I’m going to dig into how you can use Redmine to manage WordPress development projects. It’s the most popular open-source project management tool, and it’s used by thousands of web development agencies around the world to manage web development projects.
You can use Redmine to build better relationships with your clients, offload work to other people and create repeatable processes, so you can do more work in less time.
At Planio, we started out as a web development agency delivery projects for clients, and our clients kept asking if they could keep access to our project management tool, which was Redmine.
That’s why we started offering hosted Redmine over six years ago. Since then, we’ve learned quite a bit about how you can use it to scale client work from working with thousands of customers.
Automated Over-Communication with Clients
You’ve might have heard this line before:
“If you get an email from a client asking for a status update, you already failed at the project.”
Clients, especially new ones, want as much communication as possible. To you, it might be just a routine WordPress lead generation site, but to them, it’s a symbol of their hopes and dreams for their business.
You can invite your clients to a project in Redmine, and give them a custom-defined client role. They’ll be able to see all the issues in the project and see progress towards milestones such as design, development and deployment.
You can have private comments on all issues in Redmine, so you don’t have to reveal everything to clients.
At the same time, some clients won’t use any tool you use, not matter how hard you try. In this case, you can configure Redmine to send them automated daily reports on all issues due in the projects. We’ve included daily reports as a core feature in Planio, but it’s actually pretty easy to set up in your own Redmine as well using a redmine:send_reminders rake task.
You’ll get automated reporting on projects for your clients without having to spend time manually writing up emails.
Avoid the #1 Client Nightmare with Workflows
Here’s what you want to avoid: you have a challenging new project, so you decide to bill it on a time & material basis due to the unknowns involved.
You spend all month busily working away on the project, occasionally sending the client a quick email saying things are going well and that some serious progress is getting done.
Come the end of the month, you send over the invoice to the client, and about 30 seconds after you emailed it, your phone starts ringing.
Your (now furious) client is demanding how you dared to invoice such an outrageous sum.
This is a situation that could have been avoided with more client participation. By including them in the sign-off of each step, you make it far less likely that they’ll get shocked at the end of the project.
You can use custom Workflows in Redmine, so only clients can set tasks to “Approved”. You can also set dependencies on tasks, so clients will see in their daily email updates on the project where they’re holding up things by not giving feedback.
Keep an Eye on the Crucial KPIs for Any Services-Based Business
Key metrics for client projects are the budgeted hours, the actual hours spent and the percentage completion of the project.
Without tracking these metrics, you won’t know how much you’re spending per project, and you’ll have a hard time answering the classic question, “How far are we on the project?”.
Pricing becomes a lot easier when you have really good metrics on what projects actually cost you. You can start considering different pricing models such as monthly retainers or super-transparent “nearest fifteen minute” billing.
Obviously, you can track time directly in Redmine. But you can also use custom fields to create really granular reports. For instance, you can create a custom Boolean field, so you mark time tracked as “Billable” or not.
You’ll be able to see if your team is spending a significant portion of their time on non-billable tasks (which brings us on to my favourite part).
Building a Well-Oiled Services Machine
At some stage, you might want to scale your WordPress business beyond just you and a few freelancers.
It’s more expensive to delegate a task to someone if you don’t provide exact instructions, because you need to hire more senior people. You can hire more junior staff, but only if you take what’s stored in your brain and provide in a form that other people can repeat.
If your projects tend to have a fairly defined process, you can create a master project in Redmine, and then duplicate it for each new project.
Another example is a checklist template that you can use to add a predefined set of tasks to an issue in Redmine with a click.
A challenge with building processes for businesses is that the processes that will add the most value to your company will be very specific to your own situation.
One way to define your processes is to sketch out the entire processes from start to finish on a whiteboard and start turning those into repeated (or even automated) processes.
For example, Jennifer Bourn from Bourn Creative set up an automated email onboarding sequence for new clients. In these emails, new clients were prepped on what to expect, what they needed to provide and how they could provide constructive feedback.
Choose a Software Development Methodology that Works for You
Software development methodologies are never a silver bullet that removes all frustrations in one fell swoop.
Depending on the type of work you do, you’ll might find that a ‘Waterfall’ approach to building websites might, gasp, actually work for you. You can set up milestones for planning, design, development, deployment and post deployment.
Build a System that Works for You
It will require a lot of investment in time upfront to make any project management system work for you.
The advantage of Redmine is that it’s open source, so you always control your data and where you host it. For instance, you can host your instance of Redmine on any server, or you can go with hosted Redmine from someone like us at Planio, if you’re rather not deal with the hassle of hosting.
Secondly, if you have specific needs, you can look at any of the Redmine plugins or have something developed just for you, because of the open source nature of Redmine.
The pay off for having great processes in place is that you can delegate more work, knowing that the work will get done to the standard you require, because you’ve defined each step in the process.
Ultimately, you’ll go from being a paid-by-the-hour freelance to a business owner. You’ll free up energy and resources to focus on, well, whatever you want!