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Structure and Flexibility: Why Vanta Uses Shortcut

Erika Carter

Vanta, a top startup and leader in automated security compliance, helps more than 2,000 companies simplify and automate compliance for certifications such as SOC 2, HIPAA, ISO 27001, PCI DSS, GDPR, and integrations.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Vanta was founded in 2016 in the wake of several high-profile data breaches that shook collective faith in internet businesses. Vanta’s vision was, and still is, to restore that trust by enabling companies to improve and validate their security and compliance posture to their customers, prospects, and partners.

As Vanta began to take off, Matt Spitz, Head of Engineering, needed a better tool to help his software development teams track tasks and run iterations and sprints. Switching up their process meant switching up their tool.

Check out what Matt has to say about why Shortcut has been so valuable as their project management tool as they've quickly scaled.

Matt Spitz, Head of Engineering at Vanta, talks about why Shortcut has been so valuable as they've quickly scaled.

Matt began looking for an intuitive agile project management tool that would optimize workflows - something easy to use without feeling clunky, something that wasn’t overly opinionated or complicated, something that didn’t get in their way, and something that wasn’t time consuming to learn.

Check out the more detailed breakdown of what Vanta was looking for in their project management software 👇

How Vanta Shopped for a Project Management Tool

Basics

  • Ability to assign tasks to team members and assign points
  • Ability to group tasks within larger projects (epics) and milestone/release (higher order than projects)
  • Ability to group tasks by project timeline status (e.g. blocked, on hold, doing, in review, done)
  • Ability to express dependencies among tasks
  • Reasonable text editing experience (e.g. Markdown, at least WYSIWYG)

Useful Views

  • Sprint-level view: ideally, a kanban board view to see status and filter by stakeholders or project
  • Velocity calculation to easily measure points completed per sprint
  • Project-level views: progress reports, time tracking, and burndowns per-project

UX for ICs

  • Prioritization of the user experience for day-to-day users over creating reports and viewing progress at the “management” level; the same for a given tool’s configuration

Arbitrary Tags/Labels

  • Categorization of engineering tasks, customer asks, project tasks, project progress, remediations for outages, etc.

Integrations

  • GitHub
  • Slack
  • ZenDesk 

Out-of-the-Box Functionality

  • Use the tool as designed without significant custom configuration

Transparency for the whole company

  • Something we can share with everyone, even if they care about low-level tasks or subtasks

Pricing

  • A good work management tool that’s useful on a limited budget

Shortcut is the Perfect Balance Between Structure and Usability

Matt Spitz had never used Shortcut before. It was a peer, a Head of Engineering at another company, who recommended Shortcut because he and his team liked the collaboration tool so much. But before settling on Shortcut - which Vanta has now been using for a year and a half - Matt looked at other project tracking tools.

Here’s how Shortcut stacked up against other task management and project planning tools like Jira, Trello, and Linear:

  • Jira tends to be the default for large engineering organizations, but it’s unnecessarily complicated. So complicated, in fact, that Vanta would need somebody who’s dedicated to mapping processes and translating processes into Jira’s overwhelming configuration option. They didn’t have the mental overhead for that. As Matt explains: “It's not worth my time, or my team's time, to constantly think about and deeply understand the massive configuration options that are available and adapt those to our workflow.”
  • Trello, on the other hand, didn’t have enough structure. Sure, people use it for checklists and personal task lists, but it’s not for managing a team.
  • Linear, at least at the time, simply didn’t have enough collaboration features.
  • Shortcut, out-of-the-box, had just the right amount of opinion, and just enough configuration to really suit Vanta’s needs. It was flexible enough to change their processes and methodology as needed for complex projects, and having a tool that can adapt to Matt’s rapidly growing teams, and rapidly changing teams is super important. Shortcut’s integrations were also important.

    To this point, a lot of the same functionality that was valuable to Vanta as a 10 person team is just as valuable as a 50 person team. This includes 25 engineers, a handful of product managers, and a handful of designers, who all run their workflows in Shortcut. Vanta also runs its support escalation process using Shortcut.

It turns out, Shortcut was the best project management software for Vanta.

“I have never met a team that loves their task tracker, period. I hear a lot of unsolicited positive comments about the joy of using Shortcut and very, very few complaints. Shortcut is a perfect balance between structure and usability. It gives us what we need, and there's enough flexibility that we've been able to change our processes a lot and still use Shortcut.”Matt Spitz

Team Collaboration in Shortcut

As an example of how Vanta’s teams work side by side using Shortcut, here’s how their support squads and their engineering squads use teamwork:

Vanta’s support team visualizes and tracks the progress of support tickets escalated to engineering that run across the board using API webhooks that sync with their Zendesk integration. While support is working with customers on a ticket, a bot relays messages back and forth between Zendesk and Shortcut. If an engineer asks for more clarity, this gets posted as an internal comment in Zendesk.

Then, Vanta’s support team can post comments and change the status of the Zendesk ticket to say “done”, and the person running the support board can move it to their side of “done” to complete the lifecycle.

The great thing about this is that engineers and support can each live in their respective tools without having to introduce any third channels. Their workflows streamline together.

Team are Happier When They Use Tools They Love

Features the Vanta team most loves about Shortcut include:

  • Story editing
  • Mass editing 
  • Search tools
  • Tagging ability
  • Deep workflow integrations with tools like GitHub
  • Grouping ability
  • Ease of use 

Best of all, Shortcut stays out of their way. “For engineers, it's really frustrating when anything gets in the way of translating our ideas into product. Shortcut does not get in our way,” Matt says. “I've worked at many, many companies that have used many, many tools and I've never heard anywhere near this kind of positive feedback. I've never heard positive, unsolicited positive feedback about a task tracker until we started using Shortcut.”

With more and more companies turning to third parties to automate and simplify their certifications, the future of Vanta looks bright. As they continue to grow, Shortcut is honored to be part of their journey.

To visualize how Shortcut can help you and your teams, start your free trial.

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