Is your digital magazine production team looking to employ agile methodology in your magazine or other periodical production? In this post, we’ll look at the available agile-friendly cloud project management and productivity tools needed to help you to create agile digital magazine teams.
As magazine production teams continue to morph as a result of the recent changes in work culture and due to revolving local and national mandates on social distancing measures, magazine and other periodical publishers struggle to maintain a former work culture with the same level of productivity as before. In some ways, this time can free publishers up for greater productivity models using state-of-the-art, uber-scalable agile project management tools. While the New Yorker, Atlantic, or the big publishers like Conde Nast may be used to the in-house approach, most larger and smaller publishers alike are now faced with a new work model.
The agile methodology project management process, mainly used for is most known as a software development process where collaborative, horizontal cross-functional teams and customers interact. One of the key factors standing in the way to an agile methodology on a magazine production team is the lack of the right agile tools.
Flip180 has continued to expand remote team projects during this troubling time and we’ve found that remote work is usually more effective than the in-house approach for many reasons:
- Task management tools unlock team members to bring their best energies and focus to issues on their schedule
- Bosses are often unavailable, leaving meetings tabled until after lunch or “sometime next week”
- Cloud collaboration tools allow project transparency to team members, clients and other elusive stakeholders, allowing them to get acquainted with proposals and drafts on the sly without committing time or their vote immediately.
- Remote work modes are more meeting-ready, allowing highly productive, pre-scheduled phone calls and video conferencing with clients and stakeholders. This fits in with work culture better than impromptu cold-calling without a heads-up and emails that leave too much onus on the recipient.
- Distance allows people to manage their own internal energies and always be on point, as they intend to be, rather than showing frustrations and hunger pains.
No longer the exclusive domain of application development, content teams are now using the Agile Method of project management to great effect. What follows are among the very best Agile-friendly tools out there today to help your content production and marketing teams do their best and most productive work. We don’t claim to rank them in order of best, but in order of how exciting and/or newly relevant we think they are at this writing.
Before selecting a tool, consider is the particular agile framework you plan to use. For those who are already familiar with the concepts of agile management, your team probably has a preferred Agile methodology. Readers should consider whether they’re working with Scrum, Kanban, Crystal or Lean and factor that into the particular tool under review. If your organization is currently using an agile framework variation, (Scrumban, for example), factor this in also and consider whether both halves are represented adequately in key areas and likely expansion areas for the future.
AirTable is a versatile, plug-and-play Rubik’s Cube of malleable modules any business with projects can turn into a power tool quickly. The real question with a tool like AirTable is do you really want to turn over an entirely new leaf with your project management? That’s because once you get started with AirTable, you may not ever return to your current “simple” tool. Complexity and simplicity live side-by-side with this productivity tool. Manage many different types of internal and for-client projects without overlap and without having to order the process yourself. Tables keep everything in a process format until you alter the view globally.
Most magazines, traditional product catalogs and blogs can make easy work of planning content with the Content Planner template which comes ready to customize globally and make your own. AirTable also can serve as a marketing campaign command center where your marketing or analytics point-person can track campaigns and give intel on what’s working, what to fuel, what to pause and why.
If you’re starting from zero, this can be a great tool to start with in 2021 and beyond. If you don’t think your team is quite ready for that much possibility in one package, or you want to make it more intuitive by activity type with one type per solution, you can select from one of the following similar tools, instead.
Another high-stakes player in the project management tool world is Monday. Better known among most content producers and advertisers today, Monday is more enterprise-focused and is a favorite with big brands like Coca-Cola, Hulu, BBC Studios, Adobe and Universal Studios. An early presence as a top PM tool for content-makers and simplified toolset is a likely reason.
For many, Monday may be considered a high-end solution by the company it puts you in. This is great company to be in, however, and for many publishers, using the right tool not only speaks volumes to their target advertisers, partners and contributors, but can put new hires and expanding teams on the right footing with professional, forward-thinking business methods that are already somewhat established and familiar for many coming out of their MBA programs with a graphic arts or writing MFA.
One of the key uses for magazine publishers and blogs will be Monday’s Content Calendar.
Drag and drop ease of use is one of the reasons work flows with Monday’s ample selection of task-specific templates. The content calendar is one of the most simplistic tools out there and reminds many of Trello’s UX format, but perhaps even easier.
