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Why I'm Making ThetaBoard

Apr 6th, 2012 / Agile Agile Manifesto Software

Nobody really likes to be criticized or have their startup ideas questioned. Over the course of the day yesterday I got some feedback about my current project and it's prospects for success:

"the only problem is we have project management web app fatigue."

and

"This is a service that I've seen before. Not yours of course, but others like it."

Very similar comments telling me that web-based project management tools are a dime-a-dozen. These were not vitriolic comments mind you. They just wanted to know why they should consider--and I should bother writing--yet another project management tool.

Your Project Management Tool Sucks to Everyone But You

Everyone works differently so it makes sense that everyone's ideal project management software would be different. Invariably, if you get a team of 5 people to use a tool, at least one of them will not like the tool you've choosen. At best, you can get people to suck it up and use the tool in front of them. However, in time, the process will begin to break down and ultimately the tool will be abandoned. What is the longest you've stuck with the same project management tool?

Your Software Shits on the Agile Manifesto

The very first tenet of the Agile Manifesto is:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

It would lead you to believe that tools developed to faciliate agile software development would practice what they preach. Unfortunately they don't. Project Management software nearly always tries to impart its genius new process designed to supercharge your development.

Unfortunately, the development process you have built into your software is your process. Your customers likely don't share your vision. You may actually convince them that it will improve their process so they sign up for your product. It's their job to convince their team members. It doesn't work.

By introducing your genius new workflow/project management tool you are putting the focus of your software development on the tool and forcing your individual team members to adjust. It's as unagile as it gets.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of these tools are slick as hell. And I'm not saying they aren't great products. I'm sure they help a lot of people get a lot done. But they all put process and tool ahead of individuals and interaction.

So What's So Special About ThetaBoard

Right now--nothing. It's just a buggly MVP that I decided to launch before it was ready so I could start getting feedback. But my vision for it excites me:
  • Simplicity at it's core. ThetaBoard is going to be a barebones (yet effective) tool for keeping track of projects and tasks.
  • Customizable. You will be able to customize your ThetaBoard to fit your company's development process. Furthermore, your users will be able to further customize their ThetaBoard experience so they like it more.
  • Extensible. Users will be able to add functionality to ThetaBoard's core functionality through APIs.

I think that the #1 reason people stop using a tool is because it contains too many unused features. There is something psychological about that excess, waste and clutter. I think that if I can create a tool that removes all of this excess, people will use it and use it longer.

ThetaBoard Sucks Too

I know. In fact I constantly find myself violating the first tenet of the Agile Manifesto myself. I've let terms like "iterations" and "stories" creep into the design and code. I constantly find myself making decisions on behalf of my future users. When this happens, I stand back, and rip out the functionality and start over.

There are two camps that won't ever like ThetaBoard: people who feel like ThetaBoard imparts its own process on them and those who need much more functionality. I'm going strive to make the first group of users very, very small. I'm going to simply ignore the latter.

What you see now is an MVP that's taken a wrong turn. I've gone back to the drawing board and started a complete redesign to stick more closely to the vision described above. When ThetaBoard finally leaves beta and I start adding premium plans, I think it will be a tool that sits in the background and adapts to your process letting you really supercharge your development.

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