Task Boards: What They Are and How Can You Master Them?

October 11, 2022
#How To#Collaboration
13 min

We’ve all been in one of those nightmare situations where a project is spiraling out of control, and we have no idea who’s doing what and what targets have been met. Whether you’re a CEO in charge of a megabucks mission, or just a parent trying to get their kids organized over the summer vacation, you need to get your tasks written down so that all concerned are fully conversant with what’s happening and what needs to happen.

In short, you need a task board (sometimes called a scrum board). Let’s see what they are and what you need to do to become a task board supremo.

What is a Task Board?

Any surface purposed for organizing a task can be called a task board. So, that’s a sheet of paper on the fridge telling all the family who’s responsible for what. That’s also a shared space on a system giving all project stakeholders information on the task ahead and updates on goals reached so far. Task boards need to have particular characteristics to make them usable and an effective means of organizing a team. These might include the following.

1. Story

An account of what gave rise to the task. For instance, customers have complained about not being able to make effective contact with the business.

2. Tasks

A list of what needs to be done to remedy the situation, with a clear idea of who’s doing it. For instance, Technical will conduct a review of the new IVR and chatbot systems recently launched, and Customer Service will be asked for their perspective.

3. Stage

It tells everyone what’s happening with the tasks right now. For instance, the new IVR and chatbot systems are being checked by Technical, and Customer Service is currently modeling some customer journeys to see if they can replicate the problem.

4. Roadblocks

It is where possible obstacles to a task’s completion are thrown up. For instance, Technical is short-staffed and facing a bit of a backlog, so there may be a delay.

5. Done

It is where it’s recorded that a task’s been completed. It may include some account to explain how a Roadblock was solved, with whatever color’s required to keep management in the loop. For instance, Technical ended up being bolstered by some freelance recruitment, for which it was necessary to procure a freelance recruiter contract template.

brainstorming tasks

When the task is listed as Done, it can be moved off the board and archived so that the next task can take its place.

Physical or Digital?

A task board can be a physical board up on the office wall, with sticky notes representing work in progress and updates. Alternatively, it can be a digital tool with a similar visual design in that it’s an image of a board with project task cards instead of sticky notes.

A lot of people prefer to stick with physical boards because they prefer the way that information is instantly appreciable – you don’t have to wait for systems to update and the board’s not susceptible to power outages or other such troubles. Also, some managers like to have a physical board functioning as a focal point for a team huddle.

On the other hand, some prefer digital boards as they are available for all stakeholders to access, no matter how remotely they’re situated, and they never run out of sticky notes.

New Hire Remote Onboarding Trello board by Stiltsoft, you can copy and customize it

Other digital advantages include multifunctionality – it’s possible to run several different teams doing different tasks, all from the same device. With a physical board set-up, sooner or later you’re going to run out of wall space.

The truth is, there’s less and less need to work in a physical office (for instance, you don’t even need to meet to give signatures – use Proposify or a Proposify alternative and stay as remote as you like). Whichever version of a task board you favor, they share the following advantages.

Advantages of a Task Board

There are several benefits to using a task board, over, say, winging it or simply barking a list of commands to your team and assuming they get on with it.

1. Easy deployment

It’s simplicity itself to find a wall and stick up a board. The only thing you have to worry about is whether you can easily access it to update information.

Similarly, with an online task board, it’s immensely easy to install one and get to work in no time. E-learning is usually available to get you up to speed. Information from other task boards can be dragged and dropped with no difficulty, and simple-to-use automation and reporting functions will have everyone proficient in the system in no time.

2. Improves team communication

stiltsoft team on a zoom call

Often, teams fall when members don’t possess a clear understanding of what other members are doing. It becomes easy to feel that most of the work is being done by certain parts of the team and not by others, or that work done by others is in some way easier or at a lower standard. Group dynamics often tend toward fragmentation in this way.

A task board militates against this by making it clear to all concerned just what the workload is for everyone. So, everyone’s happy that everyone else is doing what they’re supposed to do. It also shows everyone when it’s not a good time to ask a favor or to unveil a particularly onerous but not necessarily urgent job.

