“A project is complete when it starts working for you, rather than you working for it.”

Scott Allen

So what is Project Management?

So what is Project Management. Wiki has a rather good description of it. Take a minute to view how it is described on Wikipedia

To us project management is about staying on top of things. There is no magic template that can be used to define what things you need to stay on top of – for any particular project.

The focus of this article is to briefly talk about some of the things we have learned about Project Management through our experiences.  We are going to break project management down into a few groups

  • The Customer Problem
  • Scope Development
  • Budgeting
  • Team Assembly
  • Communication
  • Execution

The customer problem

Projects typically become projects when you have a problem you want to solve. The biggest goal at this point is to understand the problem or task at hand as much as you can. Make sure you understand the problem. If you don’t.

Ask questions. Lots of questions until you are clear on what is being asked of.

When you are confronting a problem, you will begin to solve it.
Rudy Giuliani

Scope development

The goal is to get a clear understanding of what your problem is and how we plan to solve it. We keep asking ourselves – what are we trying to solve for.

Typically we start with a blank document, take all the emails we might have received about the potential project and paste it into the document.

Centralizing the information makes it easier to view all the bits of information being provided to us. 

We spend some time formatting the content with a consistent style. We like to work in bullet points and indents.

In our own words, we type out your understanding of what the problem is and present it to you and we ask you to agree or rephrase certain assumptions we have. We repeat this process until we have both clear on what is being asked.

“That’s the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.”

Larry Niven

Budgetting.

This is a rough view on how we do it. We build out an excel file with a list of the people we plan to have working on the project.

We set the columns as:

  • People
  • Hours, Hours Per Day
  • Days Per Week
  • Hours Per Week
  • Weeks
  • Months
  • Hours Per Month

Then we fill in the grid and evaluate current and future schedules, as well as the customer’s requested deadline. The goal is to focus on how many hours per day a particular person can commit to from the projected start date to the requested due date. Then we ask ourselves  – is this a realistic expectation of hours per day or per week?

There is some experience required in getting good at predicting –  if the projected hours will be enough to achieve what we are planning to achieve.

Then we walk away for an hour or a day. When we come back to it again we might find new insights to help us refine our forecasts. This process repeats until we feel we are confident in our projections.

Team assembly

We all work with a variety of people in our daily lives. Some are in-house and some outsourced connections. As we plan out the budgeting we are looking to see if the people we regularly work with – have the skills we will need.

In our world this typically involves 3 main groups

  • Project Management
  • Design
  • Development

We talk about the project with our potential project team members. If we find that we are missing a particular skill, we look for people in our network that might be able to fill some of the skill gaps we will need for the upcoming project.

It takes time to learn how to work with people.

This makes it very important to have a close circle of people who get along together, understand each other’s work style, and most importantly can depend on each other to deliver on their respective roles.

Communication

Communicate early and communicate often

You never know how others like to communicate until you have a chance to work with them. Different topics will require different ways of communicating

  • Some can be a string of back and forth emails, others are more efficient via instant messaging tools like Slack.
  • Some require a quick phone call
  • Some require a fully thought out presentation

One of our core goals is to find out which communication style you like and we adjust to our style. We also introduce our style – you might like and take it on as part of your communication tool box.

Managing communication is part of our job – so we are always looking for different tools and methods to help communicate all the various action items that are part of any project.

Our Communication Toolbox Includes

  • TEST9999

Execution

What is execution?

  • A bit of followup with each team member and their role.
  • A step back look at what has been done vs what has been promised and where the project progress is at based whatever point in time we are looking at the project as a whole.
  • Checking on how much costs have accumulated and guaging against how much progress has been achieved.
  • Going through our task organization tools and checking on the details of various
    TO DO items and checking if those details are still valid or if they need more information added.

Things change. New information is discovered, some information becomes important, some not so important. Digesting all the in and out information and presenting it in an organized fashion is the goal.

Organization of Information and Quality of Information might be the biggest goals during the execution process.

“There is nothing permanent except change, said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus”

Google it

Proper write-up

Would you rather have 5+ Emails or Slack posts or just a single email/post?

When the opportunity presents itself, take the extra time to think through your thoughts, type them out, read them, re-read them a few times. Writing a more full piece of communication is far better than having a back and forth thread with half thoughts.

Email etiqiuette

Depending on the relationship or seriousness of the topic, you do not have to reply back right away saying “Thanks, Got it, will look at this soon”. This type of confirmation response can be distraction. Not always, but sometimes.