I work on an very small software development team of 3 (remote 'full' timer, a full-time developer on-site, and myself as 'lead' on-site) in a "small" aerospace manufacturing plant of about 300 employees & 150 machines.
We have been given an incredibly large chunk of projects to research, design, and develop:
- a live WIP-Quality-Inspection-Hub for our machine operators;
- designing and creating a few automated inspection machines;
- a reporting view within the hub for our inspectors and quality supervisors;
- an auto-blueprint-reader/marker;
- a program that digitizes our contract review process
- a "request module" for our machine operators and eventually for any department that has a request of another department;
- a 3D "shop floor metrics" display for our high end customers...
- and about a dozen other smaller projects
I was tempted to say that one of the bad things is that our team is small and inexperienced, but we work well together and are all very quick learners and have already tackled some projects that engineers before us couldn't (the automated machine is 'half-automated' currently and has been a huge boon to some of our 'value-stream' parts, a project engineer before us was never able to get that off the ground).
One of the 'difficulties' (not necessarily bad or good in my eyes) is our shop is in high demand. So our manager, who is also the engineering manager, is super busy and sometimes won't even check in on us for 1 or 2 days (on rare occasions it can feel like 3 or 4), and usually when he checks in it is just to see what we are working on, usually not to change our direction and never micromanages.
However, because our work is starting to bear fruit, and so many departments & processes need to all be brought into the 21st century in parallel to avoid bottle-necks, our priorities will sometimes change suddenly (usually after a big development 'release'-cycle).
The nice thing is that because our company is large and profitable enough (and our team is small enough), and has been around for 50 years... we sort of don't have deadlines, as long as we continue to show improvements because the company has been quite successful before us anyways, we are in good standing.
But of course my manager has multiple people above him who want more accurate reporting on our tasks completed, and projects in progress.
Summary of needs:
- Priority viewing/changing across all projects in one view, so that our manager can say "this is everything they have on their list to eventually tackle", and also change priorities of tasks & projects on the fly (i.e. They have completed a few milestones on this project and we can start testing it out on the shop floor... in the meantime they should switch to 'Project X' for now)
- Standard project management things such as tasks, sub-tasks, tags, assignees, status (open, in progress, closed), deadlines, etc.
- Time recording
- Reporting of tasks complete and time spent on a task.
- The ideal package would allow us to design whatever hierarchy we want, but as long as the hierarchy can go from "all" to "granular" easily... well that would be sweet.
- Time estimates, and 'milestones/sprints' are not our focus currently.
What we have tried so far, or I have done short testing on:
We have been running off priorities given directly from our manager in person. It has worked well for about 12 months but we need to upgrade for reasons listed above.
Running a shared file on Excel; but Excel often feels too clunky for this, and shared excel files seem to be ticking time-bombs.
EDIT: - A handful of project management software including many pure Kanban sites/software such as Trello and Tiaga.io (which always seem to lack hierarchical-prioritizing views and often lack time recording). We have also tried software built upon more unconventional or 'less popular' ideologies such as priority matrices. It seems that our best software solution (so far) focuses on a hierarchy of containers and lists that can be prioritized on a granular scale or at the macro level, and levels in between those two extremes (ClickUp).
We recently hired a project manager to work under the engineering manager and help us balance our priorities. But she is brand new this week, and has a lot to learn before I think she will start being able to really help us on this front.
We have also discussed designing our own priority manager within our "request module" (project item 6.) but of course this will take time and we need this functionality to help us even get the request module done. I imagine we would fashion it to work more or less exactly how ClickUp works, but with some minor design changes.
My manager has also discussed the idea of outsourcing any projects we want expedited... but unless he is getting impatient I would like for us to eventually tackle everything ourselves. We are kind of building a reputation as a small powerhouse team and I would like that reputation to grow.
Where we stand now: Ultimately my manager has given me the power over this decision, and whatever I feel works best he is willing to work with. My current plan is to suggest we use ClickUp until we can create our own internal version... but I am eager to find a better solution.