At Carmatec, we handle software dev projects for 3 of our brands – RailsCarma, CodeWebber and ColorCuboid. Projects of various scale from datacenter automation spanning 2-3 years, to building social networking platforms that are tested/launched in less than 3 months.
We love the dynamics of these business apps, brain storming on the business idea, tying it back to the UI/UX and bringing something new to the market. Wireframes, Story boards, Db Design, Test Cases, Usability, Responsiveness – we marvel at the sheer exercise of re-inventing this wheel with some added spokes each time for a different business flow and use case.
As a COO, there is a constant need to bring in as much predictability to the software delivery process , quality and meeting timelines no matter what. This requires translating the risks and external control factors, such as delays in client communication or approvals, risks in feasibility of implementation of 3rd party APIs not known at project plan phase etc. Lets look at 4 ways we try to counter this for better tracking and project management. We have found 4 mantras that Project Managers can follow to effectively deliver projects on time.
- Plan – Meticulous planning and modularization taking into consideration the parallel and sequential activities. Planning for interdependent modules,modules that requires architecture at the project initiation phase such as a caching system, or multi-currency handling , and simple things like reusable methods that the application must be using!
- A 3 week Visibility – Maintain a minimum 3 week purview of all activities planned for the project and initiate communication/clarification for the plan at least 3 weeks in advance.This can be clarifications to clients, wireframes or business analysis on workflows, or probably as simple as getting a server provisioned for deployment.
- Daily Stand ups and Feature Discussions – Insist on stand ups or meetings to discuss with the entire team before a business flow implementation. They are sure to open up new perspectives and roadblocks you may hit in future. Its worth spending that 30 odd minutes brainstorming it out rather than reworking stuff at a later point in time. The more you think, the better!!!
- Track , Track and Track – Track the progress from different aspects. We define and track project velocity at project and individual levels by defining points to tasks and tracking weekly velocity of the team. There is no way we miss out if any developer is pulling down the project pace. Every task allocated are reviewed and rated, and notifications are set to alert for the tasks that gets delayed to PMs. If the tracking mechanisms are automated and perfected, it happens like a flow and you get perfect visibility into the pace of the project!
And yes, from an Ops Perspective above all this, we track
- Project P&L – A monthly PnL for the cost versus billing to ensure the project is profitable. Any delays or over commitment of resources can be caught here.
- Milestone Tracking – Through calendars and reminders set, such that you get alerts in advance for upcoming milestones. And trackers that show red alerts if dev hours spent are in line or more than estimated hours. These are critical areas that impacts the project P&L.
- Root Cause Analysis if there are delays is a must – you need to pin point if its a gap in business analysis, solution, estimation, resource allocation, client communication or something else. That’s the take away for future projects!!!
These are just a few tips that we effectively use for project management, and its working well for us.
As experts say, from effective project management comes predictability, and trying to manage a project without effective project management is like trying to play a football game without a game plan. You move everywhere but head nowhere!