Better than anyone, tech leaders understand the value of the right technology when it comes to project management—but also better than anyone, tech leaders know there’s more to good project management than the right software. It’s essential for project managers to do careful work up front, including ensuring requirements are shared and understood, setting up a communication system, defining a clear scope and more.
If a project manager doesn’t lay the proper groundwork, the best talent and tools in the world can’t bring a tech project to a successful conclusion. Below, 16 tech leaders from Forbes Technology Council share their best project management tips. Tap into their experience when planning your next tech project.
1. Ensure Transparency Into Analytics
Maximize transparency into the issues that matter the most. In the era of agile, analytics is as important as project management. The more technical the project, the more wrong the initial plan will be. Bring the data and the stakeholders and domain experts together in a way that supports them in collaboratively solving complex issues.
2. Set Up Rules Of Engagement And Authority
Determining a proper goal with clearly understood milestones and phases is critical; so is having a project leader who has clearly defined rules of engagement and authority. There are many great complementary tool options, such as Trello and Asana, to help developers visualize and collaborate. But consistent accountability, ownership and project momentum will always be central to successful projects.
3. Share Expectations, Timelines And Potential Obstacles Up Front
Over-prepare. Over-communicate. Adapt. Be wary of the protective instinct to “stick to the plan” even in the midst of shifting external factors that directly influence the project. That said, set the project team up for success by internally publicizing expectations, timelines and potential obstacles before launch. The more transparent the project roadmap is, the more willing everyone will be to support it.
4. Set Up A Microservices Architecture To Support Agility
Successful project management is a combination of two things: agility and microservices. Agility allows the project team to be flexible and easily react to change requests. A microservices architecture makes these changes smooth and effortless. Put simply, it’s essential to establish the capacity for scalability in the core of any project, no matter its complexity—whether it’s a tiny mobile app or a huge Web platform.
5. Leverage Peer-Based Accountability
Environments in which engineers can “call one another out” with respect and honesty for missing a handoff or checking in bad code are few and far between. But we’ve found that strong developers who have high standards not only for themselves but also for their peers unintentionally set a project’s pace.
6. Establish A Shared Communication Channel
Keep all project communication within a shared chat channel in Slack or Microsoft Teams so everyone on the project can collaborate easily and keep up with progress. Encourage your team to keep project-related communication out of private or direct messages and instead use shared channels to keep everyone on the same page.
7. Manage Accountability And Risk Through Tracking Tools And Daily Standups
The key to successful project management is clear accountability, ownership and managing risk. By requiring engineers and product managers to story point their work in tools such as Jira, you have visible accountability and a mechanism to track actual work versus budgeted work. By conducting a daily 10-minute standup meeting, you have a mechanism to identify and address risk.
8. Regularly Compare Project Progress To Requirements
Run frequent traceability checks. Is the work being produced aligned with requirements? Beyond that, conduct “common sense” checks: Even if the work is aligned to requirements, does the system make sense? Is it easy to use, intuitive and not overly complex?
9. Make Sure You Have A Well-Trained, Confident Project Manager
Good training and project management certifications are a necessity if someone is to have good project management skills. Additionally, the ability to take assertive control of a project and not be a passive participant on the team is critical. Project managers need the ability to take charge and make sure that even their superiors are getting all their tasks done on time.
10. Keep Your Focus On The Customer
Tech leaders tend to start with the solution in mind and often focus too heavily on deliverables. Human nature makes us want to jump to the solution rather than understand how the project will provide value and fit into the real world. Tech leaders need to stay focused on the outcome for the customer first and then focus on the delivery after.
11. Designate A Top Project Manager When Working In A Partnership
Tech leaders must ensure project management occurs on both the vendor and client sides of the project, with the client running point. Consulting project managers will have their own interests at heart but must wholly grasp the client’s business and industry. When running multiple projects with co-dependencies, clearly define the lead PM. If you’re building the project from an RFP, ensure needs and capabilities align.
12. Don’t Sideline End Users
From a healthcare technology perspective, it’s imperative to involve clinicians in all aspects of new product design and implementation. Sidelining the clinical end users and treating them as subject matter experts will result in costly re-dos down the road. Clinician and patient experience should be the driving force in any health-tech solution; not integrating them into the entire project plan is foolish.
13. Quickly Share Issues And Changes With Stakeholders
Risks and challenges are part of any IT project. To iterate and adapt quickly, you should communicate the roadblocks and changes quickly and clearly to your team and customers. In addition to creating greater transparency and visibility, a clear and fast communication system helps everyone to share feedback, contribute and collaborate easily.
14. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Direct Questions
Effective collaboration between stakeholders is key. A detailed project timeline of each deliverable maximizes critical success factors and minimizes risk, allowing you to better control for quality and desired outputs. Defining existing workflows and ideal outcomes early on can give IT project managers better insight, guiding them to initiate needed changes to enable on-time execution.
15. Spend Time On Risk Management
Risk management and mitigation alone will make or break your project. Spend extra time on risk planning and, more importantly, deciding how to handle the risks involved. Issues will occur, and a well-considered plan to mitigate them will save time and money. Your project can have hundreds of issues arise and still be successful if you’ve put proper effort into the risk management plan. Expecting no risk means you’ve already failed.
16. Watch Out For Scope Creep
My best project management tip is to avoid scope creep. It happens when changes are added beyond the work that was originally planned. Scope creep negatively affects projects by increasing the workload, increasing the risk of going over budget and derailing the project from the set schedule. To avoid it, create a project plan with a clearly defined scope, deliverables and timelines. Stick to it, and be ready to explain the potential negative impacts when encountering scope creep.