Prenda is a flourishing new startup making waves in the competitive education technology space. The company, recently backed by Y Combinator, offers a personalized, one-on-one “microschool” learning environment for grade school students. In just two years, Prenda has launched more than 400 microschools — and the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns dramatically increased the company's growth (and developers' to-do lists).
Mandi Haase is a software developer with Prenda, where she works on the company's Tech & Tools team. Her team is responsible for database management and the overall developer support that makes the platform so successful. In addition to addressing the company's internal needs, Tech & Tools resolves partners' needs, ensuring the platform meets the unique requirements of each state. As the company expands and the team evolves, finding a consistent workflow and project management software was crucial to making the Tech & Tools team highly productive
Each of Prenda's teams operates autonomously and uses the project management software of their choice, so it was up to the Tech & Tools time to find the right one for them. Mandi and her team found themselves trying — but not loving — alternative tools.
Originally, the team was posting issues to GitHub, which made it hard for everyone to get on the same page. After working on Asana, the platform proved to be way too feature-heavy for what they needed. Asana's steep learning curve slowed down the onboarding process for new employees and temporary teams, and the cost was hard to justify when developers used only a small portion of what Asana offered.
In their search for something more straightforward and easy to learn (that would be secure enough to protect student data and designed to work well with Github), a colleague recommended Tara. The price was right, so they took the leap.
Within a day, team members felt comfortable using Tara, and decided that this was the platform for them. Tara's flexibility made it a staple of the team's work style, which mixes elements of scrum, agile, and quasi-sprints rather than following a rigid structure.
Mandi found Tara's assistance to be invaluable for tracking and assessing outstanding tasks.
Linking their GitHub account and centralizing data within Tara was a game changer. The team could sync to source control and view their open issues by repository on Tara. The AI automatically showed when a PR had been submitted (and by who), what task the code was for, where it was in the process, and when a card had been completed — without having to paste any information in themselves. This was really important given the siloed nature of Prenda's departments, and ultimately in terms of productivity, and helped Mandi and her team from duplicating work. Additionally, Tara's smart technology automatically closed tickets once a PR was merged, and not having to engage in manual updates to move cards over reduced update errors. Without the need to mentally keep track of updating and retiring task cards, the team enjoyed a more accurate assessment of outstanding items.
The team is constantly handling student enrollments from a full-stack perspective, so each account generates a checklist of subtasks that touch other teams at Prenda — making flexibility a key characteristic of their process. Because Tara lets Mandi's team view PR-sided tasks separately from commits (which they couldn't do with Asana), it encouraged them to divide large PRs into smaller ones.
With Tara's drag-and-drop task card feature, the team started breaking down large umbrella goals into bite-sized chunks (for example, chunking down front-end to-dos, like designing UIs, etc.). Because checks took far less time than they would with bigger PRs, this system enabled them to move toward resolution twice as fast. And since the team divided PRs into smaller items, errors occurred on a smaller scale, eliminating time-consuming resolution of larger-scale bugs.
Even though this system increased the number of tasks, it was easier to manage thanks to Tara's smart technology, which automatically tracks their progress and retires tickets once completed. Soon, the Tech & Tools team started delivering on a daily or two-day turnaround — and being able to click the “complete” button more often boosted team morale.
Prenda's momentum isn't slowing, and while their technical teams wear many hats, Tara is able to evolve with them. The company started with just a few developers, and now there are more than 30 on deck. Mandi is confident that as the Tech & Tools team integrates new hires, Tara's intuitive design and streamlined functionality will save hours on training time — and cut straight to productivity.
Company growth also means more of Prenda's teams will interact with each other on mission-critical goals, making Tara's transparency a huge help. When other teams add issues to GitHub, it auto-populates in Tech & Tools' backlog, where Mandi can see what's originating from her team and what isn't. And, when their unique needs require small adjustments to the platform, Tara has always shipped requests quickly to make sure the team can keep chugging.
Between great-fit functionality and stellar customer service, been a great platform for the Tech & Tool's team to set time frames and build goal-oriented roadmaps. At daily standups, Mandi refers to Tara's progress page to drive their sprints forward.
Tara will continue to power Mandi's team as it matures, and while developers know there will always be bugs to squash, their project management platform is one problem they'll never have to solve.
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