Blog

2 months ago

Deprecating TestTrack integration

Did you know we have an integration with TestTrack? Probably not. It's a legacy plugin – a really old one – from Targetprocess 2 that connects to the TestTrack bug tracking tool and periodically synchronizes defects from TestTrack with bugs in Targetprocess. Even the research we did in 2008 indicated that it was the least used plugin of all, but now its usage is even lower since it's only available for On-Premises installations (we removed it from On-Demand accounts about 6 years ago).

We haven't added much functionality to the plugin over the last decade, but we still had to keep it as part of the code base (which we're working on reducing), maintain automatic tests, and so on.

It's very possible that this will not affect anyone reading this post, but it's still a formal part of the software and needs a special announcement. So yes, starting with Targetprocess v.3.11.4, integration with TestTrack will no longer exist. 

This the part where I'm supposed to say something nice, maybe even dramatic about this feature... but I can't really think of anything. Sorry. Anyway, our code will be a little bit lighter and developers will be a little bit happier, so that's good news, even if it's minor.

2 months ago

Visual Reports: Formulas Editor Change

Invalid formulas and old-style report formulas will not be saved

We have disabled the ability to save invalid and previous version graphical report formulas .

formula

You can use special functions if you need to create reports using the formulas from previous version of graphical reports.

  1. RAW_TEXT(<Targetprocess DSL text expression>) for text or boolean formulas. For example:
    RAW_TEXT("Test")
  2. RAW_NUMBER(<Targetprocess numeric expression>) for numeric formulas. For example:
    RAW_NUMBER(Int32.Parse("45"))
  3. RAW_DATE(<Targetprocess date expression>) for using text or boolean formulas. For example:
    RAW_DATE(DateTime.Parse("3 September"))
  4. RAW_ARRAY_TEXT(<Targetprocess text array expression>) for using text or boolean formulas. For example:
    RAW_ARRAY_TEXT(AssignedEfforts.Select(Assignable.Name))

     

We will really appreciate your feedback on our reports editor. What do you like about it? What could be improved? Let us know what you think at ux@targetprocess.com

2 months ago

Service Desk updates: Color Themes and Request Type improvements

It's been awhile since we posted about our progress on Service Desk. We have just released several nice features that we'd like to share with you.

Color themes

You can now change the look of your Service Desk by picking from one of the predefined color options. This is the first step to making the colors fully customizable and allowing you to use your company colors in addition to your logo.

sd_color_schema

If you'd like to customize something other than color, please share the details with us. This will help us make sure we don't miss anything important, while hopefully not over-complicating everything under the hood.

Disabling votes

Previously, the "Vote" button was available for any request type, which did not always make sense. You don't typically need someone to upvote your browser crashing issue or something like that, right? So you can now define which request types will have the Vote button, and which will have it removed.

You can configure voting at Targetprocess Settings -> Request Types.

request_type_options

Default visibility

We've received a fair amount of feedback along the lines of "why can't I make all requests public" or "the new request type is always private". Since you can already create your own request types, we decided to make it more flexible. When submitting a new request, the "Private" check-box will either be checked or not, depending on what you select at Settings. Users, however, will still be able to change the visibility (depending on the particular request).

You can configure default visibility at Targetprocess Settings -> Request Types.

default-visibiliy

Fixed bugs

We also fixed a number of bugs and made some internal changes. Among the most noticeable are:

  • State grouping: states before the 'Planned' state are no longer added to the 'In Progress' group.
  • Fixed half a dozen IE-specific bugs (or should we say, we made Service Desk more compliant with the bugs of Internet Explorer?).
  • Fixed the order of custom fields at the Add Request page. It is now updated automatically when you reorder them in Targetprocess.

Please note that the changes above require Targetprocess version 3.11.2. If you are hosting Service Desk locally using IIS, you will also need to update .Net Core to 1.1. See our guide for more info.

3 months ago

Visual Project Management: Past and Future

No matter what kind of project you’re managing, there’s a direct, causal relationship between process and outcome. In other words, it’s not just what you’re working on that matters but how you work on it.

Traditionally, the project management discipline has prized control and long-term forecasting over the particulars of work in progress. But considering 46 percent of all projects still fail to meet their original goals and intent, there’s a growing demand for real-time visibility into the movement of tasks and resources.

Visual project management is a new approach (and new technology) designed to address some of these challenges. By embracing it, teams and organizations can complete projects of any type with greater speed and efficiency.  

What is Visual Project Management?

For the most part, visual PM is exactly what it sounds like: a project management strategy designed to increase success through visualization of project components, such as data and tasks.  Mark Woeppel, the author of Visual Project Management, describes it like this:

“Visual Project Management is a process that uses visualization of the delivery process to drive team behaviors.”

Visual features can be a valuable asset for any project style, but they’re most commonly associated with agile methods such as Scrum and Kanban. In some ways, visual PM takes its cue from the good old-fashioned whiteboard. The whiteboard has served as a roadmap, progress tracker, and collaboration tool for all kinds of development teams.

But the history of visual PM is much older than the whiteboard.

