen is like a jumbo jet cockpit, covered in switches and numbers and buttons.

You want software that can grow structure, not just a series of blank entries to fill out. Right now all we have is the two extremes of no customization and insane customization.

on software management:

have you read 'peopleware' by tom de marco? it is good. I have also heard nice things about 'the art of project management' by scott berkun.

avoid cult driven development practices, they're not really tested well. when was the last time you saw agile compared with a control group?

in reality, project management can afford to pick and choose development practices to see how they work with the team. by baking in one development philosophy to a tool you limit the growth of the team using it.

real agile software doesn't assume anything about the development practices and workflow, but allows structure to be built, and structure to be changed.

thing is, it is easy to fall into workflows, spreadsheets and barcharts, forgetting that project management is ultimately a collaborative and social action. charts and numbers provide monitoring, but ultimately get in the way of people talking to each other.

I posit that project management software should be more like facebook or livejournal and much much less like bugzilla.

To finish off my oar sticking in:

Here is the pony I want:

Write a forum where people can talk to each other and follow conversations. Allow these conversations to have tags, and predicates (tags with sub items)

I.e something may be tagged bug, v2.0, open, blocking(#29213), related(#2929), owner(tef)

Allow people to build structure through queries, and manipulate the output. This could be done by a number of search tools and output formats.

I.e a google style search query: tag:bug,v2.0 "blah blah blah" owner(tef OR dave)
Or maybe sql? Or maybe a form builder. Really one should suffice.

And a number of output templates: A table of values, something that shows snippets.

Ultimately, by forcing people to tick checkboxes and fill out forms, we're ignoring a rich seam of metadata unique to each project, akin to wearing excel shaped blinkers when trying to get a big picture.

By taking conversations as the base, and allowing things to be tagged and queried, I hope that project management can emerge from collaboration, rather than dominate it.

Or whatever it's late.

Date: 2010-07-30 07:45 am (UTC)
ext_159540: (Default)
From: [identity profile] leynos.livejournal.com
Your right that conversation is an important seem of information that is easy to overlook.

I've mentioned journaling, i.e., chronological notes applied to each task, but would the addition of a tree structure be overkill? Most bug tracking systems have flat threads.

Giving the journal/discussion greater prominence within the user interface would seem to be a useful thing to do.

I like the idea of predicate tags too. This overcomes a glaring weakness in most current tag systems (and as you say, gets around the restrictiveness of a box checking based UI).

The trouble is though, most tasks in a project, whether that project be developing software or organizing a music festival or whatever, have common attributes - dependencies, stakeholders, owner, etc. I guess the challenge is keeping those to a minimum so that it doesn't become a square peg/round hole problem.

I want to provide visualization tools that will be useful to everyone, not just a small subset of users - e.g., Being able to see arbitrary date based attributes rather than only those that the program has been specifically written to handle; But then some of those attributes have specific meaning to he program, whereas others will have meaning only to the user.

I'll try and get ahold of the two books mentioned. I've heard Peopleware namedropped on quite a few occasions.

Date: 2010-08-01 10:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brucec.livejournal.com
Desktop applications without a server-side component are a fairly poor match for modern teams which may be distributed around the world. At Agilent we used Microsoft Project for ages, with people updating a copy sent around by email or from an NT share. It worked, but only just. Web based solutions are better because people can work on it simultaneously, and I certainly find web-based apps easier to use than big solutions like Project, which can too simply be messed up by clicking the wrong button. When we started using Scrum I found Agilefant and managed to get it adopted in the office. People still boasted about not updating it, but I think it worked better than the old way. I think that's part of the problem though: talking should probably normally occur face-to-face or at least over the telephone, because far too many people hate talking via a computer. There are certain companies where forum-style sites would work because the developers are geeks, but there are also plenty of companies with 40-something developers who can't touch-type and so who would resent having to communicate via a web site.

Date: 2010-08-01 12:51 pm (UTC)
ext_159540: (Default)
From: [identity profile] leynos.livejournal.com
The correct way to use Project with several users is MS Project Server. The downside, it costs £3000. Agilefant looks interesting. Some of what I want to do is modelled there already.


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