3. It pinpoints problems

Task boards show clearly where tasks are getting held up, which might flag up where assistance is required. It can expedite the task for sure, but there are other benefits too. The team sector having difficulty will wind up feeling attended to and supported rather than left to struggle with something it’s not equal to.

Sometimes it’s very disheartening to be ignored, and task boards are great ways of ensuring everyone is visible all the time, so everyone feels much more part of the team.

4. It saves you time

It’s often the case that a snag is called to your attention that could have been resolved by the team member concerned just by looking at the task board. For instance, if they can see that the completion of a PandaDoc training proposal template is being addressed by a particular person, they might be able to seek resolution by contacting them directly rather than involving you.

Types of Task Board

1. Personal task boards

ryver

Image sourced from ryver.com

These are basically ‘to-do’ lists for use by one individual. They lay out what needs to be achieved by the end of the day, week, month, or whatever period applies.

They can be work-focused or may have salient personal items in there too. For instance, if you have a dentist appointment that will keep you out of the office for an hour, that should be on there as a reminder that no task will get done while you’re having your molars meddled with.

The essence of a personal task board is that it’s for your use only. Nobody else needs to have access to it for updates on their tasks. However, company policy may dictate that a line manager should be able to monitor it, so it might be a good idea to bear that in mind.

2. Team task boards

These are boards that are accessed by the entire team. They give information to the team on task apportionment and provide the project manager with information on the task stage.

One of the defining characteristics of a team task board is the high level of detail they contain. It has to be so, as they have to incorporate a helpful idea of what every team member is doing and what stage they’re at. For this reason, a team task board has to have an excellent layout so that detailed information is readily accessible and clear.

Tips for Task Board Mastery

1. Think ahead

Task boards are great for showing where pinch-points are likely to pop up. If you can see where a task is depending on a process that’s not going to be completed on time, you can act to remedy matters. This is an important factor with task boards, so learn to use them to forecast difficulties.

2. Prioritize a priori

Don’t let your team task board get clogged up with too many tasks. Work out what’s a priority and start with those. Those that are suitable for deferral can remain on your personal task board. The reason for this triage is that there’s nothing more demotivating than an overloaded team task board. Thin things out a little, so it looks like there’s at least a chance of a little resolution at some point.

3. Don’t let things slip off-board

Task boards are tremendous boons to workflow and goal achievement, but they do need to be adhered to. All it takes is a couple of instances of forgetting to update the board, and it begins to lose relevance. So, in all your dealings with staff, remind them of how important it is to team efficiency, that their first point of contact regarding a task is the task board.

Tasks Mastered!

Task boards are great organizational tools and in the right hands can revolutionize a workplace. By being clear indications of what everyone’s doing and what remains to be achieved, they bring the team together and get the job done.

 

Yauhen Zaremba – Director of Demand Generation

This is a guest post written by Yauhen, the Director of Demand Generation at PandaDoc, all-in-one document management tool for almost all types of documents including this PandaDoc plumbing contract template. He’s been a marketer for 10+ years, and for the last five years, he’s been entirely focused on the electronic signature, proposal, and document management markets. Yauhen has experience speaking at niche conferences where he enjoys sharing his expertise with other curious marketers. And in his spare time, he is an avid fisherman and takes nearly 20 fishing trips every year.

Two-Minute How-To: Exporting Tables in Confluence Cloud

December 17, 2020
#How To#Confluence Tutorial#Confluence
3 min

In this short blog post, we’ll tell you why Confluence users have to export their reports and how to do it as effectively as possible.

How to export Confluence tables for further processing

Sometimes you may need to pass your Confluence tables to some other data processing programs. The easiest way is to use the Table Filter macro and its Export to CSV feature.

Now you can upload the result .csv file to any database you want.

How to share Confluence reports with your customers

You may also need to share your reports with your customers. The problem is that they don’t have access to your corporate Confluence instance. But a specific part of your report needs their review, so they somehow need to read it.

