How GitHub Projects has supercharged our development workflow

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Donovan Roubos

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  • Dev
  • Company

Staying up to date and evolving with your industry is inevitable to stay relevant. We know this as a digital agency and the same goes for digital tools. Read on to learn more about why we left our previously favorite tools for something new, shiny and future proof.

It’s a fond memory of ours when Trello, BitBucket and Jira used to be go-to tools to run an efficient development team. As a matter of fact we wrote a blog post about why we moved away from Jira with our design team. A smaller team with almost no remote team mates meant simpler requirements. As times changed and hybrid working became the new normal way of working, our set of expectations for a good project management tool became key to success for our business and allow our team to build amazing products. Meanwhile, GitHub Projects had evolved to a mature and solid product that was now able to solve most of our challenges.

Bye-bye Jira

Around two years ago we were knee deep into Atlassian tools. They provided us with an amazing suite of tools, most impressively Jira in combination with BitBucket. The whole agency successfully ran on both of those tools for years. Our team and the amount of simultaneously active projects grew, as did our desire for a clean, clear interface with logical user flows and great performance. We found ourselves in need of having the right information at our fingertips. Unfortunately the tools we were using did not offer this. Another thing that was missing in our opinion was a bigger community, a tight integration with our repositories and lack of time savers like templates. GitHub had its own issue reporting system, but wasn’t in fact that scalable. And while GitHub issues, Jira and BitBucket felt “stuck in the past” GitHub was actively building their product GitHub Projects, completely focussed on scalability and tailored to developers.

What makes GitHub Projects amazing?

You know what developers most enjoy doing? It’s actually building things (surprise!). Keeping their primary focus on developing and building enticing products (within reasonable time frames) should be the goal of any project management tool. In our vision that means a tool should merge project planning (issues), code hosting (repositories) and pipelines (actions) together into one powerful tool. This didn’t feel like a bridge too far for GitHub as many of these requirements were already available as features, yet not integrated together nicely. Introducing: GitHub Projects.

We fell in love with GitHub Projects right off the bat because of 5 things:

  1. Seamless integration of repos and issues

  2. Familiarity with their user interface and flows

  3. Highly configurable views

  4. Community based public roadmap

  5. Frequent stream of new features

Our ability to improve communication, collaborate seamlessly and organize information and the overall DX (Developer Experience) has improved immensely since we started using GitHub Projects. The whole development process has been optimized and team mates are generally much happier and more productive.

3 tips on how to setup GitHub Projects for success

Along the way we learned a few lessons by setting up multiple projects for our team. Our process is now more streamlined, efficient and predictable than ever. Follow these 3 tips to kickstart your usage of GitHub Projects in an efficient way:

  1. Define your workflow: This means identifying the stages your tasks will go through and other data that is needed to categorize the issue, such as "To Do," "In Progress," and "Done" or adding prioritization, labels, issue sizes, etc. This helps ensure that all team members are on the same page and tasks are defined properly.

  2. Set up automation: GitHub Projects allows you to automate certain tasks like moving tasks between columns or adding labels based on certain criteria. This is called ‘workflows’. Workflows can save you time and help you keep your project board up-to-date at all times. Besides, receiving automated notifications or reminders via Slack also allows you to keep track of the issues.

  3. Collaborate with your team and clients: GitHub Projects is a collaborative tool. That means it's important to involve your team and client in the process. Encourage team members to add tasks, update details, and move tasks between columns as needed and inform your client about your process. This will help keep everyone on the same page so they know what to do next.

What’s missing in GitHub Projects

Although GitHub Projects comes crazy close to perfection, no tool is perfect. Take into account that currently GitHub Projects does not offer custom automation workflows, and it also doesn’t include the design team as much in the whole project planning as desired. While no big red flags for us, it’s something to keep in mind when thinking about making the switch.

GitHub Projects would make our lives even better if they’d add the following features:

  1. Custom automation workflows: Being able to customize how you want to automate your complete workflow is something that is still restricted to predefined workflows. `

  2. Roadmaps: Roadmaps is something that GitHub has working on behind the scenes for a while, but not publicly released yet. Something we’re really looking forward to!

  3. Dependencies: It would be useful to have a way to indicate dependencies between tasks. That way team members can see how tasks are related and what needs to be done before a task can be started.

  4. Embedding (Figma) links: Pasting screenshots of a design into the issue gives context about what the issue visually is about. Needless to say these don’t update automatically like a Figma embed would. 

We truly can’t wait to see what's in store for GitHub Projects. Are you using GitHub Projects in a different way, or have any tips for us to improve our workflow, like using project codes for your projects? Reach out to me on Twitter, we would love to hear from you!

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