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A short guide to no-code project management platforms

December 5, 2023

Are you a disgruntled project manager tired of waiting on the IT team to build something for you? Do it yourself! This guide will show you how.

Project management is changing fast, and so are the IT tools that make life easier. For years, no-code tools have been edging out those expensive enterprise solutions. Now, even project managers and PMOs can build their own little taskmaster havens.

In this article, we’re diving into the good, the bad, and the ugly of no-code tools (like Directual!) for project management. Whether it's for a solo project or rolling out across a corporation, we'll look at what these tools can really do.

Pros of building project management platforms with no-code

Screw the cons, building it with no-code is good for the soul. Here’s why:

Flexibility

Most project management software is stuck with a set formula—projects, tasks, subtasks, you name it. No-code tools let you break the mold. Forget just the usual stuff; you can whip up anything—Risks, Issues, Blocks, Requirements. This means you can tweak the system to fit how your team actually works, not the other way around.

Independence from IT 

Normally, IT folks decide if any new tech will be used (based on whether they know how to code with it/after it). You're stuck dealing with their systems, rules, and people—developers, system admins, the whole crew. It's often a squeeze to fit your needs into their world.

Don't get us started on the wait. You're often in line for months, waiting for IT guys who are tied up with other stuff. Then there's the whole song and dance of explaining what you need to developers who might not get the business side of things. Meanwhile, the business folks are just as clueless about the tech.

-A project manager that had enough

With no-code tools, none of that is in the way anymore. No more begging for resources, explaining yourself over and over, or waiting in endless queues. Your team can tweak things on the fly—during meetings, at their desks, whenever. Plus, you can forget about the headache of dealing with a dedicated system admin and the red tape of change requests. In the no-code world, that's someone else's problem.

Faster launches

Enterprise solutions are often a marathon—long setups, endless tests, and you're looking at 2 to 6 months before it's really working. But no-code? It's a sprint. 

You can knock out a minimum viable product in just 3 to 14 days. It's quick to create, easy to evolve, and doesn't keep you waiting.

Scalability

With no-code, you start small and grow big. Begin in one department, like IT, then spread to others like HR or marketing. It's all about adding what you need, when you need it. Take an IT system integrator's commercial projects, for example. They juggle sales in CRM and manage client systems or IT equipment delivery. With no-code, you link CRM with project management. Boom—you're handling sales and delivery as a single project.

After all, no-code IT systems are like Lego. You start with one piece and then keep adding bits relevant to other areas like HR or marketing. It's all connected to your projects.

Take an IT system integrator's work. Sales get sorted in CRM, then you've got the real deal—implementing client systems or shipping gear. With no-code, you hook up CRM to your project management. Suddenly, a sale isn't just a sale; it's part of the project.

So, you kick off in one area and then go big. 

Spread that setup across the company, even into zones not directly linked to project management. You've got a ton of data—customers, sales, projects—and now it's all connected. Need to manage your team? Add their details, skills, workload right into the system. By mixing and matching different elements, you turn the whole business into a well-oiled machine.

Low entry to get in

You don't need to be a Computer Science Major to get started (only a minor! ha!). Give it 30–60 minutes, and you're good to go. In that time, you'll pick up the basics like adding fields, simple formulas, and playing around with formatting. 

Over time, you can build complex models with all the bells and whistles—relationships, look-ups, the works. It's like a multidimensional database that leaves standard enterprise IT systems in the dust. Kinda like Excel: pretty much anyone can jump in and start using it, but you'll need some extra know-how for the fancy stuff.

Low cost to get in

That's a big plus with no-code tools. You can start small, automating stuff for a tiny team or just for yourself. The cost is peanuts—around 30 bucks a license for most cloud-based solutions ($29 for Directual’s startup plan, by the way).

You can buy just one license or even kick things off with a free trial, lasting anywhere from 14 to 30 days. This means you don't need to jump through hoops getting approval or shelling out a big budget right off the bat.

Quick feedback on changes

When you're rolling out an IT solution, you often need to tweak things on the go—like adding deadlines. With no-code, you can change things up, test them out, and get real-time feedback from users without breaking a sweat.

Business users can handle these tweaks themselves. The testing phase blends right into the modifications, ditching the need for a separate schedule. It's fast, it's easy, and it's built for on-the-fly adjustments.

Independence from vendors or system integrators

In classic enterprise systems, you're often locked in. Need a tweak? Good luck. Even your in-house IT can't always help. So, you end up begging the vendor or integrator for changes. This means diving into external procurement and hoping they prioritize your minor tweaks over their big projects. Often, it just leads to dragging out your project timeline.

You don't need to wait on some external provider with a no-code tool in hand. You get what you need, set it up, and get it running fast.

If you're building a complex IT system from scratch, external help at the start can be great. Sure, you could DIY a minimum viable product and evolve it over time. But that route can be a slow, steep learning curve. Sometimes it's quicker to get a pro in, then take over with your no-code skills later on.

Cons of building a project management tool with no-code

Just kidding! You have to know the dark side too, everyone and everything has one.

More scale, more complexity

That's the reality. Add objects, fields, and attributes without a plan, and you get a mess. Different blocks, mismatched setups, duplicated stuff, and you can forget about a clear big picture, like portfolio reports. 

To dodge this chaos, you need a tight ship: centralized administration, uniform rules for adding stuff to the system. Don't forget clear rules on who can change what. 

Business user motivation

No-code is for business folks at the business-IT crossroads. But if they're not into IT, they might struggle to get the hang of it. Developers sometimes are not fans either, mostly because it's a whole different skill set. 

So, who's going to use these tools if business users don't step up? This could mean hiring a no-code specialist, which kind of kills one of the no-code perks.