You can use the Table Filter macro for this task. Just set the required filters in the view page mode and export your table in the .pdf format.

As you can see in the screenshot, you export the filtered table (not the original one), so your customers won’t see irrelevant and sensitive data. Besides, they won’t be able to make accidental changes to the report and compromise your company.

How to share Confluence tables with your partners

If you want to send your report to your partners, you can use the Table Filter macro as well. Filter your table, hide unnecessary columns to make the report readable, and use the Export to Word feature.

The result table will be clear and easy to navigate. Your partners will be able to make any changes they need and combine your data with their own in the joint Word document.

In this post, we’ve shown the filtering, hiding, and exporting options using the quick inline filtration (or live filtration, as you may call it). You can read how to enable this feature in our previous Two-Minute How-to blog post about filtering tables in Confluence Cloud.

Try Table Filter and Charts for Confluence Cloud for free

Two-Minute How-To: Filtering Tables in Confluence Cloud

December 8, 2020
#How To#Confluence
6 min

What is the major advantage of storing data in structured tables? We believe that the answer is the ability to find the relevant information in seconds, be comfortable with your data, and gain insights exactly when you need it. No matter what kind of tables you have and what size they are, you can filter them in Confluence Cloud in the blink of an eye.

In this post, you’ll learn how to filter table data, search for values within the whole table, and hide unnecessary columns.

To get started, you need to enable filtration for tables on a Confluence page by adding the Table Filter macro in the page view mode.

1. How to filter table data

To filter table data, hover over table columns, click the funnel icon in a table header, type or select values, and voila, you filtered the table. Two figures in the upper right corner of the table indicate the number of filtered rows in relation to the total number of entries.

If you’d like to stick to the results of your filtration, you can save these changes.

Pro tip:

Learn more about using Spreadsheets in Confluence

2. How to search within the whole table

In case you don’t know exactly in what column to look for values, you can try the global filter that allows filtering the whole table at once. Use the regular expressions for the advanced search, for instance, when you need the partial word search or search for multiple items.

3. How to hide columns

If your table is large and has a lot of columns, you can hide unnecessary ones to make it readable and easier to navigate.


Learn more about Confluence Cloud

Read our guide to get started with Confluence Cloud macros and learn how you can use them to create engaging content.


This is our second post in the series of Two-Minute How-to blog posts. You can also check how to create polls in Confluence Cloud.

If you have any questions or would like to suggest a topic for the next post, feel free to contact us. Check out the latest news in the How-to category in our blog! 😉

Two-Minute How-To: Creating Polls in Confluence Cloud

November 17, 2020
#How To#Confluence
4 min

What is the best way to get instant feedback from your teammates or blog audience? Polls and surveys definitely do the job.

Let’s quickly recall three use cases where you can benefit most from polls and surveys.

1. Gathering votes from your teammates

With the help of polls, you can collect actual data to find the optimal solution for your task. Make sure that you hear the voices of your teammates before making a final decision in questions that require the involvement of the whole team.

2. Collecting feedback

If you’d like to get instant feedback on the results of your work, you can simply ask the audience. This information will help you improve and provide more relevant results next time.

3. Creating engaging and interactive content

While writing a blog post, surveys allow you to do your research on the go. They also can help you get to know your colleagues better. Moreover, posts become very engaging for readers when they have the opportunity to reflect on the content with the help of your questions.

How to create a poll in Confluence Cloud

The Handy Poll macro is bundled in the Handy Macros for Confluence Cloud app. The macro allows you to add a poll to a Confluence page in a few steps.

If you have any questions regarding the app’s features or would like to suggest a topic for the next Two-minute How to, feel free to contact us. Stay tuned! 🙂

Try Handy Macros for Confluence Cloud for free.

