Project Management

Create a flexible project log with Squish

For small project teams looking to move past Google Docs or a large organization looking for an issue tracking alternative, the web-based Squish is a viable alternative.

In 2006, before Microsoft SharePoint collaboration sites became a popular platform for web-based lists, I used a powerful web-based solution called e-Tracker. It was a custom software application that let project teams create web-enabled lists. I used the tool to manage issues and change requests and even conduct large scale project portfolio reviews. I loved the tool's simplicity and the ability to extend it by adding new fields and creating different filters to generate meaningful reports.

SharePoint has emerged as a popular choice to create web-based lists; however, if given the choice, I'd return to the days of e-Tracker. Imagine my surprise when I found a tool in 2013 that exceeds e-Tracker's capabilities in terms of speed, simplicity, and usability.

Squish is a web-based management tool that you can use to keep track of product development, client requests, software bugs, help desk tickets, and project tasks. When I saw the product demo, I immediately thought about my project log and how it can be easily converted into Squish. Instead of floundering in Excel or struggling with SharePoint usability issues, I could get back to the simplicity of web-based issues, risks, and change management using a tool that I could configure. Below is an example of how I configured Squish for a project log.

Project Log dashboard

In Squish, users can create their own projects for a variety of uses. Depending on the need, a Squish project can be created to be a software bug list, a help desk tracking tool, or a workflow-enabled request management tool. For project management, my goal was to create an issue and change request log (Figure A). Figure A

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The Project Log dashboard provides a list of Recently Updated Issues, Unresolved Issues assigned to me, and a Watch list feature. As issues are created, you can be notified of issue updates by tracking them in your own Watch List. The dashboard is your view into the repository of issues, changes, risks, or any other tracking item. I like this feature, as I can see the items I need to watch as well as my own list of issues, tasks, or action items.

Assign issues and collaborate with team members

The benefit of using a web-based tool is being able to collaborate with other team members.

Similar to other collaboration platforms, users are able to add comments to each issue and change an issue's status as issues are opened, investigated, and closed in a project cycle. You can configure Squish to support projects, tasks, and issues. By creating different issue types, project teams can create tasks and assign issues, risks, and tasks to various projects and team members (Figure B). Figure B

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As a Squish user, I can assign issues to anyone on the team, and they will be notified that they have been assigned an issue (Figure C). Users can respond and add attachments and comments and update issue progress. This type of functionality has become the standard in today's online collaboration tools, but what I really like about Squish is its support for custom fields. Figure C

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Extend Squish with custom fields

You can configure Squish to support workflow notifications in addition to any type of list you'd create for your business. The Issue types are used to group key fields, so if you want to create an issues list and bug tracking list within the same project, you could do so with different fields. Just try doing that in Excel!

In the example in Figure D, I wanted to assign issues and change requests to different software releases. Creating a custom field and adding it to the Squish project was a very easy configuration process. Within a few clicks, I had a custom field with lookup values defined and automatically added to my issue tracker. Figure D

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Create saved searches for easy retrieval

If you're using Squish to create a project log, you'll want to separate issues, risks, and change requests by using different reports (Squish includes several defined reports). The power in Squish is the easy to create searches that can be saved for future use. In the example in Figure E, I create two different searches for issues and change requests (Figure E). Figure E

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Squish also provides project task tracking in addition to issue management. Project milestones can be defined and tracked as teams attach tasks and issues to the project. Squish also creates a basic Gantt chart for project tracking. In addition to its lite project management features, Squish supports workflow notification and a variety of list statistics to make your project management issue, risk and change management processes easier to implement while keeping everyone informed.

Squish provides a free 60 day trial and supports unlimited users and unlimited projects for as little as $50 per month. For small project teams looking to move past Google Docs or a large organization looking for an issue tracking alternative, I recommend Squish as a viable alternative.

About

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and is the author of How To Use Microsoft Project and Project Management Interview Questions Made Easy. For more project management advice visit http://www.tacticalprojectmanagement.com.

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