Agile features of Monday
- Simplify emails and meetings
- Comment on graphics and videos
- Interacts with Adobe file formats
- Organize by private and public Boards
- Integrate with Pipedrive Dropbox, Google Drive
- Email updates and notifications with custom filters
- Tag stakeholders and teams by task, project, board
- Cross-organizational collaboration and group-to-group communications
- Focused Execution Board for issue and content piece launch
- View live progress graph
- Encourage proactive work culture
- Easier employee onboarding, quick workflow submersion
- Automated, searchable knowledge base
Unlike many other tools out there, Trello revolves around the sticky note system with columns of “cards” where you can vertically prioritize and then mark “complete” due dates, checklists and other features. Trello comes with an expanding set of templates to help organize any project down to the work detail level.
Users can post deliverables links with comments, checklists and ping stakeholders in real-time. Tag by the “card” (project) on the program/projects “board”, the card’s overarching “list” (the project type or program), or even by the individual card “activity” (task). Trello also allows users to easily plug into helpful tools like semrush, Google Analytics, Github, Salesforce, Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive and cloud doc systems like Google Docs.
Power Ups are ways to enrich the tool experience for Trello teams. “Planning Poker” is a powerup which helps gamify the randomization of task assignments for development teams and other teams with frequently otherwise unexciting or unevenly-difficult tasks. Trello is sort of the next-level Slack, but without quite the same chatroom feel (which may be a plus for many valuing the sense of distance and time-lapse). For example, you can’t see people “typing” as they formulate a response, though team members can edit or delete their responses.
Already heavily used by many periodical publishers today, Slack has the knack of making everyone feel close together via the chat room format, while allowing for attachment storage and compartmentalized sharing, tagging, viewing and editing rights. Slack is a great thing to have and plug into your other systems when you need to communicate easily with outside teams that are probably already using it. In some ways, Slack is the intermediary project communication tool.
Key Agile-Friendly Slack Features
- Productivity/PM features
- 10 third-party or custom apps
- Workflow Builder templates
- 5GB File storage per workspace, 10GB per member, 20GB per member
- Channel auto-suggest
- Customized sidebars
- Message history
- Search messages and files
- External collaboration tools
- Share channels internally and externally
- Single and multi channel guests
- Security options
- SAML-based SSO
- G Suite SSO
- Two-factor authentication
- Compliance features
- Custom file and message retention policies
- Exports by channel and conversation for risk analysis and audits
- Data residency options
- Admin features
- User group/member provisioning and deprovisioning
- Customize channel posting permissions
- On-demand, real-time active directory syncing: Okta, Ping and OneLogin
- Manage member names & email info
- Voice and video calls One-to-one only Up to 15 participants
- Screen sharing
- Message activity tracking
- Priority 24/7 support available at mid-range level up
- Uptime QA
- 99.99% guaranteed uptime SLA
More like Basecamp than other tools on this list, Asana is more focused on content teams specifically. It can help all stakeholders plug in in a more exact way. It’s perfect for organizations that use Basecamp for most functions but would like something familiar but expanded for content processes in particular.
One of the great aspects of Asana is its agile-ready organizational efficiency.
Organize by Teams:
Plan and track campaigns and even launches
Build, scale and optimize internal processes
Make deals and onboard new partners
Build roadmaps, plan sprints, manage shipping and launches
Organize by Workflows
- Manage projects
Plan, track, and manage team projects
- Manage workflows
- Kanban boards
Create columns to prioritize tasks and manage projects end-to-end
- Remote teams
- Collaborate and manage boards remotely
- Focus on time management
- Agile & Scrum
- Build, ship, and track deliverables in one place
- Calendar view
Use team calendars to track deliverables, timelines and deadlines
Asana is a great tool and it’s full-featured for agile digital magazine teams, be they content creative or production teams, but it may require some coding expertise to fully integrate for some custom integrations.
One of the older tried and true solutions, Basecamp has the distinct advantage of already being in use by many of your agile-practicing partners, advertisers and contributors. Having an account there is ultimately a great way to be included easier and faster with their processes.
Basecamp has 3 modes:
- HQ, where a corporate/C-suite level lives
- Teams, where departments work together and share chatter
- Projects, where stuff gets done on the micro level
The simplistic sense of horizontal order in Basecamp is one of it’s genuine agile features. “Focusing” is a setting you can turn on to eliminate tool chatter while you’re on a particular task. This tool allows you to track projects visually along a timeline, somewhat like AirTable. But unlike AirTable, it’s likely that many of your advertisers and other stakeholders already have an account. Basecamp has been around since the 2000s.
The simplistic sense of order in Basecamp is one of it’s genuine features. “Focusing” is a setting you can turn on to eliminate tool chatter while you’re on a particular task. This tool allows you to track projects visually along a timeline, somewhat like AirTable. But unlike AirTable, it’s likely that many of your advertisers and other stakeholders already have an account. Basecamp has been around since the 2000s. Many clients, advertisers and partners already do agile and prefer Basecamp.
