Managing your Web Projects

chessboardSo how’s your web projects doing lately?

Are they well crafted projects, following structured plans, executing like a well thought out chess strategy or are they more like herding a bunch of cats?

Projects are put in place to solve a problem and deliver a result. They are constructs to bring resources together, meet a deadline and deliver value. So they are very useful. However they can be quite a challenge to do well.

I have managed many projects in my day. Some with good results,  some, not so good. But in my efforts to improve my capabilities, I’ve come across some project management techniques that have helped me reduce the “not so good” and increase the quantity of projects delivered on time and on budget with quality results.

Agile – A Useful Methodology

A particular framework that has produced excellent results for me on complex and time sensitive projects is the  “agile” project management method. The agile methods come in different shapes and sizes, but one that I have had good luck with is Scrum*.

It is an iterative technique and is based upon 3 core ideas:

  • Define Success
  • Define Failure
  • Optimize for improvement

What I like about it, is that it’s fast, keeps everyone focused, deals in small manageable chunks and helps identify issues before they become major problems.

Implementing Scrum

The way I like to implement the technique is to first use the normal project plan approach of defining the project charter, assigning roles, defining the budget, milestones, goals, risks, issues. From this, create the work breakdown structure along with the timeline. Then break the entire project plan into daily chunks focused on each team member’s item(s) that are due that day and what is due the next and the day after that, no more.

I create handouts for the team emphasizing the tasks due today, and tomorrow and the next day.  On the handouts I also keep the next major milestone listed and any issues and key work needed to reach that milestone. Each morning, the entire team assembles (for very large projects I’ll split into teams where the work is similar). But the idea is to meet each morning, review the key deliverable for that day. Whenever possible, I keep the meetings very short and everyone stands! This helps me keep everyone focused on the meeting. Key question to each team member as we review the handout with task/resource” “What must be done today?” This laser like focus on the immediate is a great help to the team members. It is the proverbial “bite at a time” approach and keeps the project from becoming overwhelming.

If you haven’t tried an agile approach in your projects, give it a try. Like anything new, it will be a bit awkward at first, but you might find it to be quite a nice boost to your projects.

* In case you are curious, Scrum isn’t an acronym, it’s a term borrowed from Rugby!

Learning More

While there are many, many areas to learn about agile techniques like Scrum, below is a concise Slideshare I came across that does a good job explaining the technique:

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