Just as I was lamenting not being able to find a tool that helps me visualize the development and work process for my new company, a new tool launches, almost as if somebody read my mind. SmartQ is a web-based “visual project board” from the makers of 5pm, the web-based project management tool.
SmartQ is based on Kanban, a lean production process I have never encountered before. According to Wikipedia, kanban is “a scheduling system that tells you what to produce, when to produce it, and how much to produce.” The system was developed by Toyota. Through the use of kanban cards (signs on a board), you can signal what parts of production are at what stages, and what resources or supplies are needed or are in use. Efficient production can be attained knowing how many cards — or tickets — are needed in a process to produce something, and by keeping an eye on the transfer of or accumulation of these cards during production.
When you start using SmartQ, you begin a new project and start new “tickets” (i.e. kanban cards) that you can assign to team members complete with a deadline and the status or stage each ticket is at, such as “submitted”, “assigned,’ “work started,’ “completed” or “approved.”
Using the “Board View,” you can see your tickets begin to lay out across the screen in sequence. You can also easily drag and drop each ticket box to rearrange.
I was immediately pleased to see what I normally have created as a written checklist in a much more visual layout.
What a difference seeing tasks (or “tickets”) laid out according to status can make! Of course, if you still want to see a list, there is also a “List View:”
Under “Settings,” you can manage team members and their admin controls and roles per project. You can also design and modify your workflow process by editing or adding to the default workflow stages (submitted, assigned, work started, completed or approved). You can even design your ticket form to include more features or have input fields in different positions.
When you create a new ticket, you can enter a ticket name, description, the stage it is at, when it is required by, who it’s assigned to, and you can opt to send by email to everyone involved with the ticket. There is a space to add comments, and you can attach files to each ticket as needed.
Rethinking Workflow Management
When I started using the app, I was puzzled by the way I could see which tickets I had created, but I couldn’t see who I’d assigned the ticket to or the deadline.. So I asked the company why this might be, and a representative responded:
You don’t care to see who created the ticket, since you create them right now. In systems we use, they are viewed from workers side. So they need to see the requester. And the required date was rarely used in the scenarios we observed so far, since the board is fluid — tickets move when they can, and managers are alerted when too many get accumulated in one stage or another.
Going back to the kanban concept, tickets on the SmartQ are placed in certain buckets (“submitted,” “assigned,” “work started,” “completed” or “approved,” by default). At a glance, managers can see where there might be a bottleneck in workflow and address those areas to keep the process running smoothly. I have always been so tied to deadlines, and yet SmartQ and the kanban concept is reconfiguring my own ideas about workflow. SmartQ provides a new way to visualize and frame work projects and tasks. I’m looking forward to testing the system out with my team members to see how it works with more people, projects and tickets added to the mix.
How are you visualizing — and managing — your workflow?
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