 

How to count lines of code in Bitbucket to decide what SonarQube license you need

October 29, 2020
#Reporting#How To#Bitbucket
10 min

SonarQube is a tool used to identify software metrics and technical debt in the source code through static analysis. While the Community Edition is free and open-source, the Developer, Enterprise, and Data Center editions are priced per instance per year and based on the number of lines of code (LOC). If you want to buy a license for SonarQube, you need to count lines of code for Bitbucket projects and repositories you want to analyze. 

Awesome Graphs for Bitbucket offers you different ways of getting this information. In this post, we’ll show how you can count LOC for your Bitbucket instance, projects, or repositories, using the Awesome Graphs’ REST API resources and Python.

How to count lines of code for the whole Bitbucket instance

Getting lines of code statistics for an instance is pretty straightforward and will only require making one call to the REST API. Here is an example of the curl command:

curl -X GET -u username:password "https://bitbucket.your-company-name.com/rest/awesome-graphs-api/latest/commits/statistics"

And the response will look like this:

{
    "linesOfCode":{
        "added":5958278,
        "deleted":2970874
    },
    "commits":57595
}

It returns the number of lines added and deleted. So, to get the total, you’ll simply need to subtract the number of deleted from the added.

Please note that blank lines are also counted in lines of code statistics in this and the following cases.

How to count lines of code for each project in the instance

You can also use the REST API resource to get the LOC for a particular project, but doing this for each project in your instance will definitely take a while. That’s why we are going to automate this process with a simple Python script that will run through all of your projects, count the total LOC for each one, and then will save the list of project keys with their total LOC to a CSV file.

The resulting CSV will look like this:

And here is the script to get it:

import requests
import csv
import sys

bitbucket_url = sys.argv[1]
bb_api_url = bitbucket_url + '/rest/api/latest'
ag_api_url = bitbucket_url + '/rest/awesome-graphs-api/latest'

s = requests.Session()
s.auth = (sys.argv[2], sys.argv[3])

def get_project_keys():

    projects = list()

    is_last_page = False

    while not is_last_page:
        request_url = bb_api_url + '/projects'
        response = s.get(request_url, params={'start': len(projects), 'limit': 25}).json()

        for project in response['values']:
            projects.append(project['key'])
        is_last_page = response['isLastPage']

    return projects

def get_total_loc(project_key):

    url = ag_api_url + '/projects/' + project_key + '/commits/statistics'
    response = s.get(url).json()
    total_loc = response['linesOfCode']['added'] - response['linesOfCode']['deleted']

    return total_loc


with open('total_loc_per_project.csv', mode='a', newline='') as report_file:

    report_writer = csv.writer(report_file, delimiter=',', quotechar='"', quoting=csv.QUOTE_MINIMAL)
    report_writer.writerow(['project_key', 'total_loc'])

    for project_key in get_project_keys():
        print('Processing project', project_key)
        report_writer.writerow([project_key, get_total_loc(project_key)])

To make this script work, you’ll need to install the requests in advance, the csv and sys modules are available in Python out of the box. You need to pass three arguments to the script when executed: the URL of your Bitbucket, login, password. Here’s an example:

py script.py https://bitbucket.your-company-name.com login password

How to count lines of code for each repository in the project

This case is very similar to the previous one, but this script will get the total LOC for each repository in the specified project. Here, the resulting CSV file will include the list of repo slugs in the specified project and their LOC totals:

Counting lines of code for each repository in Bitbucket

The script:

import requests
import csv
import sys

bitbucket_url = sys.argv[1]
bb_api_url = bitbucket_url + '/rest/api/latest'
ag_api_url = bitbucket_url + '/rest/awesome-graphs-api/latest'

s = requests.Session()
s.auth = (sys.argv[2], sys.argv[3])

project_key = sys.argv[4]


def get_repos(project_key):
    
    repos = list()

    is_last_page = False

    while not is_last_page:
        request_url = bb_api_url + '/projects/' + project_key + '/repos'
        response = s.get(request_url, params={'start': len(repos), 'limit': 25}).json()
        for repo in response['values']:
            repos.append(repo['slug'])
        is_last_page =  response['isLastPage']

    return repos


def get_total_loc(repo_slug):

