Launch week: Tools of the trade

As the team member responsible for identifying the technical solutions and tools for our experiments, my first challenge of the launch week was to identify and set up our team tool kit. In the spirit of Think:Digital, it didn’t have to be perfect but it had to be good enough to get us up and running quickly.

The rest of the IT Team back in Lichfield are extremely busy with a whole host of different projects, so I felt it was important that they weren’t disrupted too much whilst I made my choices and got us going.

Also, as most start-ups, we don’t have a bottomless pit of cash to burn on expensive, enterprise-class tools. So again, the ‘is it good enough’ mantra came into play.

Given, the challenging time scale (by the end of the day, Brett), I decided to keep it simple but use some industry standard tools.

Let’s get going

First a domain name. We’re in quite a privileged position as a Co-operative, as we don’t have to necessarily fight for the best or .com domain name. Co-operatives have access to the .coop Top Level Domain (TLD), so you’d have to be quite unlucky to want a domain name that’s already been taken. We snapped up

Secondly, we needed a collaboration tool that was cheap (or free) and easy to use. Back at the Business Support Centre, we’ve launched a trial of Microsoft Teams as a way of introducing some of the features of Office 365. However, in our Think:Digital team, we have a guest user. This means that there’s a certain level of Office 365 license required and this meant that until this license requirement changed, Microsoft Teams was put on hold. The obvious choice for the launch was Slack; we can use the free plan whilst we get up and running and the shallow learning curve meant the less technical team members could be up and running in no time.

Next up was something to keep a track of the varying pieces of work we need to complete in the next couple of weeks. Again, I chose something separate from the tools used in IT at the Business Support Centre; in this case, Jira. Trello is possibly the most straight-forward piece of software I’ve ever used. Revolving around the concept of lists and cards, it’s super simple to customise a work flow, add items to the relevant stages and get cracking. (Trello has recently been acquired by Atlassian, the makers of Jira, so it’ll be interesting to see how Trello is integrated into Jira in the future).

Next up: mail and office. I’ve already mentioned how we’re trialling Office 365 but felt this was an ideal opportunity to see what GSuite has to offer. The domain was connected, email accounts created and Google Drive was configured and, voila!, done in about an hour.

Again, the spirit of the team was ‘lets get something up and see if it works’.

Lastly, we needed to tell people about our Think:Digital initiative. We have our own Infrastructure team in IT who normally deal with requests for new servers and environments but they’re so busy, we felt that making ad-hoc requests to that team was unfair. Another trial in the early planning stages is a migration away from our data centre and into Microsoft Azure. Again, the spirit of the team was ‘lets get something up and see if it works’. We used the WordPress Azure web app on a Linux server, tweaked a theme, added a custom hostname and our blog was live in about 15 minutes!

So, within a day or so, we had a fully functioning start up!

If you’ve got any ideas on what we could use in the team or any Trello, Slack or WordPress tips, let us know.

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