Don’t fight over tools

Published by on August 12, 2015.
Choose software for your team without fighting

Every team needs tools (software, SaaS, apps) to get the job done. However, choosing those tools as a group can be frustrating.

Some people like GitHub, others like Beanstalk. Developers want to use Slack to communicate, but management wants to use email. Employees want to use Macs, but the IT department wants to buy Lenovo.

Sometimes preference for tools can devolve into battles that are downright religious. How can these be resolved?

A framework for choosing company tools

First, for non-collaborative tools, every individual employee should be given a choice of what they want to use. If one developer wants to use Sublime, and another wants to use Atom, that shouldn’t be a big deal.

But how do you choose software that many people will be using?

Tools like project management software, source control, and customer support apps need to work for a lot of people on your team. Here are some tips for choosing wisely:

  1. Choose tools that get out of the way: Increasingly, the best apps are the ones that don’t require you to log in to the UI constantly. Get tools that can be used from the command line, or within existing clients, like Slack.

  2. Choose tools that integrate with your existing process: There’s no sense in switching away from GitHub if that would disrupt your continuous integration setup.

  3. Balance the needs of frontline workers with management’s needs: Many tools need to serve both management and frontline workers. Managers need easy access to reports and status updates. Everyone else needs usable software that helps them with their workflow. Sometimes the solution is to give managers a separate reporting application that layers on top of an existing tool (an example of this is Baremetrics providing reporting for Stripe).

  4. Don’t buy for the future, buy for now: It’s easier than ever to change platforms. Almost every SaaS tool allows you to export your data. It doesn’t make sense to get locked into one solution because it will “scale for the future.” Cross that bridge when you get to it. Use a tool that makes sense for your team now.

  5. Consider the cost: cost should always be proportional to the amount of value you get. If you use a tool that costs $99 / month, but saves you 3 hours of work, it easily pays for itself.

  6. Designate a final decision maker: If your team can’t come to consensus, you should have someone on the team who is ultimately responsible for making the decision. These debates can go on forever; having someone with the authority to choose tools will help move the team forward.

It’s fine to talk about tools and development philosophy; every team should do that. If you’re considering suggesting a new tool or process for your team, ask these questions first:

  1. Will this significantly improve how we deliver value to the customer?
  2. Is there a reason we’re using our current process or tool? Is there existing documentation on why that decision was made?
  3. Is this a good time for our team to discuss this topic and reach a consensus?

The danger is when these debates devolve into navel-gazing. If you’re always thinking about which tools you’re going to use, you’ll never make meaningful progress on what matters.

Once your team makes a decision, document it and move forward. Everyone on the team (regardless of their personal opinion) should accept the group’s consensus. Your team’s strength is in its ability to pull in the same direction, together—don’t let your tool choices get in the way!

If you’re looking for great agile project management software, try Sprintly!
Looking for project management inside of Slack chat? Try Partyline!