Why another task manager?

I can hear you saying it now:

“I mean really?
Another task management app?
Didn’t you have anything better to do?
What more can you possibly bring to the table?”

It began with the need to smoothly execute a massive migration of Velaro’s customer base from our legacy product to a new major release. Unlike typical SaaS product updates, this one was going to require some heavy lifting with our customers and our customer service team. We needed a way to organize the migration of hundreds of customers at a time.

This was a big, ugly job, with major implications for our customers’ satisfaction, one way or the other. The process needed to be both easy and transparent to the customer, and relatively effortless for the customer service team–who still had to do their ‘day job’ during this migration process–or we’d have even bigger headaches to deal with.

Though we had been using a major task management application for years (one you’ve probably heard of), to great success–this new migration challenge was simply beyond the application’s capabilities.

As it is in most situations, necessity was the mother of invention…

Why We Didn’t Stay Happy Customers

As I mentioned, we’d been long term and happy customers of a major task management application for years, so we naturally started there. Within a day of loading that system with our first twenty customer migrations, things started falling apart. We quickly realized why this wasn’t going to work for us; our trusted task management app fell short in four big ways:

True Project Management – We needed a system that was organized around projects, not tasks. Sure, all the task management apps have some sort of way to bucket task lists into what they call a “project”. But in most cases, they don’t go much further than the equivalent of naming a folder.

Outward Facing Collaboration – We wanted to include our customers. It was critical that we had a place the customer could see the progress of their account. Since there was to be a lot of communication and collaboration with each customer, we wanted a place everyone could go to chat, share files, and generally keep their pulse on what was happening. Many task management applications pay a little homage to “public” task lists, but don’t work to provide something that truly engages external participants.

High Level Reporting – We wanted a way for the management team to get insight into the overall progress of all the projects at once. In our case, we needed to see how well all the migrations were going from a macro-view. Task management apps simply aren’t built for that.

Simple Process Automation – We realized that checklists are inherently different than to-do lists. Mostly, checklists are linear by nature. They manage a process. To-do lists do not fundamentally act that way. We wanted a way to do things like measure progress thru the list, and auto-schedule one task after another completed.

Although our task management application had served us well for years, there was no way around the fact that it simply could not meet these new needs.

So, we started looking elsewhere and iterated through several similar apps. Some were better at the project management aspect, and some were a little better at the customer communications. Unfortunately, they all fell well short of meeting our now clearly identified overall needs:

The Search for True Project Management (cont.)

Though we were obviously disappointed that our first attempts to find a solution didn’t work out, we were emboldened by the fact that we at least had a very clear sense of what it was we were looking for. Un-discouraged, our next step was to look at the more traditional project management apps. You know, the ones with Gantt charts, resource leveling, and network diagrams?

Let’s just say it took us about 20 minutes to realize that these solutions weren’t for us. They were far too cumbersome. They didn’t scale to the number of active projects we wanted to have open at any given time (recall: migrating hundreds of customers at a time). They didn’t make it easy for our support team to keep project statuses up to date, and finally, they provided almost no ability to interact with our customers. So, those were of no use to us.

Still not disheartened, we decided to give Google Docs a try (and honestly, this is where the alarm bells started going off in my maker-brain that there may be an opportunity here). We started by creating a template Google Docs spreadsheet with our “default” checklist.

Every time we started a new project we would simply create a copy of that doc, name it after the customer, and then share that document out with the customer. This is a process used by many organizations today; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been invited to participate or check-in on a Google doc that was shared out by one of our vendors. I knew from experience it was convenient enough, but could it really meet our needs?

We ultimately found that our customers liked this way of doing things since almost everyone knows how to use Google Docs, but unfortunately, it did literally nothing to address our other three needs.


Becoming the Change We Sought

So we finally decided to build Rumblelist. We built out a 2-page requirements document and raced to get an MVP version of it into our team’s hands in just a few weeks. For the last two months, we have been using it quite successfully. Take a look at our Customer Migration dashboard now:


None of this was possible with any of the other tools we looked at, and our team is much happier.

The Epilogue: Going Beyond Migration

During the initial development we started applying the concepts we were building into other business ideas. All we had to do was look a little deeper within our own organization and we immediately started coming up with new types of checklists our new tool could help us execute (we don’t even use the word “checklist” anymore, everything is a Rumblelist).

Within a month we had Rumblelists to help us manage multiple sales and customer service activities: new customer onboarding, quarterly customer review processes, and sales demo setup and coordination, to name a few. Our HR team immediately started building a New Employee Rumblelist, and our marketing team started using Rumblelists as their “go live” checklist for every new blog that was about to be published.

Needless to say, Rumblelist quickly became an integral part of our business and we started realizing we were on to something. The ability to apply Rumblelists to almost any business are apparent. We use Rumblelist to automate a host of generic business processes, and are confident that every business can use Rumblelist to do the same.

More importantly, we see the unlimited ways that Rumblelist can be applied to small businesses and departmentally within larger organizations. I’m most excited about putting Rumblelist in front of the millions of small businesses that do freelance and contract/consulting work for their customers. These companies typically have a structured delivery process that is presented to the customer in a step-by-step fashion. Rumblelist helps organize the repetitive nature of their service and builds in some awesome customer communication features to help them stand out and truly leave a mark.

My hope is that Rumblelist helps make our users’ daily jobs a lot easier, and makes the project management aspect of their work a lot more fun. The process of managing everyday repetitive projects and keeping tabs on all of them in a simple fashion is our ultimate goal. Please give Rumblelist a … well… a rumble, and let me know what you think!