What makes a good project management tool for software development?

Allison Bokone
Allison Bokone
Last updated on July 1, 2024

There are many good project management tools on the market, but what should you consider when evaluating which tool is the best for your team? In this article, rather than giving you another ranked list of the best project management tools, we’re going to break down the key areas to explore during a demo or trial to determine which tool will meet the needs of your team.

Collaboration and Communication

A project manager is tasked with keeping the team on track to deliver their product. This requires frequent communication across all aspects of the project. Particularly in today’s remote or hybrid workforce, the ability to communicate in several ways — both synchronous and asynchronous — is vital to collaboration and keeping everyone aligned on priorities, issues, and deadlines. 

To effectively manage this communication, having flexible notification options is crucial. Notifications are extremely helpful in allowing team members to customize how often they are interrupted and in what way they receive information. While some people will be in the web interface checking notifications or work item updates frequently, others may be heads down writing code and prefer a daily summary email for non-urgent issues. Having multiple ways to communicate and get notified of communications supports the needs of a diverse, distributed team.

Flexibility and Customization

There are other types of customization that your team might require. Choosing a flexible project management tool ensures you can support your team now and as it grows and changes. While you want to be sure to choose a tool that works with the software development framework your team uses, it is rare that a single framework meets all the needs of a team. You may need to deviate from the prescribed methodology or bring in elements from another framework to strengthen your process. Choosing a tool that allows you to adjust features and customize them to fit your team’s unique work style will ensure the tool helps, rather than hinders, team productivity.

Assembla, for instance, has built-in support for Agile and Scrum, allowing project managers to quickly adopt flexible methodologies that include features such as sprint planning, backlog management, estimates, and burndown charts. In addition, Assembla seamlessly integrates with Git, Perforce and SVN repositories, also allowing for easy access and management of code within the project management environment. 

For teams that have existing processes and tools, the Assembla API gives developers the flexibility to customize workflows. Using OAuth 2 as a secure authentication, the REST-based API can be used to integrate Assembla’s features with the specific processes and requirements of your development team to enable further collaboration across teams. Commits can also be linked to specific tasks, giving project managers clear visibility into the development status.

Integration and Interoperability

Another way to make adoption smoother is to choose a tool that integrates with other tools the team already uses. If your team already leverages part of a suite of tools then it might make sense to adopt additional tools from that suite, but remember that applications today also support many types of integrations. 

Popular project management software companies partner with software development platforms to create plug-ins, add-ons, and apps that run within the IDE (integrated development environment) and software testing applications. Integrated tool sets allow your team to collaborate and communicate more effectively, without having to leave their normal workflow or learn an entirely new application.

If you can’t find an integrated solution that meets your needs, an interoperable one is an alternative option. Interoperable software is software that can work with other programs even though they’re not integrated. This includes supporting APIs so customers can connect their tools and standardized file types, allowing customers to move their data easily between tools.

Both integrations and interoperability support can open up additional scenarios for your team that can help you more effectively track the status of your project. In particular, these features can help bridge communication between engineering and non-engineering teams. 

While non-engineering team members may not want to go into the engineering tools – or even the project management tool – to view the details on a regular basis, a tool that supports spreadsheet or project timeline integration can give those team members an alternate way to view and edit project status in tools that are familiar to them.

Reporting, Dashboards, and Visualizations

Finally, a project management tool would not be complete without the ability to easily communicate status through reports, dashboards, and visualizations. Detailed status is important for the engineering teams and those close to the day-to-day work and automated reports can help teams keep track of daily changes and quickly flag issues as they arise. 

When communication shifts to other stakeholders such as management and partner teams, you often need to give an overview of the project status. Data visualizations – charts and graphs – are a great way to show the project status and progress without overwhelming the audience with long-written explanations of the many moving pieces involved in software development. 

Dashboards bring reports and visualizations together in an online format that’s easily accessible to the team and kept up to date, ideally with real time data from the other software tools your team is using.

Project Management with Assembla

Choosing the right project management tool for software development is crucial for ensuring team success. Assembla stands out as a comprehensive solution, designed to meet the diverse needs of modern development teams. With built-in support for Agile and Scrum methodologies, Assembla simplifies sprint planning, backlog management, and progress tracking through intuitive features like estimates and burndown charts.

In addition, seamless integration with Git, SVN, and Perforce allows teams to manage their code within the same environment they use for project management. This integration extends to Assembla’s powerful API, enabling teams to customize workflows and maintain interoperability with existing tools and processes.

Moreover, Assembla’s robust reporting and dashboard capabilities provide clear visualizations and status updates, keeping both engineering and non-engineering stakeholders informed. By combining these features with flexible communication options and extensive customization, Assembla empowers teams to stay aligned, agile, and productive. Whether you are adopting new methodologies or integrating with legacy systems, Assembla offers the adaptability and comprehensive toolset needed to manage your projects effectively.

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Allison Bokone
Allison Bokone
Allison Bokone is an instructor at Miami University in Ohio for the Computer and Information Technology department, specializing in process and DevOps. Prior to teaching, Allison worked at Microsoft for 18 years, first as a Technical Writer, then as a Program Manager and Director at Xbox. In her last role she was a regular contributor to MicrosoftGameDev.com.

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