Not those tools, but you get the idea

Tools we use in Belka to stay organised

We are a design and development small firm. This is how we keep our projects on track, share information and other.

I’m used to interact with our internal tools, but looking from the outside it’s quite a lot of services! We started from “just talk to each other” but now, since we are more people (and distributed too!), we changed our organisation in order to share all the information with everyone.

A great start on this topic is a quote from one of the most influencing manifestos ever.

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”
- The Agile Manifesto

Better interactions for us means finding the information we are looking for, be coordinated, and act as a team.

Sounds easy, but it's damned hard! This is our blend of SAAS to do it.


Jira + Bitbucket

Those two buddies are our developer's best friend (and greater enemy).

Bitbucket is our GIT tool of choice. Not much to add here!

Jira keeps the status of the tasks in sync with everyone involved: customer-product-design-development. You know what's going on and who's taking care of the development tasks. Since they are from the same suite you can link commits from Bitbucket to Jira, to connect the task to the code and vice versa. Very handy!

We started using it as a scrum board, but it also supports kanban and other project management’s style. We are now using a mix of kanban and scrum, but that’s too long to cover here. It’s a good idea for another post!

An example of a JIRA board

Jira used to be a software I hate. The old version of Jira was something you had to learn via trial and error and accept that sometimes it was plain impossible to do trivial stuff.

It's not like that anymore. Jira works well now and the redesign Atlassian is working on is epic. I can't wait to see the next steps and I'm a fan of what they are doing. If you are curious look at their design guidelines!

Float

Float is a scheduling tool. Since we have multiple projects and multiple people we need to keep everyone organised and see if we can fit a new project, and if so who can work on that and how it impacts the team.

I like it, it’s easy and useful, but it’s super expensive for what it does. I’m thinking of switching it off at each renewal.

Confluence

Confluence is a wiki. We use it before, during and after a project. It’s our single source of truth and we store there the the most information we can. It’s useful when sharing information between team members and to verify stuff you don’t remember precisely.

Some examples of our usage:

  • Decision logs;
  • Design decisions;
  • Meeting logs;
  • Who's in the project

Keeping Confluence tidy is hard. I initially felt forced to do so, but after I kept using it as a journal I understood why we need it. The information is easy to find and it’s very handy during handoff to other team members.

Google Suite

We use it for our basic needs like:

  • Email — Gmail-alike service, but on belka.us domain. It just works™
  • Shared calendar and invitations — Google Calendar
  • Fast file storage and fast shared documents — Google Drive
  • Talk to people outside our organisation — Hangouts

It’s basically Google services on steroids. We need those services up and running the whole time and it doesn’t make sense to mantain an smtp or ftp server.

Moreover the integration with other services are very easy. An example: setting up the email on the iPhone is like adding a Gmail account. Easy-peasy!

If you want to try it here’s a referral code, (with some discount!).

Invision

We use Invision to share, comment and test our design projects. The integration with Sketch (it's called Craft) lets you upload all the mockups directly to Invision in one clic.

Moreover you can link the screens one to another in order to mock the navigation of the screens.

The commenting feature is very hand too. Getting feedback from a customer is often hard. Figure this email:

Customer: I like the design but the right top corner button should be bigger
Me: Alright, which button?
Customer: The "buy now" one
Me: Ok I will make it bigger, see the “Final_v2_bigger1.pdf” file attached

On Invision you just clic where you want to leave your comment, and write it there. Waaaay faster!

An example of a comment on Invision

We also use moodboards to gather all the inspiration for a project in one place and discuss about the UI direction of a project.

Hubspot

We use Hubspot as CRM. It helps keeping sales on track. Working for other companies is great, but you have to deal with different forces pulling you from all sides.

The “Deals” section of Hubspot helps us seeing at a glance a sale status, see the synced email conversation between us and the potential customer, and it has some sweet features such as tracking the email opening that makes you feel like James Bond.

Slack

You probably already know this. Slack is a chat tool for teams. It can be integrated with other services via bot and it has “channels” which are basically chat rooms.

We use it mostly to ping people and send GIFs!

Fatture in Cloud

Shipping quality products is hard, but Italian law, receipts and everything fiscal is harder, and usually boring. Fatture in Cloud does the job of keeping everything tidy.

It shares our receipts to our business consultant as well (commercialista), which is pretty handy.


Do you have any other secret tool you are using that we should consider? Let me know in the comments!