If any team has had previous problems with communications, now, with the coronavirus lockdown such problems might mean serious trouble for the companies. Fortunately for us, IDO Electronics from the beginning has had elasticity and effectiveness of communication as a priority. Years of work with providers and clients from all over the world let us develop many effective means of contact inside of our team as well as with our surroundings. In the entry below, we share the names of some tools we use for internal and external communication. The entry also begins the blog series about different tools that IDO Electronics uses daily.
Sometimes a quick response from a colleague is much needed or the answer for the question asked is simple enough. Email sent in these cases might be simply a bad idea as it is slow and adds to other messages in the inbox. Over time the number of notifications rises to the point where it’s hard to filter out the really important information. That’s why we decided to leave the mail for the most important news and moved most of the conversations to the internal chat.
It’s the self-hosted open-source communicator. It works well with two operating systems most of us use daily – Linux and Windows, as well as iOS and Android for cell phones. From the first day, every IDO Electronics employee has granted access to it. We use it for all range of things, from simple invitation to a cake someone brought to discussing the details of tasks that are later written down in the backlog of the project.
We chose Mattermost as it has most of the many functions we needed (i.e. integrations, 1:1 chats, rooms) and surpasses the SaaS applications at security and control options.
Communication with the client
Most of our project starts with an e-mail or phone from our client. Occasionally – by a question from Facebook or Twitter. However, we move quickly to other means of communication, especially if the distance (or quarantine!) makes direct contact with our business partner impossible.
We’ll describe some tools that support the work on the projects easier later in the article. Below, we’ll focus on the video chats.
A well-known tool that has a lot of useful options like recording, screen sharing, codes for joining rooms. All it needs is an account registered at the Google domain. It might be a drawback for some, but for many, it’s a huge advantage, especially that Meet integrates perfectly with other Google products like e-mail or calendar. That means you can set a time, create a link o chat and send invitations to other attendees. it is also possible to use Meets by the browser or by an app, so it’s not limited to only office or home use, as you may continue to chat at the bus or queuing in the shop.
The biggest disadvantage is the limit set to 10 attendees for the free version. You have to pay for more, and this might get pretty expensive for large, distributed teams. It might be however enough for small, agile teams, i.e. Scrum groups.
Another notable tool for larger teams is Zoom. A basic plan lets to lead a meeting for as many as a hundred attendees at one channel. Unfortunately, they are limited to 40 minutes per session. When we use Zoom for your weekly meetings, we set the timer to keep the meetings as brief and productive as possible 😉
Similarly to Hangouts, Zoom offers a lot of useful options like screen sharing or connection via the browser, so no need for the installation. This means another advantage – any person with the right link may join the meeting, without having to install a program or register anywhere.
It’s rather obvious that complex, multistage projects can not be managed via e-mails. Works commissioned to us most often consists of difficult tasks that combine elements of design, programming, and automation.
To make sure that the final effect meets all the client’s requirements we use the following tools:
GitLab is an open-source software dedicated to the development and management of programming projects. It lets us divide all the necessary work to tasks that are smaller and easier to manage. Here are some most interesting functions that Gitlab has:
- Allowances system. We conduct many projects at any given time. Allowance to many projects is linked with many incoming notifications on changes in each one of them. For example, your marketing managers might be overwhelmed by the notifications coming from the project they don’t handle. With GitLab, you can give them access only to the necessary projects and notify them only on the things they need to know. This option is much-needed one also whenever the discretion and confidentiality of handling the data is a must.
- Milestones. You can write down all the tasks that are a part of the project and assign them to the following milestones. Assigning any task to a latter milestone means that other elements take priority over it or the function has to wait for other ones to be implemented before. Such division makes reporting easier, which might be a great tool especially in handling the projects that are founded by financial grats or by European funds.
- Tags. A system of simple tags that may be freely mixed. Used, ie. to manage priorities.
- Boards. Useful for agile methods of management, as it lets quickly estimate the status of the task assigned and what kind of action it needs.
GitLab. A view of a board part with tagged tasks.
- Time. Estimations and measuring.
- Wiki. Holds the pieces of Information on the project.
- Integrations. GitLab has an API that lets you integrate it with external services. We use it to read the project information (mainly names of projects and issues assigned to them) to our internal Timer Tool.
Projects are more than just a sum of tasks to do. There’s a lot of knowledge that assists those tasks, for example, documents, agreements, proposals, and others. Though GitLab has tools to storage them, it’s Confluence that suits us better for such purpose. With confluence, we have all the project’s know-how stored in one place.
We value especially the ability to share the knowledge base outside. We can make available that information to users of our products – regularly, as the project progress. No need for tedious copy-paste work between the systems.
The upcoming “Tools that IDO Electronics uses” will describe some of the following things we use:
- Programming languages, libraries, and frameworks,
- IDEs, compilators,
- 3D printers and other machines.
We update our tools regularly. The list above surely will be modified in the future, even changed completely. We pick the best solutions to the challenges that we face so the equipment does not restrain the workflow. Our goal is to constantly make our arsenal better, as we want our work to be:
- less monotone,
- more precise,
- more accurate.
Do you use any of the tools we mentioned in the article? Or maybe something even better? Please share your opinion on our Social Media channels!