Managing your development project

Keeping up with a project progress is hard and can easily become a pain. How do I know if I progress? What’s the remaining work? How should I sort my ideas to deliver? And how much time did I spend on developing that feature? Was it worth it?

Fortunately, a couple of free tools (yes, I said FREE) can help you get a better grasp on your project.

Source Control

Hopefully this is something that is not new to you. Though a bit aside of the pure “project management” toolbelt, using a source control is invaluable. From being able to keep track of your work to allow you to experiment with new techniques/design/functionalities/libraries, a source control is an unavoidable step in any development project.

I personally use two different source control systems: git and TFS (Team Foundation Server) version control. I used subversion in the past, but prefer git, as I find it more flexible.

TFS version control is a Microsoft product. It is easily integrated in VSTS (Visual Studio Team Services), but can also be deployed on premise. It is a centralized version control system.

Git is an open source project originally created by the people who develop the linux kernel (including Linus Torvalds). It is a decentralized version control system, meaning that you always have a full copy of the repository available locally.

I use git almost exclusively nowadays, for its flexibility, but also for its use in online services, such as GitHub, GitLab, or Atlassian.

WakaTime

The second tool I find great (though I did not use it much yet) is WakaTime. WakaTime basically tracks the time you spend in your favorite editors through the use of plugins. The free plan keeps your data for 7 days, and provide you with amazing dashboards about the time you spent on your projects (I did not code much lately, imagine it full):

wakatime

WakaTime will let you know your most used languages, the projects you work the most on, and even what time you spent on each file, and what time of the day you worked on what.

Furthermore, they have a great API that allows you to retrieve the data they present you if you want to analyze things further.

Finally, you can map your projects to your GitHub projects, and get report on how much time you spent on each commit! How cool is that?

Of course, if you don’t want to expose your coding life, this might not be the right tool for you.

Visual Studio Team Services

What would be a development project without a backlog of ideas?

Visual Studio Team Services offers amazing capabilities in this domain, allowing you to create projects, with team of people, stories, defect reports, etc. The facilities offered rely on the Agile methodology, where you basically schedule your work according to priorities of the functionalities to be devloped and availability of the team.

You can therefore prioritize you features, sort them, divide them in tasks, and produce burn-down charts to see yourself move on. It is an amazing way to keep track of your work. You can then use item numbers in your commits to cross-reference your code with the features you develop.

backlog

Furthermore, VSTS offers free unlimited private repositories (TFS or git) hosted online.

Trello

In the same vein as the backlog provide by VSTS, Trello provides an easy to use backlog system, allowing you to create projects, features and tasks and follow up with your work.

trello

However, it is less feature-rich than VSTS.

Conclusions

Through this article I introduced tool that could help you improve your development project management, via three different channels:

  • managing your code via source control
  • monitoring your time via automated recording
  • managing your ideas via a backlog

I hope you find it useful.Do not hesitate to let me know about tools you use, I’d be glad to incorporate them.

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