The Status: 5 Principles Behind Our New Project Planning Features

Today, teams are more distributed, work is more complex, and clients want things done faster and cheaper than ever before. All these changes have made it more difficult to keep everyone working towards project and organizational goals.

For a manager, it’s difficult to get visibility into the status of projects to see how things are going and where there may be risks. For individual contributors, it’s tough to know when the plan changes, or how to prioritize their workload.

We believe that with a more complete understanding of the work at hand, team members will be more engaged and better aligned with the organization’s goals and desired outcomes.

When we started the company, we picked the name 10,000ft because it represents our vision around managing work. We believe that staying high level benefits how we work together. Both from the perspective of understanding the big picture so you can make better operational decisions, as well as staying at a high level with regard to specifying project requirements, so teams doing the work have room to fill in the details as they see fit.

Our goal is to enable teams to stay on the same page, make confident operational decisions, and deliver better projects. And with the recent release of several new project planning features, we’re one step closer to that goal.

To stay true to our high-level intent around work, we defined a set of principles to guide us in designing our new set of features. Here are five of these design principles, and some examples of how we implemented them:

Outcome-Focused

One of our design principles is that the solution should enable and encourage the team to focus on defining and tracking high-level outcomes. Our goal was to design a system that follows a progressive level of detail, so you only have to provide the level of details that are needed to achieve the outcome.

For tasks at the highest, least-detailed level, you may just need to know who’s doing the work; this would be only an assignment without further details. One level down from that is when the outcome gets described as part of the assignment. The third level of detail is in adding specific notes and tasks within an assignment. All three levels are likely to occur within a project, but a system that always starts with the most detailed tasks inherently leads to complexity.

Encourages Autonomy

The solution should empower team members to define how they will accomplish the work and have ownership over its progress and status. Describing the deliverable/outcome is a way to communicate to the team member what the expectations are for their assignment. How this outcome gets accomplished is up to the person doing the work. We introduced the new Today View with this principle in mind, so you can see at a glance what all the current and upcoming expectations are.

This autonomy also carries the responsibility to communicate how things are going. Setting the status on work is a way for individuals to communicate to the team whether everything is on track, or perhaps falling behind. In turn, this information can be used by the team to make resourcing decisions. For example, when a team runs behind, you might decide to reduce the scope of the project or add additional resources.

Flexible

The solution should be faster and more flexible in creating and editing project plans. The timeline visualization on the Schedule is very good for certain scenarios. However, when you’re adding or editing multiple assignments, a list view is ideal.

We know projects start in many different ways. Sometimes you know the team and not the actual work. Sometimes you know the work, but not the exact dates or who will work on what. Our aim with the Worklist view is to accommodate either scenario. You can start assigning people to the project and then adding the outcome for the assignment. Or you can start quickly outlining some phases and the Work Items within the project, using only your keyboard. Later, the team can then figure out who is best to actually do this work.

Insightful

The visual layout and information presented should provide a clear visualization of the project plan that’s both helpful and insightful. List views are great to work through large sets of data, but nuances are lost when they are just represented as text, especially with dates. This is why we designed a new type of list view column — a mini timeline. It shows the dates in an insightful way, so you can better understand how they relate to each other.

Transparent

The details and status of work should be visible to everyone and easily communicated to those directly involved. For many projects, team members come and go. You may have someone join the project when it’s already underway. You may want to reference a past project to understand what it was about.

The intent around the Project Brief is to create one place where you can get a quick overview of what’s most important about the project. Functionally, the 10,000ft Project Brief documents the project outcomes, displays the project team, links to other documents or software tools like Trello or Jira, and allows you to create a printable and shareable project plans.

What’s Next?

Modern day organizations need to remain agile in the face of ambiguity. Projects must be outcomes-focused. Teams need the freedom to define how they work. And they need the ability to communicate and adapt to changes quickly when the plan goes off track.

Using the design principles outlined above, while staying true to our high-level philosophy, we’ll continue to build tools to enable these agile qualities for our customers, and help them thrive in today’s ever-changing work environment.

Martijn van Tilburg
September 27th, 2018
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