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Balancing Our Proven Processes With Customer Needs

Just as important as it is to determine what we are building, it is also essential to figure out how we will work together to make the project successful.

Starting a new project with a new client is always an interesting endeavor. In most cases, you take two separate teams with their own unique processes and workflows they are comfortable with, and join them together. Just as important as it is to determine what we are building, it is also essential to figure out how we will work together to make the project successful. What tools are we using? Where will information live? How will we communicate? Going through the phases of team development – Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning – while working together for the first time on a new project can easily add a heightened sense of concern for all parties before we actually start to feel like and function as one cohesive team, which is our ultimate goal.

Being on the agency side of the equation, this is something we see a lot. Over the years, our team has formed a process for how we like to do things – not just because we are comfortable with the way we do things but because we have seen effective results with our methods and tools. Yet, understandably, our customers feel the same way about their processes and tools and usually request we work within their systems. It’s their project and information to retain, so that request makes sense. The challenge on our side is not only learning the requirements for their project, but also learning how to use a system, or several, that we may not be as familiar with. While we historically are not opposed to this, there are times when we will lobby a little harder for doing things the way we are accustomed to, particularly when there is a tight deadline and we must move fast to start delivering as soon as possible.

We recently ran into a situation just like the above. Thankfully, our client found Unito, a tool specializing in two-way integrations, allowing our team to use our project management system, Jira, and the client to use theirs, Trello. While the same company owns these two project management products, they are very different. Here are some things Unito let us do to get the two applications talking to each other:

Automate Story Creation

The client Trello board was used for tracking many different aspects of the project, not just our development effort. In order to not have to delete stories that did not involve our team, we created a rule so only cards were created in our Jira backlog if they were labeled “BizStream.”

automate story creation options

Syncing of Fields

Keeping all stakeholders aware of the latest work was key, so we opted to map fields and use a two-way sync to ensure the items in both systems shared due dates, assignees, comments, descriptions, summaries, attachments, and links to the respective card in the other system.

Card Movement

We were able to map the Jira card status in its respective column to the Trello list status. Taking advantage of the existing automation we use in Jira, a simple movement of a card from our Development Team to our QA team, would automatically move the same card in both systems to the correct columns, and assign the person who is supposed to take ownership of that story next.

Card movement

What we loved most about this was the avoidance of duplicated efforts for both teams. A story written in one system appears in the correct spot in the other system, with the exact same information. It also gave each team the ability to work the way they were accustomed to, yet we are all viewing the same items, just a little differently. At the end of the project, both teams have a record of what was done, when it was done, and by whom.

It wasn’t seamless, and there was a bit of a learning curve to start, but we managed to modify it as we went along, refining it to the point that it saved both teams a ton of time. Instead of making manual updates and needing more meetings to provide status updates, we could focus on continuing to move forward with the build. Another bonus is that as we made revisions and found better ways of doing things, there is an option to apply those changes to all current and previous cards in the project, or just the ones created from that point on. It’s a nice touch. At the end of the day, Unito is helping us to keep our team happy and our clients happy, and we’re actively attempting to utilize it with additional client projects as well.

About the Author

Mike Kren

Mike has been managing large-scale projects since 2006. His passion is bringing order to the chaos to keep everyone on the same page and the work moving forward. He has always enjoyed working as part of a team and believes that team includes clients too. Mike loves spending time with his wife, 4 kids, and his dog. He’s an avid film buff, amateur backpacker, and experimental cook, with flashes of brilliance around a pool table.

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