A great boyfriend is like a great piece of software, and vice versa.
It’s another Tuesday at my desk job as a copy project manager, with the Portland rain coming down in sheets outside my office window, and I’m picturing a tropical paradise while I read a mini masterpiece of e-commerce copy about board shorts.
The writer nailed the voice and the researcher made sure to point out the hidden key pocket that lets you enjoy warm ocean waves without later finding yourself locked out of your cabana. Next, the editor and proofer will dot those grammar i’s and cross those legal t’s. After a final audit, the copy will be sent off on time and on tone, delivered with ease — a project manager’s dream come true.
It wasn’t always this painless, though. It feels like a past life now, but there was a time when I had to operate without that rhythm of support, trust and partnership with my whole team.
In this past life I went by the title “sales coordinator,” working in a juggling act of Excel templates and outdated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. I could host a storytelling marathon about the many times we lost data, quoted incorrect pricing, or used the wrong version of a report. In those days, it was me against technology, a daily knock-down drag-out cage fight: project manager versus software.
Excel was no friend of mine, and certainly no partner — getting to know Excel was like trying to love a cinderblock wall. It was a textbook unhealthy relationship. Even after training sessions, which felt more like couples therapy, we still never really… clicked. We just existed in the same space while fruitlessly trying to relate to one another.
Our outdated ERP system didn’t help anything. It was like dealing with a sociopath whose passive aggressive manipulation manifested in withholding data, or in angry outbursts of confusing error messages. I was stuck in a cycle of mistreatment, hoping and praying to find the one who would treat me right and help me succeed. More than anything, I wanted software that was on my side.
If only I knew the right places to meet decent software! As a project manager, I was desperate to meet better software in order to do good work. But what was I even looking for? Time to do what project managers do best, make a checklist.
1. Copy production software should be easy on the eyes.
First of all, I knew it needed to look good. Not to sound superficial here, but if I was going to interact with a system every day it better be nice to look at. Relaxed, open and confident. Just-returned-from-a-restful vacation, beaming-with-radiant-energy kind of relaxed. The kind of interface that was easy to navigate and encouraged exploration. To put it bluntly, I wanted love at first sight.
2. Copy production software should be organized.
In addition to a handsome exterior, I needed a multitude of organizational options. What if one project received review with the client and another didn’t? The job required a support system with a reliable structure that could accommodate the reorganization and changes inherent in project management. I imagined a dashboard like a clean, orderly countertop in a well-used kitchen. The blender can be easily pulled out for a 7 a.m. smoothie, used and washed, and then put right back in its place for tomorrow’s breakfast.
3. Copy production software should value communication.
I was tired of sending email after email to my team or clients to inform them of updates and changes. I needed a program that could cherish communication, enjoy sharing information and easily automate group updates. I dreamed of software to replace our game of phone tag and create a system where information was not just passed but shared. With the click of a button, we could become a hive-minded network, like ants or mushrooms. But instead of using pheromones or mycelia to transfer information, we’d use technology.
4. Copy production software should not be afraid to use the “R” word.
For many project managers, myself included, maintaining relationships with clients and teams is a critical part of the job. I knew my software partner should offer tools aimed at encouraging fluid, efficient and even enjoyable communication between clients and team members. I was more than ready to say goodbye to the days of an overflowing email inbox, monthly cross-country travel, and lengthy conference calls to keep up with the client. My dream software needed to truly understand, value and accommodate all the relationships in my work life.
5. Copy production software should honor your history. (Even if there isn’t much of it yet!)
Many of us have been there: a few days before a project is due, months of work are placed delicately into a spreadsheet and stored on the company server — only to find the server has suffered a bout of amnesia and the file is nowhere to be found. When you get the saved version from your own hard drive, it’s missing design updates and current pricing, so you pull an all-nighter getting it ready again. Soon you’re cursing technology and raw-edge hems, the mention of which is somehow missing from every model!
A good software program should value the history we created together, instead of being quick to forget all of the time and work we shared. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find that program that not only remembered our mutual history, but made adorable scrapbooks of where we’ve been together?
Meet my new boyfriend, Talkoot.
If I could, I would leave a love note on Talkoot’s bedside table. If my friends would listen, I would gush all through dinner about how well Talkoot treats me. If Talkoot ever needed a ride to the airport, a surprise birthday party or money for a motorcycle, I’d be there.
Talkoot keeps the process running smoothly so PMs like myself have the time they need to build strong relationships with clients, support their teams and stay on top of industry trends that inform their work. Talkoot has offered me organizational systems like project subfolders, communication tools like stickies, the means to build relationships through the use of feedback and client view, and the ability to embrace our shared history with versions reports. We are a team. And it’s a beautiful thing.
And the best part: I don’t mind sharing! (Is that weird?) If Talkoot can do for other project managers what it’s done for me, the world will be a kinder, gentler, less stressed out place. When the delivery deadline is approaching and you know the copy your team has produced will be right on time and perfectly polished, you can thank my — no, our — boyfriend, Talkoot.
Written by: Epiphany Couch - Project Manager at Thread