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“Everything in One Place” is a Big Deal

Posted by Jon Friedman on Thu, Jun 23, 2011
  
  

An Assembla "space" keeps everything in one place.  In this case “everything” means all of the code, tickets, comments, messages, files, wiki entries and chat sessions related to a project, and "one place" is the workspace for that project.

When I joined Assembla my reaction to that characteristic was: “That’s nice, but how important is it really? These days everything is on somebody’s hard drive, or stored in the cloud. Nothing is going to get lost.”

But I’ve come to realize that “everything in one place” is a big deal, on three different levels.

1. On the personal level, it saves me a lot of time. Sure, all of my work files are on a hard drive somewhere. But then someone asks for a paragraph I wrote three months ago. Which directory did I put that in? Is it in a Word file, or was it on a PowerPoint slide? Or in an email in my gmail account, or my Exchange mailbox? No, maybe it was from a Skype chat? And there goes an hour of my life searching all those places.

With Assembla, if the paragraph is related to project XYZ, then I can look in the activity stream for that project, or go right to the one or two tools where it must have been entered.

2. On the team level. Now I don’t have to worry that Jeff or Nadia's hard drive has a crucial file that I need right now, at 1:00 in the morning. And when someone new joins our team, they can come up to speed quickly without a lot of handholding. They can see everything, not just the code in the repository, but all of the tickets completed and opened, and all of the ideas that went into planning and managing the project. Those factors can have a measurable effect on getting the project done faster.

3. On the business level.

(A). Companies are now shifting staff around between projects all the time, so being able to bring new members up to speed quickly is not just nice to have, it is a facilitator for the whole business model.

(B) What happens when somebody gets sick suddenly, goes on vacation, or quits? If a crucial document or piece of code is on their hard drive, or in their desk drawer, the company misses deadlines or loses money duplicating work.

(C) “Everything in one place” offers a kind of insurance policy for customers (external or internal). If the team can’t complete the work for some reason, the entire project can be handed off to another development group, specifications, code, task list, test plans, documentation, and all. That dramatically changes the risk profile. The risk is no longer losing an entire six or twelve months' work. The worst case is now needing a few days or weeks for new people to look at all of the documents and code and come up to speed.

Some custom development shops have turned this attribute into a major selling point with their customers (see our blog post “Can Agile work with client projects? Gravity Jack’s Way”). But the same principle applies to enterprise IT environments as well.

So “everything in one place” can be a pretty big deal after all.

Now if only I could figure out where I put that paragraph they asked me for...

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COMMENTS

The 'everything in one place' is the reason we are using Assembla instead of a combination of other services.  
 
By having developers, managers and support in one place, the Stream becomes a very very useful tool that keeps you informed and makes meetings unneeded. 
 
The only thing we miss is a test management tool such as Test Run, and then we could have testers on the same boat. 

posted @ Monday, June 27, 2011 9:44 AM by Pau Garcia i Quiles


I couldn't agree more. When your product is creative, coupled with custom code, a tool like Assembla where everything is under one roof is ESSENTIAL.

posted @ Monday, June 27, 2011 11:10 AM by Mike McKasty


Jon, 
 
While I agree with benefits of Assembla, I think that it needs to be pointed out that it is most beneficial for the distributed teams. With a team onsite I can accomplish everything you mentioned with ease. Note, that I do not disagree with the conclusion, just the cited examples. 
 
1. On the personal level, it saves me a lot of time. Sure, all of my work files are on a hard drive somewhere. But then someone asks for a paragraph I wrote three months ago. Which directory did I put that in? Is it in a Word file, or was it on a PowerPoint slide? Or in an email in my gmail account, or my Exchange mailbox? No, maybe it was from a Skype chat? And there goes an hour of my life searching all those places. 
>> well, you can start with creating a dedicated folder for each project, using only one e-mail for your project work, etc. If you are not organized assembla won't save you. You can put that "paragraph" in a wrong project, wiki, file repository, etc. if you are not organized, you will still have an issue. 
 
2. On the team level. Now I don’t have to worry that Jeff or Nadia's hard drive has a crucial file that I need right now, at 1:00 in the morning.  
>> ever heard of shared network drives? again, it is about discipline. Jeff or Nadia might store that file locally and not in assembla unless they are trained to do otherwise. 
 
 
3. On the business level. 
(A). Companies are now shifting staff around between projects all the time, so being able to bring new members up to speed quickly is not just nice to have, it is a facilitator for the whole business model. 
>> this assumes that you keep you docs up to date.  
 
(B) What happens when somebody gets sick suddenly, goes on vacation, or quits? If a crucial document or piece of code is on their hard drive, or in their desk drawer, the company misses deadlines or loses money duplicating work. 
>> this is again about discipline. just having assembla does not solve the problem.  
 
(C) “Everything in one place” offers a kind of insurance policy for customers (external or internal). If the team can’t complete the work for some reason, the entire project can be handed off to another development group, specifications, code, task list, test plans, documentation, and all. That dramatically changes the risk profile. The risk is no longer losing an entire six or twelve months' work. The worst case is now needing a few days or weeks for new people to look at all of the documents and code and come up to speed. 
>> at the same time if you need to move to a different tool, i.e. from Assembla to some new Google Offering, you are, how would I put it... "stuck" 
 
What I am saying is that Assembla is just a facilitator tool. It is very good, bit it is important to remember that it is more about organizational discipline than a tool. After all, folks did OK before Assembla and Microsoft hasn't fallen apart without using it even today :) 

posted @ Friday, July 01, 2011 9:42 AM by Eugene


Eugene, 
 
Yes, you are certainly right that discipline is critical. If people keep putting materials on their own hard drives, tools won't make any difference. 
 
But if people are willing to be organized, then having good collaborative tools makes it possible to find things much more easily than, say, using a shared drive. 
 
For example, with Assembla you can associate files with tickets and projects. So if you know that a document, or image file, or piece of code is associated with a task (which you usually do), to can find it quickly on the ticket, or in the activity stream for the workspace, which is much easier than hunting through directories. Plus you can find comments and other files associated with the task. You get a lot more pointers between all the related artifacts. 
 
And yes, if everyone is at one location, it is much easier to work around these problems. But most teams have at least some people working at home, if not on several continents.

posted @ Friday, July 01, 2011 10:37 AM by Jon Friedman


Yes - all in one place is great for teams including project maangement and developer elements.  
 
What I am trying to find out what we can do in Assembla is - to transfer tickets from one Space to another, or how to search for info or duplicate tickets across different spaces. I've just found the community free text search tool which seems to do this, so randomly a feature created for a different purpose could turn out to be our best way of checking for duplicate tickets across Assembla!

posted @ Monday, July 11, 2011 11:38 AM by eliza tyrrell


I agree, it is always easy to manage when we have everything in one place.

posted @ Saturday, August 06, 2011 1:09 AM by Mack


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