Moonward is an app design and development agency in Brisbane, Australia. We have been in business for five years and have since seen our team go from a one-man band to a team of just under 20 people.
Communication has always been the foundation of our business, both internally and externally. Externally, that means lifting the curtain on what happens in the world of software, including weekly check-ins, dedicated product owners and even transparent code reviews between ourselves and our clients. Internally, that means constant momentum and collaboration are expected from all of our team members.
Building apps is challenging, and software development is an exigent industry. This is only made thousands of times harder when communication channels are not free-flowing.
At Moonward, we have made a lot of mistakes when it comes to our communication tools, hopped around dozens of different apps, and importantly are always looking for ways to break and improve our systems - It is the nature of being a software development team.
Six months ago I made a post about what apps we use in-house at Moonward, including some of our communication tools. We have had a few updates since then and learnt a few lessons along the way so I wanted to put together a new article with our most up-to-date stack.
Slack has been Moonward’s constant companion when it comes to quick-fire internal communication. For us, it is a huge part of our day-to-day lives as a team and acts as a central place for us to chat about all things happening in the business. We separate our channels into a few broad categories: Moonward and Client. In Moonward, this is where our dev, design and the entire team can all communicate about any goings on, from things as rudimentary as going out to lunch to sharing new technologies. In the Client channels, we are only communicating internally with each other, the conversations are focused more on any design updates, anything relating to the development or notes from client meetings.
The only problem is team members can treat Slack like a Facebook Messenger channel, where messages are distracting and replies are expected to be instant. For this reason, we have implemented a few rules around Slack so team members don’t need to break their flow and drop everything at the drop of a hat.
All in all, Slack is pretty good. The only annoying thing that we have found with Slack is it is obviously a paid channel. We are more than happy to pay for tools when they deliver an awesome experience, but with further research, we have found there are a few alternatives that are cheaper if not free. Because we have such a long history of using Slack, it would be too hard for us to switch now.
When we wrote our last article, we had only just discovered Notion. Now, we have been using Notion for a few months and it has become a big part of our internal documentation process.
In Notion, we store all of our relevant developer, design, product team and admin handbooks. As a collective, we contribute actively to the documentation of our systems and processes. Each different branch (design) has a head contributor who makes sure all documents committed to Notion are in line with Moonward.
We have also started using Notion for internal project management. The system itself is actually working surprisingly well, I believe this is down to the simplicity of the design.
Notion has been such a wonderful tool overall. It means that no piece of knowledge or process within our business is reliant on one person. The user interface is also super clean and it’s just a joy to work with
We have only recently made the switch to Basecamp for our external project management from Monday.com.
External project management systems are really personal to the company and the type of service offered. We found that Monday.com had too much going on, so we started the long migration process of all our communication and documentation to Basecamp.
What attracted us to Basecamp were two things. First, it is considerably cheaper than other options. You pay per account and not user profile which is attractive to us as we are a growing team. Second, the user interface is much simpler, there are only four main areas where you can store information.
The main benefit we are experiencing by using Basecamp is the ability to clearly separate conversations. As app development is a process that can take between 4-12 months depending on the scope of the project, it is important to be able to refer back to conversations that started a few months ago. We also can store docs in a way that is easy for our team and the client to view.
This may be kind of controversial, but I’m not in love with Basecamp. It works, it’s highly functional and the UI/UX is solid, but I’m not in love. As mentioned, project management systems are very personal to the company itself and Basecamp does three-quarters of what we want, but not everything. If anyone has some other suggestions that work for them, please let us know as we are keen to try other things.
When you joined us last, Moonward was using the Atlassian Suite to track our development progress and store all client information. On the surface, it looks perfect. It is a development tool designed by developers for developers. As time went on we found that our Product Owners were spending the majority of their day updating the software and chasing up the development team on where their progress was. To us this shows a few red flags:
1. The development team were not on board because they are not actively updating Atlassian with their progress (it’s either too hard or too time-consuming)
2. The development team don’t understand the product or finds it overwhelming and will avoid it altogether
Considering Atlassian is not cheap, we decided we needed to go back to the drawing board. And for us, the drawing board is Google Sheets.
I know, it seems a bit rudimentary but the brilliance of Google Sheets and the Google Suite is you can make it whatever you want it to be.
We use Google Sheets for all our internal project storage. Our product owners will list out all our development epics and our development team can simply tick and comment on the epics they are assigned to. Obviously, there is more in there than that, but we have really enjoyed being able to create a super simple process that works for us as a team.
If you have any questions about how we use these tools or would like to suggest anything that has worked for you, feel free to reach out to us on Linkedin! We are always keen to try new things.
Decisions that are made by the design team about how the data will be handled early on, such as using a full name instead of first name and last name can have a lasting impact.
November 14, 2022
Communication has always been the foundation of our business, both internally and externally. That's why having a good stack of tools is essential to doing business! Learn more about the tools we use here.
September 5, 2022