#7 Google Docs/Drive
Because of the ease and lightweight Cloud nature of Google Docs, we would be remiss in not listing it here. It’s not the only such solution, as Microsoft has a cloud version(Office 365). Both are great and can be used simultaneously, though most may find that it’s simpler to just use Google Docs/Sheets for docs and spreadsheets.
Most professionals today already use Office 365. Sharepoint and Dynamics365 are group tools many will already understand or possibly use. What follows are some of the most overlooked tools that OFFICE 365 users most often miss out on or don’t know about yet.
Most Overlooked Office 365 Tools for Agile Digital Magazine Teams
- Microsoft Planner is a project management system that’s built into the Office 365 ecosystem, so technically speaking, you could use this solution as your go-to PM tool and skip the rest. Even real-time communication messaging is built in.
- Microsoft StaffHub is a way to coordinate all your internal and external organization contacts into one system.
- MS Sway is the resident presentation tool allowing creation, storage, editing and playback of presentations internally or to outside contacts.
- MyAnalytics is the Microsoft productivity analytics module that allows managers to understand better how employees use their time and what they’re working on, as well as where the bottlenecks are cropping up most.
It’s worth exploring the full range of Microsoft Office’s Cloud toolset. Not only is it possible to discover if any would be an easy fit for your publishing organization, but chances are that you’ll find that one odd side-tool that you’ve been searching for already right there under your nose. At the very least, examining what 365 brings to the table will allow you to better understand what you need that 365 can’t already provide. Many agile-oriented organizations require heavy lifting from their tools, and exploring current ones more fully is one more way to save time and money.
Dropbox Paper is a document template tool that allows you to use or customize templates for many different organizational functions like creatives, marketing, HR, IT, sales, education, team or personal. For any organization that power-uses DropBox but doesn’t have the bandwidth to jump into high-end tools, perhaps Dropbox Paper fills a need.
It is likely that Paper users will eventually branch out to the more popular PM and doc Cloud tools eventually, but Dropbox is a good cloud storage solution with the ability to handle any type of file format, and so can be a long-term tool for any magazine publisher and any agile production team.
Since Microsoft owns OneDrive, it is a great way to make sure your cloud file storage will always work seamlessly with your Cloud Office docs, spreadsheets and other MS files. All common document file formats are accepted in OneDrive, too, but exe files tend to get deleted. That said, an MS-friendly storage solution is kind of an easy win for PCs and laptops, tablets or smartphones using Windows, iOS or Android operating systems should have no problem using OneDrive.
Because it’s a Microsoft tool, OneDrive has the longevity advantage, meaning it’s not likely to suddenly disappear. Dropbox users can backup their Dropbox storage onto their OneDrive and vice-versa. That alone is a great reason to include OneDrive into your current backup and file storage system. Put that together with Office 365 and it’s hard not to see the value there.
Because OneDrive works with virtually any other solution, including being a go-to file-storage option for the all-in-one email hub solution MS Outlook, and because it works seamlessly with all other MX Office solutions in Office 365, it’s one of the top cloud strorage solutions for any agile digital magazine production team today, tomorrow or the next.
#10 GitHub (for Teams)
While many may think of GitHub as a coder resource, the truth is that many publishers now share code snippets, some of which may have marketing applications for partners and affiliates. Sharing code snippets can be a way to engage the publishing community with the open source spirit or even to share your magazine’s own content summaries on other influencer and content curator websites.
GitHub Team allows publishers to take advantage of the same agile-friendly resources and tools as programmers would. This includes for their in-house and remote coders who need to share code, update it and track those updates over time. Magazine publishers like the Atlantic use it to manage teams, projects and tasks on multiple fronts while keeping device and in-house bandwidth low or to store Adobe Illustrator scripts for graphics teams.
The Cloud as workspace makes it easier to work clog-free on devices, but also makes sure that processes stay optimized and self-maintained. And private versus public projects allows publishers to open up their coding projects at least part of the way while keeping private content projects underwraps. GitHub is one of the most secure ways to share code and one of the best maintained.
#11 Adobe Cloud Tools
Adobe is a standby with enterprise and startup-level publishers for a reason. There are many reasons why Adobe’s Cloud tools are among the best in the magazine publisher world. This is certainly the toolset for any magazine that wants to put out professional-looking work, as many know. Many don’t know, however, that Adobe’s other tools are also second-to-none.
