As a business owner or project manager, nothing is more frustrating than seeing a tech project going the wrong way. Whether you are launching a new website or building an app for another business, failure to keep tech projects on track can have serious organizational and budgetary impacts. Based on the experience of business owners and project managers who have worked on massive tech projects, here are some tips and lessons that have been proven to be helpful.
Create a Collaborative Culture
A major pitfall for tech projects is the failure to communicate regularly and clearly. Because there are likely more than a few people working on a single project, poor communication, which is a major component of collaboration, can lead to reduced effectiveness of the whole team. It is, therefore, very important that every project manager or team leads finds a way to build a culture that allows for communication and collaboration.
There are various tools that project managers, team leaders and whole teams can use to aid collaboration. Such tools allow team leaders to set up meetings, create action plans, connect ideas, share information about additions and corrections across whole teams, and take action once everything is laid down. Diagramming tools such as the one from Miro make all the above easy by introducing a diagramming and collaborative workflow that ties everything together. The ability to visualize every part of the process, be part of it, and contribute to it, not only fosters communication and collaboration, but also helps keep projects on track and helps teams hit milestones faster and easier.
Have Well-defined Project Scopes
Your project’s scope is a major determinant of how long a project takes. It follows, therefore, that the best place to start is to have well-defined project scopes. When doing so, it is important to identify why the project is important, what the final goal is, and what is required to hit these goals.
Once identified, project scope can still be a hindrance to keeping a project on track because the project scope can be too large and thus overwhelming. To avoid this potential project, break down the project scope into smaller scopes. If you are developing an app for example, you can have various mini-scopes and projects like designing, coding, testing and marketing the app.
Have Reasonable Estimates
To avoid missing deadlines and the all-too-familiar sprint to the finish line, project managers should set reasonable estimates for how long the project will take. Although this is a good way to approach things, many project managers get it wrong by trying to work backwards.
When doing so, they set a deadline and then create a chart or path that will get them to that deadline. Doing things this way is the most common reason why there is usually a sprint at the end to hit the deadline.
Instead, team managers should work forward. Once the mini-scopes and projects have been set as explained above, they should set a reasonable time estimate and deadline for the first dependency. Once the first dependency is met, the project can be handed over to the next team, or passed to the next stage, and so on. This process of working forward often results in accurate deadlines. This is because the time estimates will not be compressed for the sake of hitting the deadline sooner.
Frequent Milestones are Important
The end of each estimated period for each project scope and mini project should be a milestone that the team needs to reach. These milestones offer a check-in point so the project manager can gauge how things are going and see whether there is a need for adjustments.
Smaller milestones and frequent check-ins, as opposed to long-term or medium-term check-ins, give project managers enough time to gauge if a project is in trouble. Setting larger milestones might lead to a project manager not realizing their project is in trouble until it is too late and then they would have to deal with the business owner or the client.
Ask for Help at the Right Time
One of the most difficult things to do when you are in charge of a project is ask for help. Many people view asking for help to be a failure, and this feeling can be exacerbated if you have a team working under you. However, there is a lot of value to asking for help. Lots of project managers say that some of their projects would not be complete if they did not ask for help at the right time.
Identifying that the project has started to go off track and getting an outsider to have a look at what is going on allows you to catch issues earlier. Doing so stops these issues from becoming bigger issues in the future and derailing the project completely. In many cases, the new collaborator will play a crucial role in getting things back on track that will be appreciated by everyone on the team.
Managing Teams Better
Although the official title may be ‘project manager’, project managers are also required to manage their teams. The members of teams working on the project are the biggest asset that the project has and can be the difference between delivering a project and everything going wrong.
Project managers should learn how to recognize signs of stress, unrest, disgruntlement and when a team member is out of their depth. All of these can come up in a high-stress environment, especially when the project has a large scope and a shorter deadline. Because of this, project managers and team leaders should learn to recognize when any of their team members are struggling and how to help them deal with it.
Making a few changes such as allowing flexible schedules, remote work and encouraging a healthy life-work balance can work wonders for a team’s productivity, thus helping keep the project on track.
As a project manager or team leader, it is your responsibility to ensure all projects you are in charge of remain on track until the final product is delivered. It is, therefore, important that you learn how to do so, recognize the signs that show things aren’t going right, and rectify the situation.