    url = ag_api_url + '/projects/' + project_key + \
          '/repos/' + repo_slug + '/commits/statistics'
    response = s.get(url).json()
    total_loc = response['linesOfCode']['added'] - response['linesOfCode']['deleted']

    return total_loc


with open('total_loc_per_repo.csv', mode='a', newline='') as report_file:
    report_writer = csv.writer(report_file, delimiter=',', quotechar='"', quoting=csv.QUOTE_MINIMAL)
    report_writer.writerow(['repo_slug', 'total_loc'])

    for repo_slug in get_repos(project_key):
        print('Processing repository', repo_slug)
        report_writer.writerow([repo_slug, get_total_loc(repo_slug)])

You need to pass the URL of your Bitbucket, login, password, project key, which will look as follows:

py script.py https://bitbucket.your-company-name.com login password PROJECTKEY

Want to learn more?

We should note that the total LOC we get in each case shows the number of lines added minus lines deleted for all branches. Due to these peculiarities, some repos may have negative LOC numbers, so it might be useful to look at the LOC for a default branch and compare it to the LOC for all branches.

If you would like to learn how to get this information, write here in the comments or create a request in our Help Center, and we’ll cover it in future posts!

You can also check how to search for commits in Bitbucket, read our blog post that suggests three different ways of how you can do this.

A Strategy Guide to Making Remote Working Successful

October 13, 2020
#How To
15 min

This article was written by Exalate. Exalate is the leading cross-company integration solution that provides flexible, autonomous, and secure bidirectional synchronization between a variety of platforms like Jira, ServiceNow, Azure DevOps, GitHub, and more.

Telecommuting or remote working is nothing new. It has been in place in many businesses already, but 2020 changed the scope of this in ways no one expected. With the global pandemic impacting businesses and economies worldwide, companies needed to look for new ways of working. The mass exodus of employees from the workplace to homes was not only unprecedented, it was very unexpected, leaving many organizations unprepared for the challenges.

In this blog post, we will highlight the challenges of remote working and will show you how to tackle those challenges with the least fuss possible.

What is Remote Work

Remote working is relatively simple in concept. It is the idea of allowing an employee to work in an area outside of the traditional office location. Remote working currently is primarily based out of the home, but previously and likely in the future, that restriction will not be there. 

As such, someone could be working remotely from a local coffee shop, a hotel room, or even the shores of a beach. The popularity of remote work was already on the rise before the pandemic, and it has only become more mainstream since.

With remote working, an essential requirement is that the tools and technologies an employee needs to be effective are available. Historically, remote working required an internet connection and a VPN that would allow connectivity into a corporate network. 

However, SaaS services and other technologies have transformed these requirements. Now, many employees have access to most, if not all, of their work tools via a web browser.

This flexibility has provided the remote worker with the ability to build and plan a schedule that enables an improved work/life balance. By removing commute times, remote workers can experience a level of freedom that has been out of reach for workers since the concept of the office began.

Common Challenges of Remote Work

While remote work has many benefits, some challenges need to be considered both for the employee and the company. 

Access to information 

Remote workers often run into issues obtaining information, and even getting answers to the most straightforward questions can be complicated. In-person, communication in the office is expected. The ability to tap someone on the shoulder or grab them in a lunchroom for a quick answer is simply the norm. With remote working, that capability does not exist.

In addition, remote working with chat and email is very impersonal. Messages can be easily misunderstood if taken out of context and without an understanding of a coworker’s situation. 

Lack of supervision 

Remote work is new not just for employees but also for managers and leaders. Often managers fail to take the complexity of remote working into account, which leads to decreasing performance and efficiencies. Managers are used to being able to monitor their employees directly. Many managers feel that employees will not perform as well if they are not actively monitored. While this might be true for some people and some types of jobs, research has shown this is not true for the bulk of remote workers.

