3 minute read
Experiments in Project Management Automation
Effective project managers and producers want to focus on what is truly important and not become bogged down in administrative “busy work”. Even further, it is not always possible to work within ideal tools and workflows which can cause a frustrating decrease in usual efficiencies. Fortunately, automated tools are becoming increasingly available to help managers offload tedious, time-consuming or routine tasks and get back to solving bigger challenges. Here are some of my own recent experiments in project management automation.
Automatically Create User Stories with Zapier
I currently have a project that has a long list of tasks and hourly estimates stored in Google Sheets. Using Sheets works well for certain parts of our process, but not so much for the development team that works out of PivotalTracker. I don’t have the ability to change this overall process, but I knew I wanted to find a way to not have to double my workload with manual data entry.
Luckily, Zapier makes automation between web apps easy for non-developers. I was able to easily set up a Zap where any new row in my sheet would automatically create a new PivotalTracker story, populate its description field and fill in my name as the requester.
This Zapier integration is really just a small example of what Zapier can do. If you like automating processes, I would definitely explore this tool further. I shared this experiment with our PM team last week and they are already getting excited about different automation options for their own daily workflows.
Have a Bot Lead A Standup
Daily standups can be helpful to streamline project communication, but they run the risk of becoming tedious and merely ritualistic after a certain amount of time. One way I have found to do get the most benefit out of this time is by mixing up “real” standups with automatic Slack standups. I recently tried Standup Jack, a Slackbot tool that I could automatically set to “run” standups for me. On certain projects, or for certain phases of a project, a lightweight Slack standup works great.
Like any daily reminder or meeting, it does run the risk of becoming overlooked or fatiguing to the team. It is also easier for someone to ignore a Slack message than to not attend a standup meeting, so if you find yourself chasing up answers to automated standups, the efficiency is lost. Personally, I like to have a mix of “real” and Slack standups to have some variety.
Schedule Meetings with AI
Scheduling meetings is by far one of my least favorite tasks. The back-and-forth emails while hoping the current open times don’t get booked often feels inefficient and somewhat stressful. Of course, you can always put placeholder times on calendars, but this has its own issues too. Luckily, others feel the same way as me and are innovating in this area. I’ve had good luck trying out a few different meeting scheduling tools with Calendly being my current tool of choice.
Artificial intelligence is taking scheduling to a whole new level, though. Without even needing an interface, x.ai offers a virtual personal assistant to schedule meetings by simply copying firstname.lastname@example.org on an email. I am currently setting up a trial with this tool, so check out other feedback in the meantime.
Try It Out
Consider incorporating automation in your own project management to save time, decrease frustration and let the bots do some of the tedious work.