Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some Dashboards

I wrote yesterday about keeping project statuses up to date. I heard from a few people asking what I use for a dashboard. The short answer is that it varies a bit by project. So I thought I'd put a few up and talk about them.

In all cases I've redacted names and sensitive text.

Here's one where we basically have a project dashboard in Jira:

Project Notes:
This is a late-stage project that is in bug fix and release mode. The people working on this are pretty much all technical - engineers and technical management.

What Works:
  • Quick access to project details
  • Pretty graphs!
What Doesn't:
  • This isn't a good way to handle development. It handles bugs really well but really gets you in the weeds of details.
  • Some of the less technical people involved have some difficulties constructing filters, etc. There's a learning curve there.

Here's one where we're using Basecamp for overall project views:

Project Notes:
This is a greenfield project that is accessed by the software builders and a client. Logins range from developers to the executive sponsoring the project.

What Works:
  • Good overview of a project that includes several different things - documentation, code, UI designs, etc.
  • I love the "what's coming in the next 14 days" right at the top.
  • Not intimidating for non-technical types.
  • It emails you digests of what changed and/or specific changes as you request. Can't get away from email as a notification tool, so it's nice to embrace it.
What Doesn't:
  • I don't know that I'd do bugs here. The general bug workflow (log, fix, verify, deploy) doesn't map well to the done/not done simplicity of Basecamp.
  • This works better for smaller projects; a project with dozens of people involved tends to get very chatty and need different UI metaphors - the list view can get very long very quickly.
Here's a project home page on a wiki:

Project Notes:
This is an internal project that is being worked on by sales, dev, marketing, exec management, and basically a smattering people across the whole company. It's a fast moving project that's in prototype phase, so it's got a lot of possibilities and not a lot of certainties yet.

What Works:
  • Everyone's used to a wiki, so it's a really friendly format
  • Wiki watching lets email updates occur whenever the page changes
  • It's really really flexible
  • It grows well - as it gets larger you simply spawn things off to more and more pages and keep the "home page" light.
What Doesn't:
  • Hand maintaining this is something of a pain
  • Lack of a defined structure means consistency is difficult to maintain, and it can be hard to find things
So... have I found the perfect project dashboard? Nope. And I've certainly discovered (again) that different tools are useful for different contexts. So this is what I do, and I'm sure I'll change it as I discover new tricks.

What are your tricks?


  1. Thanks for the reply! My shop currently has no such solution (except for wikis, which is indeed a huge pain), so this was helpful. We are looking towards implementing Novell Teaming soon, so I'll reciprocate with an article on that as soon we get it going.

    Curious what your impression of JIRA is. Do you use Confluence as well, and does it meet your needs? Where does it fall short?

    Love your content, and I tend to share your articles with my colleagues. We're a small shop just starting the process of maturing our development and testing model, so your articles have been a big help. Keep 'em coming!

  2. Wow, Jesse, that's a really nice thing to say. Glad to know that we can help each other out!

    We haven't been using Jira for very long, really. So far I'm enjoying it, for a couple of reasons:
    - Management likes the dashboards and graphs, so I don't have to "reprocess" the data for them. Saves me a good amount of time.
    - The API is much better than our last defect tracking system (RT). We do a lot of scripted bug creation and commenting, so this matters to us.
    - The workflow customization is nice, in terms of being able to run IT, support, and dev through one system.

    There are definitely quirks, and it's a bit heavy for some uses. With our team of 25 in dev (plus support, IT, etc), it's pretty good. With a team of 3 or 4 I don't know that I'd want something this heavy (for a team that small, check out Lighthouse). To be perfectly fair, we have only used it for defect and ticket tracking; we're not attempting to run entire projects through it, so I can't speak to that.

    We don't use Confluence here (we already had mediawiki). I've used it elsewhere, but only casually, so I can't really speak to it.

  3. Catherinr,
    Its really great that you have shown the comparison between different dash boards, i really appreciate. Good knowledge base.