Effective project management is essential to the success of every startup and small business. In small teams, everyone wears many hats: marketers work as salespeople, developers double up as designers, and founders – well, they do everything.
In your business’s scrappy early days, you don’t necessarily need a highly structured approach to project management. Sure, things still have to get done, but your team is small enough that effective communication isn’t a huge challenge.
Once you start to grow, though, it’s an entirely different ball game. Deadlines start to get missed. Team members get their wires crossed on important projects. Things fall through the cracks. If you’re not careful, these errors can compound, and your business will never reach its true potential.
Once your business crosses ten or so employees, it’s time to start building the systems and frameworks to help you grow from a scrappy startup into a well-established company. Project management systems are at the center of that, powered by project management software built for small businesses.
Backlog: Project management software for small businesses
Backlog is a project management software built for the needs of small businesses and developers. It’s an intuitive, easy-to-use platform with a range of powerful capabilities and the capacity to grow with you as you scale.
Today, Backlog is used by over 18,000 companies worldwide – many of them small but mighty teams just like yours. Users love Backlog for the platform’s combination of simplicity and organizational prowess, helping break complex tasks into simple workflows that bring clarity to confusion.
Backlog’s most popular features include:
- Task management: Create, assign, and track tasks and subtasks across different teams and departments to ensure expectations are always aligned between team members.
- Collaboration: Teams can discuss tasks easily, no matter where they are, with Backlog’s remote collaboration tools for virtual teams.
- Version control: With built-in code management tools, including inline comments and a difference viewer, it’s easy to see why developers love Backlog.
- Bug tracking: With pre-built bug tracking templates, Kanban boards, and even auto-generated tickets from support emails, Backlog will help your team squash bugs faster than ever.
- Reporting: Access a wide variety of reporting tools to track your team’s performance, from Burndown charts and Gantt charts to reports on team and user activity.
We will show you how your small business can start using Backlog to better manage, collaborate, and communicate on important projects. We’ll share how you can report and analyze your team’s performance and code quality in Backlog and then wrap things up by sharing how you can get started with Backlog for free today.
How to set up and manage projects in Backlog
It’s easy for new teams to get started in Backlog. Below, we’re going to walk you through the process of setting up your first project in Backlog. If you like, you can sign up for a free Backlog account today and follow along.
Step 1: Create a new project
Your first task is to set up a new project from your Backlog dashboard. Just click the + icon and select Add Project. You’ll be prompted to give your project a name and a project key – a short acronym that helps users identify each project.
Once your project is created, you’ll want to create different categories. These help organize the individual tasks within your project into distinct groups or stages. For example, if you were building a new feature for a piece of software, you might specify the following categories:
- Requirements gathering
You can add or edit categories in the Project Settings page by clicking the Categories tab and selecting Add Category. You can also specify sub-categories here.
Step 2: Inviting team members to Backlog
While you can use Backlog for individual projects, the platform best suits small teams that need collaboration.
You can invite team members to your Backlog projects in the Members tab on your Organization Settings page. Invites are sent by email. Specify the teams, roles, and privileges of every team member you invite to your Backlog space.
Step 3: Add tasks, subtasks, and milestones
Once you’ve invited your team, it’s time to add specific tasks for them to work on. In Backlog, tasks are called Issues. To create a new task, click the Add Issue button from the toolbar on the left-hand side of your screen.
Input all of the information your team needs to be successful. This might include a description of the task, links to any external resources, start/due dates, priority levels, and more. Once you’ve entered all the required information, add an assignee – the team member responsible for the task. They’ll get a notification alerting them to the task.
Sometimes, tasks have several stages. Let’s return to our example of the team shipping a new feature to their software product. One task might be wireframing what the feature will look like. This sounds like one task, but there are many different components, each with a different owner. Design, copywriting, feedback, and more all count as smaller subtasks of the larger wireframing task.
Backlog makes it easy to bring clarity to this complexity with task hierarchies. To set up a task with several subtasks, navigate to the Issue you’d like to adjust. Click the + icon, then select Add new child issue. You can add as many child issues as you’d like.
Finally, you’ll want to set up project milestones to enable you to track projects. These milestones should be used to track progress. For our hypothetical software development project, milestones might include:
- Internal release
- Beta testing
- Launch to all users
You can add project milestones by navigating to your Project Settings, clicking the Version/Milestone tab, and selecting the Add New Version/Milestone button. You’ll be prompted to add start and end dates for your milestone, as well as a short description.
Step 4: Customizing and automating tasks in Backlog
As a small business, we bet your team has more tasks on their to-do list than hours in the day. That’s why a project management tool like Backlog that enables you to automate routine tasks is so powerful.
Backlog is packed with automation features, but among our most popular is the ability to automatically generate new tasks from customer support emails. This can be a major productivity driver for development teams tasked with bug tracking.
To enable this feature, navigate to Project Settings and enable the ‘Add issues via email’ feature. Follow the instructions on the screen to enable Backlog to automatically generate new tasks from emails received in your business’s customer support inbox.
How to communicate and collaborate with your team in Backlog
Backlog is more than a project management software platform: it is the central hub for your team’s work. Backlog’s goal is to help teams plan less and do more; a massive part of that is enabling better communication and collaboration.
In Backlog, team members can easily assign each other tasks, exchange comments, and tag each other for review. This centralizes all project work into one platform, allowing easier communication and eliminating confusion. You no longer need to jump between task management software, spreadsheets, email, and messaging apps – just do it all in Backlog.