Distractions 

As we have seen it during the pandemic, remote work should not be the model we all aspire to meet. In the best-case scenario, homelife can have an impact on remote working. The enforced nature of the current crisis has only made these issues more evident. Now, many employees are working in rooms and locations that are not ideal, and they are often further impacted by childcare or eldercare concerns.

Isolation 

A positive aspect of the office is the social interaction it provides. Working remotely on a full-time basis can lead to loneliness, which is often worse for employees without a family. This loneliness can lead to a higher level of churn as employees feel less connected to their peers and the workplace.

Overcoming Challenges of Remote Work

Fortunately, while challenges exist with remote work, many are surmountable given the right knowledge, training, and tools.

Improving communication 

With employees unable to interact face-to-face, the likelihood of miscommunication is increased. Non-verbal cues or body language are critical components of how we interact. Email and chat do not provide this same level of information exchange, and it is also not as interactive as face-to-face communication. 

An excellent solution to resolve this problem is video conferencing. Video meetings have become the norm in many businesses. It is true that video is not the same as face-to-face. It is, however, an outstanding substitute. Recorded videos can also be used to ensure that coworkers unable to attend a meeting in person have access to the same information, which is extremely useful for employees working in different time zones. 

There are some instances where video conferencing is not needed – in these circumstances, ensure that your team has access to mobile collaboration tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Knowledge sharing

An informal knowledge sharing is difficult with remote working. However, there are ways to work around the limitations imposed by distance. While unnecessary meetings should be avoided where possible, a regular touchpoint within teams without a set agenda can be useful. These watercooler touchpoints should offer employees the opportunity to discuss non-work related topics, improving team cohesion. 

Structured daily check-ins 

Successful managers and leaders have found that a regular cadence of scheduled meetings is useful for team morale. These meetings do not all need to be related to work; as mentioned earlier, having a more informal meeting is extremely useful. 

The critical point to understand is that the meetings should be regular and predictable. Employees should know that they will have an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns and that their voices will be heard. 

Emotional support 

Good managers and leaders understand that sometimes work is more than simple numbers. People and teams matter, and managers and leaders need to allow them to discuss the stresses related to working remotely. 

Simply asking how they are one-on-one is a good way of finding information that would not otherwise be shared. The focus needs to be on the employee and how they deal with the situation and not on the company’s bottom line. Employees look to their manager for cues, so expressing confidence in their ability and the team’s ability to deal with the situation is a good strategy. However, listen to other signals that might require additional support from others in the business.

Tools and technology 

If employees work remotely, they require the same level of access available to in-office employees. In addition to access, other considerations need to include a chat tool, a video conferencing tool, and a shared location to store files and information. In addition, based on the role, shared design tools, shared project management solutions, and others also need to be considered. 

In some cases, middleware applications need to be considered as part of a company’s technical stack. These applications help improve inter-company interactions making employees more efficient and effective. 

When considering middleware tools, look towards tools like Stiltsoft’s and Exalate that can help improve collaboration, integration, and efficiencies. 

With Stiltsoft’s products, you can visualize important data, organize remote onboarding, manage your projects in Jira, Confluence, and Bitbucket.

With Exalate, companies can integrate data between a variety of platforms and maintain a seamless collaboration that is able to cross company boundaries.

Build trust  

Managers need to trust their employees to do the job without oversight. Similarly, employees need to trust that managers and leaders are representing them. This level of trust only occurs over time and is based on the commitments you have made and whether you follow through on them. 

As a manager and leader, consider that you have hired people with the skills needed to do the job. Trust in them and their ability and learn not to micromanage. By giving them the authority to make decisions for themselves, you improve not only their morale but also their efficiency.

The Future of Remote Work

Remote working was already something, many companies were starting to explore. However, given the time now, having a remote working plan seems to be a necessity. Many new hires expect remote work opportunities, and in many cases, employees will take pay cuts if that will provide them with a chance to work from home. 

While the world has changed radically throughout 2020, one thing has become clear. Remote working is not only practical, it is something that is going to continue to grow in popularity. While there continue to be challenges in managing a remote workforce, the right technologies and motivated employees are a recipe for success.