Creative Cloud for Teams is the next-level Adobe offering that puts InDesign in the Cloud and makes your older download web tools like desktop Photoshop and Dreamweaver a thing of the past. Just upgrade to monthly Cloud service and watch as you get more done faster and stay ahead of the pack! Best of all, previous owners will normally be eligible for a discounted price on moving up the Cloud. Creative Cloud allows for remote and on-site team collaboration at the next level. It no longer matters where your team is located if everyone can see what everyone else is talking about on their own screen. Buy seats for organizational regular users.
- InDesign is the go-to tool for print periodical layout. It also doubles as the starting point for digital editions and PDFs purposed for online consumption.
- Photoshop is the perfect way to tweak web graphics and images without entangling them in a more complex tool.
- Adobe XD allows designers to plan out magazine or catalog UX for desktop, mobile, tablet and even voice in one easy tool via drag and drop tools that respond to the actual environment in real time, not just on a static grid..
- Acrobat DC is a great tool for formatting, polishing and tagging PDFs for your static digital copy and related documents.
- Premiere Pro is a go-to video tool to help online magazines provide the very best quality video production with all the effects, whistles and bells needed in an easy-to-use console. As more and more of the magazine content goes into multimedia, Premiere helps to close the gap.
Use just the parts you need, by member, as you need them. Sharing art between production team members is simple and intuitive while processing from one Adobe Creative Cloud tool to another, or to the marketing department for delivery.
- Adobe Marketing Cloud is a recognized leader in cross-channel marketing according to a Forrester industry report. With many content-centric organizations. for the marketing side of your publishing business, the Marketing Cloud helps you not only connect editors to marketers but to take full advantage of outside talent and agencies in specialty areas like PR, SEO, PPC and social media marketing.
- Manage content with Experience Manager
Create, track, manage and share content pieces across the full spectrum of formats. Check in and out creatives on each format as needed with Adobe Experience Manager. You’re no longer limited by the usual formatting issues if all your formats have the capacity to work together from the start.
- Adobe Campaign
Adobe Campaign provides a central hub to automate email, ads, and campaigns with shared creatives that all teams can access to stay on point and on-brand. Provide analytics information to creative processes to drive customer engagement by the audience profile.
- Personalize with Adobe Target
Adobe Target is a “personalization engine”. It facilitates mobile apps and site content and UX testing and optimization with machine learning.
- Engage with Marketo Engage
Formerly outside the Adobe circle, Marketo has long been an exceptional unified marketing and CRM system that can streamline every point in the often messy marketing ecosystem. The addition of Marketo Engage is a big plus for Adobe and for the end-user of Adobe Marketing Cloud. If you’re an Adobe team, now you can completely explore customer experiences and engagement starting at the consideration phase all the way into conversions and CRM without leaving the familiarity of your home toolset.
Why do we list this Zoom in a list of top magazine productivity tools? Because brainstorming gets complicated and often halts at the threshold of that stress. Zoom is a user-friendly face-to-face meeting tool offering all the options. It has all the advantages of a large cross-functional group face-to-face where departments can prep together, go into the larger meeting, and then pair off into micro-meetings between key players, saving time and energy, and with all the visual aids of screen-sharing.
Zoom is set up to handle the bandwidth and the technical issues and not break down like a typical VoIP. It can also serve as a way to introduce people and give them a feel for the other team members while emphasizing the current speaker on-screen. And the security factor is second to none.
An Ultra-Functional Meeting Toolbox
One of the most valuable parts of Zoom is the complete variety of controls and related functions it allows for organizations.
- Training in groups or on-the-spot, even during a meeting via side-chat
- Share key materials or handouts
- Whiteboard to simplify abstract concepts visually
- Host webinars for partners, clients, or internal use
- Format meeting notes the smart way, automatically with meeting footage, speaker close-ups, hand-raises and visual theme headings.
- Onboard and offboard topic experts
- Prepare mics and cameras before going live
- Mute/hide key stakeholders
Calendars interaction allows everyone to use their own preferred calendars to store the invites and schedule meetings. Scalability and options are the reason Zoom has been a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions for 5 consecutive years now at this writing. Enterprise publishers will want that level of dependability where it counts: the meeting room.
The Zoom App Marketplace allows integrations and bots. These are great for use with your organization’s Zoom account that associated individual Zoom accounts can benefit from. The Zoom Developer Platform provides APIs & SDKs to extend Zoom into your website’s backend to enrich your organization’s communications into a seamless functional whole.
How is your organization using these agile-friendly tools?
We’d love to hear you brag on how your team is already using these tools and what if any high-level problems you’re enjoying now. Anonymous questions are great, too!
Leave a comment below to join in the discussion and brainstorm on behalf of your totally-masked organization!