I believe in keeping it simple. Programmers have come up with an acronym KISS – “Keep it simple, stupid”. But the idea applies to more than just programming, or even software development in general.
The best tools for keeping on top of projects, tracking who is doing what and how, and how much progress is being made are the most simple ones: whiteboard, board with multi-colored stickies, or a drawing board with stickies attached. The materials are cheap and simple, little training or specialized technology is needed, and the setup is basically disaster-proof.
Conversely, a large-scale software development process management tool is expensive, requires extensive setup and training, and is highly sensitive to environmental failures. Many specialized tools provide nice-to-have features that are not available from the board with stickies. However, these tools are hardly any better than the simplest setup at the core functionality – provide an overall view of the project progress and allow to update it quickly and easily.
Another example of simplicity is paper survey forms that are passed around to attendees at user groups, classes and conferences, to gather feedback. Paper forms tend to be easier and less error-prone, and also more likely to be completed – compared to survey link sent to participants the next day, or mobile survey site that participants need to access via their own smartphones or laptops after the class.
Paper and pencil are easy and have universal interface, so that everybody can use them in the same way, regardless of which flavor gadget they happened to carry. Survey on paper is impervious to WiFi being down, server not accepting connections, or DoS attacks.
Just as important, paper and pencil have limited appeal, so they are easier to put down once the survey is completed, and turn the attention to the next class or presentation. It is a lot harder to tear people away from their phones, than from a boring piece of paper. Unless it’s been folded into a paper airplane. But that’s also good feedback.