The oldest roots date back to 1896, when Polish economist Karol Adamiecki created the “harmonogram” — a floating bar chart used to show tasks or resources changing across time. Not long after, in 1912, the famous Gantt Chart was born — used first to build ships during WWI and later to construct the Hoover Dam.

Adamiecki’s “harmonogram.” aom.org

Adamiecki’s “harmonogram.” aom.org

Michael Dubakov, Founder and CEO of Targetprocess, says that visual PM started to crystalize around 2010 with the popularity of the Kanban approach. “One of the Kanban principles is to visualize workflow in order to better understand what is going on and what can be improved.”

Modern visual project management software is much more advanced, but its purpose is the same: to provide greater flexibility and improved outcomes through visibility into bottlenecks, tasks interdependencies, progress, and priorities. “In the recent 5 years we have seen a spread of visual tools like Kanban boards, timelines, and integrated BI systems with powerful reporting,” says Dubakov. In all kinds of industries (especially the IT world)  visual project management is now helping teams stay in sync and respond to changing requirements.

In terms of actual methodology, many of the visual tools that have proven useful combine the best aspects of Kanban and lean production with the Scrum foundation that dev teams are used to. Some users have taken to calling this style “Scrum-ban.”

Common visual features include:

  • Real-time dashboards
  • Timelines
  • Graphic reports (Gantt, burndown, etc.)
  • Boards (Kanban)
  • Product Roadmaps

The Changing Landscape

When fully embraced, visual project management can bring some dramatic improvements to the way teams collaborate and work. As modern software continues to evolve, more teams will adopt visual tools to improve their development lifecycles, over time raising the benchmark for an efficient project delivery process.  

Let’s take a look at some of the specific ways visual tools can impact the future of project management. As your organization plans products and strategies for this  year, try to pull some of these ideas into the conversation.

The Ability to Isolate Problem Areas Faster

As your teams work through various projects, there will inevitably be obstacles — things that slow the movement of tasks, stories, or feature requests during a sprint. Without the necessary visibility, it’s difficult for a project manager to troubleshoot delays or recurring problems.

A visual project management solution can make spotting and solving these “blockers” much easier.  You get a real-time picture of where each component of a project rests, so you can quickly identify bottlenecks and trace issues to their source. For example, let’s say you notice that user stories are repeatedly getting “stuck” in the testing phase or re-entering a later sprint due to unsatisfactory completion. By visualizing the workflow, you can isolate the root cause and then communicate with the relevant team members to initiate change.

Better Resource Planning and Allocation

Resource and requirements planning is one of the most crucial components of any project: get it wrong, and you’ll have a project that gets delivered both late and over budget. There’s a little more leeway with agile projects (since work is done in short iterations), but decision-makers still need to stay responsive to changing requirements and be able to shift priorities or reassign team members when necessary.

Feature Planning By Teams

The speed of change  demands fast resource management. The right visual tools can help you tighten your development lifecycle by maximizing your use of resources—both in the planning phase and in continued optimization during the project. A visual resource planning feature, for example, shows where your team members are assigned and what tasks they’re working on. You can also drill down to assess individual skill sets and schedule availability.

More Projects Completed On-Time

One of the first principles of the Agile Manifesto is “. . . early and continuous delivery.” If your goals are built around this principle, it’s important to remove every possible impediment and give developers maximum visibility. Without the right tools, project information gets siloed into email threads, chat conversations, and spreadsheets, and team members have a hard time remembering who’s working on what. Ultimately, this leads to redundant efforts and a longer cycle time.  

Visual PM can speed progress by conveying real-time project information in a way that is easier to access, understand, and share. It also makes it easier for team leaders to track work in progress and remove impediments before they delay the product. A Kanban board — which uses “cards” to move tasks through different stages of the project — is a perfect example of visual workflow optimization.

Personal Kanban Board

The Spread of Project Management Solutions

Finally, the growing popularity of visual features means that project management software itself will become easier to implement and easier to use for all team members. Even smaller companies with limited experience can set up a cloud-based visual PM solution in less than a day. That means small, agile teams can become even more agile without the overhead of a consulting service or an expensive, time-consuming implementation.

With agility at a maximum, project teams can improve the customer experience by running faster iterations with fewer bugs. Thus, visual PM tools create a more sustainable, scalable development model.

There is, of course, room to grow. Dubakov points to a general lack of research in the visual PM field. “To my knowledge, there are no people who understand both domains well enough in order to lead the visual management movement,” he says. In the coming years, we can hope to see additional research and innovation in some of the following areas:

  • Using visual PM tools to aid decision-making
  • Different visual approaches for different sub-domains
  • Visualizations for planning, capacity management, tracking, and forecasting
  • Process management and problem resolution
  • Closer integration between visual PM and business intelligence tools

*

Visual project management isn’t some radical new approach that turns the discipline upside down. It’s just a set of tools and techniques that reinforce what we already know: people work and manage projects more efficiently when they’re “in the loop,” and when they have a clear picture of how project components move and interconnect.  The best way to represent and share this information in real time is not with a list, or a spreadsheet, or a series of emails, but with a visual.  


Aleks Peterson is the content manager at TechnologyAdvice, a B2B research firm that connects buyers and sellers of business technology.

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