I met Devshop founder Craig Fitzpatrick while helping to organize Barcamp Ottawa. Last week Devshop Craig dropped by to show me what he’s been working on. Devshop is a "radically new project management tool specifically designed just for software teams". Craig’s pitch is that the best project managers use a whole bunch of domain specific knowledge in order to ensure that projects get delivered on time. General purpose project management tools which are designed to manage anything from building a new condo, to planning a wedding, don’t contain that knowlege — it has to come from the user. Devshop combines software project management best practices into a project management tool to help software project managers get better results. It’s Basecamp with a brain.
So, what does it know about? Things like:
The fact that on any reasonable size project, employees take vacation. It builds an allowance into the schedule for that.
No developer is a 100% up-time productivity machine. Devshop builds in an allowance for unproductive downtime (maybe your developers serve double duty fixing the CEO’s PC — not uncommon in a startup!). Devshop also learns over time what individual productivity rates are, allowing project managers to make better estimates as they use the tool more. And, Devshop allows for detailed post-mortem analyses by letting "distractions" (ie. the server blew up and set us back a week) be added to the schedule.
Most software projects get underway without detailed requirements. Project managers are often required to estimate a project completion date with incomplete requirements, and are then castigated for failing to complete on time after the requirements have changed three or four times. Devshop allows for requirements to be captured as the project proceeds, and for the impact of requirements changes to be seen on ship dates immediately.
The UI is web based. It includes requirements capture and management components, project and team management components, and extensive reporting and analysis tools including the ubiquitous Gantt Chart layout. It should be immediately obvious to anyone who’s ever run a project before how it works.
I found it appealing that it incorporates the philosophy and many of the best practices of Extreme Programming, which we use at iotum. We capture user stories, which are decomposed to requirements, and individually estimated. We monitor developer productivity, and build in a rate factor in order to account for distractions from the schedule. And we start at the beginning not quite knowing what the final outcome will look like. The biggest gap, and the one which has caused the most headaches for me, is that we do not have accurate tools for estimation. Devshop seems to fill that gap. An area where Devshop wouldn’t yet meet our needs is around iteration management, which is also one of the core ideas in Extreme Programming. Craig and I discussed this also. He’s working on incorporating an iterations tool into an upcoming release as well.
Devshop is just coming out of stealth mode right now. They’re looking for beta testers. If you manage software projects, you owe it to yourself to check out what these guys are doing. It may just change the way you build software.