Thursday, May 17, 2007

My New Favorite Project Management Tool

Well, it's really more of a Knowledge Base/Project Management tool, since I'm sure the project management purists out there will cringe at this idea. But MediaWiki just replaced Basecamp as my "quick and dirty" project management tool. If you haven't used MediaWiki yet, it's basically just the engine that Wikipedia runs on. It's extremely easy to setup, and uses the common Apache, MySql, PHP framework.

I originally started using Basecamp because I just wanted a simple, fast way to keep track of the general status of various parts of a project (And because I wanted to experience the hype). It worked well for that, but frankly it's lack of features kept me from doing very much with it, besides using it as a fancy task list. I considered FogBugz, but I find the program horribly ugly to look at, and difficult to do simple tasks (it's also much better at tracking bugs, then being a "project management" tool). I even briefly flirted with making my own project management tool, but it seemed like it's been done way too many times, so I decided to take a stab at the Wiki world.

The thing I love about it, is that it's so dynamic and flexible, yet easy for people with low technical knowledge to use. Granted, the scheduling part of project management is not going to be here (but it can's open source after all!). However, programs like Basecamp don't exactly perform traditional project management features either. But if you need to do things like track bugs, milestones, statuses, etc.. all of those can very easily be added to your Wiki.

I'll be honest that I really didn't see the value in Wikis for businesses at first (the upcoming FogBugz wiki integration still kind of mystifies me). And I was especially scared that MediaWiki would be extremely complex, since Wikipedia must be pretty powerful, and so tried several other Wiki packages first. I used one for a while, and I kept feeling like it was missing features, so finally I gave MediaWiki a try. To my surprise, it took me under 10 minutes to get it up and running.

At first, I just wanted a place to store notes from meetings at the day job that anyone could view and modify. Then I found myself adding supporting documentation for projects that were discussed, soon a knowledge base was forming, with code snippets, class diagrams, and To-Do lists. One great thing is how quick it is to add something, and how great MediaWiki's versioning/revision control is. But the best part is how pretty everything looks. Links are generated from articles that can quickly and easily be sent out for all to peruse and edit. Unlike Basecamp or Fogbugz that are more locked down. And everything is linked so nicely together. You can gussy up meeting notes by cross-referencing everything to other articles in the Wiki.

Anyway, if you havn't tried using MediaWiki in this way, I suggest you give it a try. It's had surprisingly high adoption among the non-techies (they logged into Basecamp once, and then never again). And if you need somewhere quick and dirty to keep track of your project, I think it's great.


At 3:49 PM, Blogger Guillermo said...

Thanks for share your vision about project management.
I'm starting also to use mediawiki, but don't found the way to change the main navigation menu in order to add more items, or define content that automatically goes to the navigation (in a tree list will be nice).


At 10:04 PM, Blogger Phil said...

Hey Guillermo,

To change the main navigation menu stuff, you unfortunately have to mess with the PHP. It's fairly straight forward to do though.


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