Wheels, Mousetraps and Other Clichés

Steven NgProject Management, SoftwareLeave a Comment

It’s A Matter of Perspective

In just about every possible discipline, “reinventing the wheel” is considered a wasteful use of time and effort. To coin another cliché, what you really want to do is “build a better mouse trap”. The problem, however, is that those two clichés describe the same activity. A lot of people who are criticized for reinventing the wheel are could just as easily be complimented for building a better mouse trap.

When we built Assign It To Me, we knew there were tons of other successful, well-made project management tools out there. Vince and I had a particular way of doing things, and none of the tools we tried were really optimized for that. For the longest time, we used a bug tracking tool (Fogbugz, in case you’re wondering) for managing billable project work. We still use Fogbugz today, but we actually use it for what it’s designed for— tracking bugs in Assign It To Me.

In the end, we wanted a project management tool that we would love using every day and prevent our projects from losing money. From one perspective, you could say “that wheel has been already reinvented many times”. From our perspective, however, we thought that “there has to be a better mousetrap”… one that works the way we do. So we built it.

Horses for Courses

So why don’t we use Assign It To Me for tracking bugs? Assign It To Me can certainly do that, but we like to use the best tool for the job. While we developed Assign It To Me with an opinionated design, we still made it flexible enough to accommodate multiple working styles. Even between the two of us, Vince and I have vastly different work styles in certain circumstances.

I personally use Assign It To Me in ways that don’t match its intended purpose. While Assign It To Me might be best for billing companies, at its core, Assign It To Me is still like many other project management systems. While we regularly add useful features, we do only try to do one thing well— allow billing companies to manage the profitability of their projects. Some of our features support that, and some of our features overlap with other products, like our time tracking.

But I’ll be the first to tell you, there are a lot of one-trick-ponies out there that can do things like time tracking better than us. And that’s OK. We think that we do profitability better than a lot of other project management solutions out there, because that’s where our primary focus is.

One Thing Well

We’re a one-trick-pony too. Our focus is on project profitability. Sure, our pony’s one trick is actually made up of a bunch of smaller tricks. Those smaller tricks aren’t necessarily mind blowing on their own, but put together, Assign It To Me is greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s not our goal to be the best insert feature here out there. There are a gazillion other products, products that do one thing well, that are better than Assign It To Me at insert feature here. Our position on these features is to provide a minimally viable set of functionality so that a company that doesn’t already have a tool doesn’t have to buy or subscribe to one.

If you try to be everything to everybody, you’re only going to end up with a gigantic piece of bloatware. It’s a slippery slope, because users are always going to demand more. Instead of becoming a giant piece of bloatware, we plan on building out an API for Assign It To Me to let our users integrate with other one-trick-ponies who are best at what they do.

Our Better Mousetrap

Assign It To Me is our mousetrap for project profitability. That might change in the future, if our user makeup is not what we expected, but that’s our goal for now. You can still use it if you don’t care about project profitability, because the same things that lead to project profitability lead to successful project completion. And Assign It To Me provides a strong foundation for running successful projects.

We’ve been hard at work improving our mousetrap to accommodate different work styles too. Our latest version now lets you toggle among new project views— a Kanban-like panel view, an Excel-like worksheet view and a beta Microsoft Project-like Gantt view. Check it out, we think you might like these new views.

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