Program Management · Product management

Recommendations for Product Release/Management Software?

Mat Mathews Director at Ntrepid Corporation

November 3rd, 2013

Any recommendations for a Mac friendly, secure, mobile-enabled product release/management tool? 

I was recently asked to take over release management of seven distinct, mature products covering about 300 customers and 50k+ users.  This means coordinating engineers, QA, product owners, contracts office, implementation specialists, and sales in order to launch new releases, version updates, bug fixes, etc .  I'm inheriting a system where, depending on the team, data is found on Jira, Confluence, Outlook Calendars, and of course MS Project.   The good news is that I have relationships with each of the key stakeholders to get the inputs; the bad news is, I need to fix this before Thanksgiving. 

I want to give the incumbent tools a fair shake, but am also trying to check out OmniPlan, At Task, Replicon, etc.

Welcome any and all thoughts.  Freeware or Paid licenses. 

Cheers.

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Ian Tyrrell

November 4th, 2013

For distributed high-level coordination I'd recommend SmartSheet  - http://www.smartsheet.com/ - SaaS, lightweight but with task dependencies. Used to use this in combination with the Atlassian suite. It doesn't integrate but shouldn't be too much overhead to get your PMs to keep it in sync.

Jira/Greenhopper can be as simple/complicated as you want it - in the same vein is Mingle: http://www.thoughtworks.com/products/mingle-agile-project-management - the key thing is to reduce the defaults to only those that are relevant to your org/process.

If you want the teams to be productive empower them to make their own choices (perhaps with recommendations). Then put the burden of reporting on PMs / ScrumMasters (if they're using Scrum).

Chad Hill Manager, Software Engineering at Adconion Media Group

November 19th, 2013

I've used the jira mail.ru simple calendar plugin for communicating deployments, vacations, tests, etc. You set it up to show tickets with due dates. Basically file a ticket for each event you want shown. This calendar was free. Also the Jira Gantt Chart plugin from jplugs worked for our full engineering team at just $500. 

If you're crafty enough, you can make a 10 user starter pack jira work for your team, its got a rest API after all. I often find that you've got a few user types: submitters, doers, checkers, managers. Only your managers and possibly doers truly need jira accounts. Read only viewers can handle the checkers, and simple rest tools or cheap email workflow tools like JETI can power your more basic doers and all your submitters. And once you fit into a 10 user pack, all those plugins get much cheaper. :)

Mat Mathews Director at Ntrepid Corporation

November 19th, 2013

Thanks Chad. Since posting my last note, I started employing Confluence, the other Atlassian tool, to resolve the calendar issue. I can upload my checklists, set-up alerts, and create links to some of the more critical JIRA tickets. I totally agree with you regarding the doers and a few mangers being active--so I'm keeping th e floating licenses to a minimum. I've stood up the department now and am in the midst of the fist release with about 2 or three more to go before Christmas. I should know if this has been a successful set-up by then. Cheers.

Alexander Ross Head of Business Development at Verifide

November 21st, 2013

I'm late to party here but I see more and more companies using either Trello or Asana. Both are free or cheap. Both are simple and flexible and can usually be extended out to handle more rigorous cases. Google them and you should be able to find how different companies structure their product efforts. Hope this helps.

Harman Kochar

November 3rd, 2013

It will help if you can elaborate on what you don't like about Jira/Greenhopper?

Olivier Chaine SVP, LPO at The Search Agency

November 3rd, 2013

GitHub?

Jonathan Chang Product Marketing and Creative Leader

November 3rd, 2013

I'm in a similar position in my company and would love to hear people's thoughts. We're currently using a combination of email, JIRA/Greenhopper, Google Spreadsheet, and Project.

I've personally investigated Jamasoft as well as Aha for requirements gathering, but found them to be a little too complicated.

In addition to tools, what processes and best practices do people recommend?  Thanks!

Anonymous

November 3rd, 2013

Mat,

I presume the stakeholders are located in different locations/timezones, correct? (Just checking.)

I also presume the pain you're seeing is simply the drudgery of dealing with different tools? In other words, porting information from one to the next?

I'm a fan of GitHub (for rev control) and Trello or Gdocs (for collaboration). FWIW. 

As for Jonathan's BPs question - the simpler, the better. You'd be surprised how receptive people are to simple text to-do lists (who, what, when, priority, done?), centrally located, rigorously updated.

-Brian

Mat Mathews Director at Ntrepid Corporation

November 3rd, 2013

Harman:

I'm comfortable with Jira as a dev and issue tracking tool, but I'm not yet sold on it as a program management tool considering all of the "cats that need herding."  I'll have a better sense tomorrow for Jira as a PM tool when I get the demo on JIra Gantt.   The concerns I need allayed about Jira--and any of the products--are can I experience clean/elegant output that allows for access and edit in Gantt format, calendar, and mobile views.

What are your thoughts/recs/experience with Jira for Program/Product Management?

Cheers.

Mat Mathews Director at Ntrepid Corporation

November 3rd, 2013

Thanks Brian.

I'm indeed dealing with a geographically dispersed group.  I'm in ATL, and I've got stakeholders on the West Coast, up the eastern shore, and a couple sprinkled in PA and TX.  I've worked under these circumstances before, but that was usually one product, not 7.

I like Trello  and use it for my analyst and analytic teams, but it may be too niche and not address the other items that I'm trying to consolidate.  I'll certainly check out what's on GitHub per you and Olivier.  

The to-do lists are still going to be there in order to maintain some program management pricipals.  I've got a list for the PO, the IS, as well as Tier 2; but these checklists don't capture the temporal aspects.  It's the timing and the customized deployments that warrant the need for a tool that can bend for program management as well as Agile methods.  

Thanks again for the recs.  Keep the advice coming.