Beyond this, Backlog has several other communication and collaboration features that make it easy for small teams to work better together. They include:
- Project wikis: A wiki serves as a project’s central repository of information. It’s a place to store documentation, important documents, guidelines, and other attachments. Information can be structured using pages, folders, links, and attachments, putting all the resources your team needs to be successful at their fingertips.
- File sharing: Backlog’s powerful file-sharing tools allow users to seamlessly store, access, and share critical project files in one place. Files can be attached to each task, and with built-in versioning and preview features, it’s easy for everyone to understand what’s changed and the latest status.
- Integrations: Backlog integrates with your team’s favorite communication tools, including Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat, and more. These integrations allow team members to create and track tasks in Backlog directly from whatever platform your business uses for internal communication.
These communication tools remove barriers that enable team members from every department to work more closely together. However, Backlog truly distinguishes itself in its project management and collaboration tools for developers.
How to control and monitor your code quality in Backlog
Backlog has many features custom-built for the developer community, from version control to inline code review. It’s the perfect solution for small development teams to control and monitor their code quality before pushing new code into production.
Below, you’ll find an overview of several of the code management features in Backlog.
Code review with inline comments and difference viewer
Teamwork is essential to every successful software project. A major component of that teamwork is for teammates to review each other’s work to verify the effectiveness of new code before deploying this code in a live production environment.
Backlog makes this code review process easier than ever. Team members can review each other’s code directly in Backlog, viewing the pull requests, merges, and builds their teammates made. Developers can exchange inline comments to ensure their code takes the best possible approach, and Backlog’s difference viewer allows them to identify changes quickly.
Built-in Git and SVN repositories
Keeping track of all your team’s code can be challenging as your business scales and software becomes more complex. But thanks to integrations with Git and SVN, Backlog offers development teams convenient private repositories to monitor their projects’ latest updates.
Users can view all recent updates, tracking the commits of each team member to understand what was changed and when it was changed. That makes for a far smoother development process with everyone on the same page.
Unlike many other project management tools, Backlog supports integrations with many tools your developers already use to manage their code, including Jenkins, Jira, and Redmine. By setting up these integrations, teams can migrate their data to Backlog in just a few simple steps and then continuously integrate their new code.
Backlog also integrates with LambdaTest, a cloud-based, cross-browser testing platform. This integration enables teams to take a more efficient approach to bug tracking, simultaneously creating an issue in Backlog while performing testing on LambdaTest.
How to report and analyze your project performance in Backlog
In a small business, everyone must be firing on all cylinders to accomplish their goals. You’re likely up against much larger, more established competitors. In some instances, you might be trying to disrupt an entire industry.
Ambitious goals demand high performance and, by extension, the tools to track your team’s performance across various projects. Backlog offers small teams a range of ways to track progress, measure each team member’s input, and report on the team’s work to the broader organization.
Get a project overview on your Backlog dashboard
Every time a team member logs into Backlog, they’re welcomed with their personal Backlog dashboard. This dashboard is a live overview of every project a team member is assigned.
From here, team members can view recent project updates, pull requests, assigned tasks, and more. It’s easy to quickly identify what’s changed, where projects stand, and what needs to be done next to move things forward.
Visually measure progress with Gantt charts, Burndown charts, and Kanban boards
Backlog comes with various visual displays that help teams better understand and display their progress.
A Gantt chart shows how the various milestones of a project are progressing, visualizing your team’s progress toward completing various tasks. In Backlog, Gantt charts are automatically created for every project.
Every user can view their own personal Gantt chart, helping them understand their workload and prioritize important tasks with upcoming deadlines. At a project level, Backlog’s Gantt charts help project managers understand how a team is progressing toward the project’s goals.
A Burndown chart is a simple visual representation of a project’s progress compared to the schedule outlined during the project planning phase. They help team leaders identify bottlenecks that are causing delays and also help to indicate whether a project is progressing according to schedule.
Backlog automatically creates Burndown charts based on the milestones users specify when setting up a project. Burndown charts update in real-time, meaning that as your team completes tasks, you’ll see their progress in the project Burndown chart.
Kanban boards are a central pillar of Agile project management, providing team members with a quick, visual summary of the status of different tasks. As team members complete tasks and update their status, tasks are automatically moved into new columns, making it easy for everyone to understand how various tasks are progressing at a glance.
Backlog automatically creates Kanban boards for every project based on the status of each Issue. To learn more, check out this article: Optimizing workflows with Backlog’s online Kanban board.
Evaluate each team member’s contribution
For small development teams to be successful, everyone has to pull their weight. Project managers need to be able to understand the contributions of each member of a project team.
In Backlog, administrators can view a live feed of each team member’s contributions. For development teams, it’s easy to monitor each team member’s commits and pull requests. You can also view each team member’s current workload by viewing their personal Gantt chart, helping you understand who to assign new tasks to.
Get weekly project status reports
Every member of a Backlog space can sign up to receive daily or weekly email summaries of the activity on a project. These emails ensure team members know about the latest developments in a project, even if they’ve been too busy to log in to their Backlog account.
Upgrade to Backlog today
There’s no question that taking a thoughtful approach to project management is vital to the success of all small businesses with big goals. Successfully tackling big problems demands an organized approach, with everyone pulling in the same direction.
Adopting a project management tool such as Backlog can be a game changer for your team’s performance. It’s the perfect tool for teams to manage projects, communicate more effectively, optimize their code quality, and report on their progress. With the right approach, Backlog can transform your team’s operations, scaling with you on the journey from scrappy startup to established enterprise.