Performance risks

Simple: piling on entities and data can slow things down. Not a problem with Directual as it’s built to scale to high heavens and back—without sneezing once. Other platforms, like Bubble, might start struggling once any real pressure is applied, however.

Information security

Most no-code tools are cloud-based, which can be a no-go for some security policies. But vendors are getting their act together, offering beefed-up Enterprise packages for better protection.

Case study: Joint Journey

No-code project management software is a common use case when Directual is concerned, and our customers build amazing things with the help of the platform. Here’s an example: jj.capital.

Thousands of startups begging for cash, 70 a week, drowning in Slack, Notion, Miro, Pipedrive, files, emails... chaos! Enter Directual, shaking hands with Joint Journey investment firm, lighting the way for top startups.

The main challenge was in processing startup applications, scoring them, and streamlining it all. Previously, there was a dedicated person just for data shuffling between services. Startups dumped data tons of data they needed to check—a nightmare to track without a proper system in place.

They wanted a platform that could do it all:

  • Analytics workspace with dashboards, company profiles, grading
  • Admin workspace for data handling
  • Startup portal for reports, revenue, key metrics
  • A full CRM for application juggling
  • Clear startup scoring
  • File storage and swapping
  • Email and alerts
  • And, obviously, top-notch data security.

And ta-daaa! Backend and Frontend by Directual, plus some extra tools like chartJS, editorJS, Directual JS SDK, and it’s done. By done, here’s what was built: 

  • Fund managers get the full view on projects and analytics reports
  • Analysts size up new projects, create dashboards, profiles, startup ratings
  • Admins smoothly run communication, data exchange, day-to-day operations
  • Startups and fund managers access varied data through profiles
  • Full CRM power, with kanban boards, Google Workspace, email, Telegram notifications, data parsing
  • A knowledge portal with role-based access

Took 9-12 months, thanks to tech switches, scope changes, team issues. Could be a lot faster, but that’s not the platform’s fault.

The platform's a gem, especially cost-wise.

Building a project management tool with Directual

<sales_spiel> No more waiting for an overworked dev team or blowing cash on pricey developers for in-house projects. Build CRMs, admin portals, HR spaces, whatever you need—faster and cheaper.

We have a full toolkit ready for you. No more building every little thing from scratch. Choose from ready-made Kanban boards, forms, cards, and more to piece together your project. Set up a user hierarchy with roles and access levels. It's all customizable and automatable—change or revoke roles as needed. And yeah, the API level's got the security locked down.

You can pick from a bunch of methods to connect external systems, software, websites, you name it. There's a whole library of pre-built plugins to kick things off. </sales_spiel>

Two things will help you get started with your PM tool:

Kanban board

Drag-and-drop, just like anywhere else. Ideal for internal apps, CRMs, marketplaces, and more.  The must-have for task trackers, CRMs, marketplaces, and anything else where shuffling cards from one status to another is required.

Even the Ancient Greeks had a hard time picking task tracker vendors 2500 years back. This struggle is ancient history.

What's Directual's Kanban got? 

Everything a standard Kanban app does, plus extra tricks. Here's the deal: Move a card, and bam—trigger any scenario you set up.

For example, in Directual, shift a card, and it can:

  • Ping the responsible manager
  • Connect with an external API
  • Update permissions
  • Play around with different databases, roles, external systems
  • Stop the drag-and-drop if something doesn't add up

Want a live demo? Check it out right here or hit up our live demo page.

Setting up Kanban in Directual is super easy and quick.

Step 1: Set your endpoint

  • Choose stage (column): Link-type field connected to your directory structure.
  • Choose weight: Decimal field for sorting in a column. Drag an item, and it saves the weight from 0 to N for the column.

Step 2: Set your Kanban board

  • Pick your stage and weight fields.
  • Choose to enable or disable drag-and-drop.
  • Hit "Reset the list" to sync stages with your data structure.

Step 3: Tweak card view and extras. It's similar to a standard card setup—a few minutes, and you're done

That’s half the job done.

Analytics

You might need solid visuals, right? Forget those clunky Excel pie charts. This piece will show you how to bring your dashboards to life with our Graphs plugin. Includes the following:

  • Line chart / Area chart with customizable graph lines
  • Bar chart, including two axes and vertical charts
  • Scatter charts if your data is too messy for anything else
  • Pie charts because you’re a sweet tooth. 

All of that includes dynamic filters and sockets to update your graph on the fly. Here’s how it looks, and of course, it’s animated:

Now that the elements are covered and you’ve spent all this time reading, here’s the good news: there are plenty of templates that feature all of this in Directual already. Come on in, grab a template, hook it up, and rename it to your liking. Literally, your own PM tool in minutes and no brain cells are damaged in the process. Try it!

Afterword

Ready to begin to begin your own project management tool no-coding journey? Good on you. If you still have questions, hop into our communities, and let’s talk! The links are below. You can also send us a message at hello@directual.com

FAQ

Are no-code tools good for good for project management?
Are no-code tools good for good for project management?

No-code tools for project management include flexibility, independence from IT departments, faster launch times, scalability, and low entry costs. These tools allow teams to customize their project management systems to fit their workflows without needing coding knowledge.

Are no-code tools scalable?
Are no-code tools scalable?

No-code project management tools help businesses to start small and expand as needed, making it easier to adapt the system to various departments such as HR or marketing.

What are the cons of no-code tools for project management?
What are the cons of no-code tools for project management?

Users should be aware of potential challenges such as increasing complexity with scale, the need for centralized administration, potential performance risks, and information security concerns. Motivating business users who are not IT-inclined can be a challenge, sometimes requiring the hiring of a no-code specialist.

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