Automating our project onboarding process

We use quite a few web apps at Good Work to help simplify our day to day life. On the operations side, that’s Trello, Harvest and Forecast. We use Trello to visualize project flow, Harvest for time tracking and reporting, and Forecast for scheduling the team.

Here’s our process for onboarding a new project and how that works with the 3 systems above.

  1. A templated email goes out to our master queue list with the client name, project name, budget and any pre-project details we have about the job. This email comes from the project manager, and goes out to me and the bookkeeper.
  2. The project manager adds a card to the Planning column in our “Master Queue” Trello board with the details from the email. The project manager and myself are assigned to the card.
  3. I add the project to Harvest
  4. I add the project to Forecast and schedule it in with someone
  5. Lastly, I go to the card on the Trello board, add whoever is going to actually do the work, add a deadline and move the card to the “To do” column.

Once the project is complete, it goes to the “GTFO” column, but that’s for a different blog post.

It’s a good process, so I don’t want to change it, but it takes a minimum of 6 to 8 minutes to complete. A week or so ago I started thinking about how much time that actually is per year, gagged a little, and then started thinking about how we could automate this process to make things easier on ourselves.

First, I went into Harvest to see how many projects have come through the queue in 2016. For us, projects are anything from a 30 minute job on a legacy project to a full website redesign. They all start with the process mentioned above.

Just shy of 3 months into 2016 and that number is a shocking 175 projects. With some quick math we can assume that’s at least 70 hours per year. Woah! Time to whip something together.

I quickly scrapped together a prototype with Wufoo + Zapier that automates step 1 through 3 for us, and we’ve been using it for a few days now. It’s been a good way to help test out and realize how we’ll go about automating this whole process when making the real deal.

It’s always good practice to take a step back to see where you can save time and money by automating some of your repetitive, day to day tasks.

Now, what to do with all of this extra time?