Project management is not for the faint of heart. And this is even more so in the case of managing a software project.
If you don’t believe us, ask any of the prematurely grey software project managers out there, and they’ll tell you why they need a nice, long vacation! But don’t let this stress you out.
As an entrepreneur, you need to don multiple hats, and that includes that of a project manager as well. Whether you are a seasoned veteran in the field or a novice taking his first tentative steps, we can guarantee that this blog will help you refine your project management process.
A managerial role comes with a lot of responsibilities, and it takes a visionary to plan and execute a project without missing a beat.
You’ll notice that quite a few software project managers are employees who have handled developer roles in the past. Developers who get promoted to project managers might have a technical advantage over their counterparts, but they may not be properly trained for a managerial position.
Coming from a technical background instead of a managerial background should not be a deterrent, however. Managers are, in effect, good leaders. And leaders emerge in times of crisis.
So, if you are an ex-developer who has been tasked with handling the role of team lead, you just need to pay a little extra attention to the pointers we have prepared for you, and you’ll be good to go!
We have put together a list of practical tips to help you manage a software project successfully. And to make a software project a success, you will need to drown a lot of coffee and kill a lot of bugs, so be prepared for war. Learn to use your strengths to your advantage and work ceaselessly on your weaknesses until they also become your strengths.
1. Plan Your Software Development Project Well
What’s the first step of preparing for war? That’s right! A battle plan! So, if you consider yourself the commander and your software development project as a battle, you need to prepare your battle plan well. Now, why is it so important that you need to invest time and research in planning your project development?
The majority of speed bumps that projects run into that slows them down can be traced back to...yes, you guessed it, poor planning. So, you should start on the right note, for well begun is half done.
Planning is the fundamental step of managing a project. A good plan gives you clear ideas of your project objectives, and outlines strategies to help you achieve your goals. To create a great working plan, you need to thoroughly understand the project’s scope and the expected outcomes.
As a project manager, you must ensure that your project journey is mapped out well. Create a roadmap with proper milestones marked and realistic deadlines to guide your team on your project journey.
2. Identify Potential Risks Right at the Start
Risks are potential threats to the progress of your software development process. They can range from impossible deadlines and fluctuating budgets to poor productivity and technical debts.
If you want to know more about the risks you may face, you can read more about how to mitigate the common risks in your software development project here.
It’s important to identify risks right at the beginning so that you can nip them in the bud. Identifying and mitigating risks early on can save you a tonne of effort in the future. If you ensure that risks like technical debts do not add up, you can also cut down on your overall costs.
Risk analysis and management also fall under the responsibilities of a project manager. You must implement strategies to ensure that these risks do not impede the progress of your software development project. A good manager will be able to analyse the risks, prioritise them in order of severity, and mitigate them in a timely fashion.
3. Budget Your Project Practically
Make a budget plan that will cover all your financial needs for the present and the future. It’s a good idea to leave a buffer to address any contingencies that might arise as your project development progresses.
Consider all the financial aspects you will encounter and leave no stone unturned.
- Did you take into account the cost of managing your development team?
- Are you planning to outsource your project to a reputed software development company like NeoITO?
- Did you look into the administrative costs?
- What about your marketing and promotional activities?
- Do you foresee any additional expenses in the future?
You will also need to track your budget consistently to ensure that you stick to it. This vigilant monitoring will help you make budget changes as and when required. If you’re going off budget, see every extra expenditure as a debt. Analyse the problems and fix it immediately instead of letting the extra debt add up.
Also read: What is the Average App Development Cost in 2021?
4. Take the Necessary Steps to Avoid Scope Creep
As a software project manager, you need to be on guard against scope creep. Scope creep is highly detrimental to the overall progress of your development project.
Scope creep refers to the gradual changes in a project scope after it has already been created and approved. There are many reasons for scope creep. You may face scope creep if your stakeholders decide to keep adding new features or functionalities to your product.
Scope creep can be controlled, however, if you take the proper steps. It is likely to happen if your project scope is not well defined or documented, so ensure that your contracts are all in order before you start the development work. You can also reduce scope creep by ensuring proper communication between all stakeholders involved in the project.
Scheduling a kick-off meeting to outline the scope clearly once and for all is a good idea too. This way, your team, and your stakeholders are well aware of the extent and limitations of your project scope. You should also be prepared to say no when required.
5. Create an Environment that is Conducive to Coding
Before you start your software development, you must prepare your team. Part of this preparation includes defining the project scope and explaining the stakeholders expectations to your team.
But there’s another part that is more important. Prepare your team mentally for what lies ahead. They are your warriors. Prepare them for battle.
Make sure you set up a working environment that is conducive to coding. Your developers love coding, so help them do their job well without external interference. Keep their passion for coding alive with the right encouragement.
Also don’t forget that quality is more important than quantity, so don’t rush your developers unnecessarily. Utilise your planning skills to give out expected requirements beforehand so that you can avoid suffocating your development team with tight deadlines. The more space and time you give your developers to exercise their creativity, the better they will code. And the better the code, the better your final product.
6. Delegate Tasks Depending on the Skillsets of Your Team Members
The policy of ‘divide and conquer’ can be highly beneficial for your software project development. Delegate the tasks according to the skills of each team member. Try to optimise your development process by helping your teammates play to their strengths.
Some of your developers might be better at coding, some might have proven their mettle in testing, and some might be more inclined towards the implementation process. Ask them what they are more comfortable with and draw up a task sheet that is unbiased and acceptable for all.
It is important to assign specific roles to your team so that there is no confusion among the team members about their individual responsibilities. This will also increase the accountability of each team member towards your project’s progress.
While delegating tasks, you also need to understand the time it will take for your team to complete the tasks well. Try to prioritise your tasks and delegate them in such a way that there’s enough time to get things done, and done well.
7. Avoid Micromanaging Your Developers
A common mistake managers tend to make is micromanaging their team.
You can get so focused on perfection that you sometimes forget how important it is to let your team do their work their own way. Micromanaging is detrimental to the overall morale of your team, and can actually hamper productivity instead of increasing it.
Let your developers work at their own pace, as long as deadlines are met and the outputs are of industry quality. In this case, it’s smart to be blunt with your team. Ask them how they prefer to be managed, and set clear guidelines on how the project should progress.
You should also empower your team to make decisions on their own, instead of relying on you to manage them all the time. Encourage them to think outside the box when it comes to coding, and let the sky be the limit! Innovative coding can help your developers develop unique codes that will be highly beneficial for your software development project.
8. Avoid Tasking Developer with Non-Development Work
If you ask a developer why they chose their line of profession, most of the answers you get will indicate their love for coding. As the project manager, you must prioritise their tasks in a way that helps them focus more on the coding and the technical aspects of the software development project.
Developers prefer to spend their time working solely on technical tasks, so try to take non-development work off their plates. You can manage time sinks such as administrative paperwork and meetings that are not related to their technical work. This will free up more time for your developers to do what they do best - work on their coding!
Show your developers that you value their time and efforts. You can do this by distilling the information that you get from the management team before you pass it on to your development team.
Distilling information means you should analyse the information and pick out the relevant bits for your technical team. Information compression ensures that your developers won’t have to waste time digging through copious amounts of data to find what they need.
9. Be Attentive to the Needs of Your Development Team
Do you know the difference between hearing and listening? Listening needs a conscious effort from your side, and engages your brain’s concentration powers.
The difference between simply hearing something and listening to something is crucial for a software development manager. A good manager is a good listener, and only then can he respond instead of reacting.
You need to be attentive to your team’s needs, and you can do that only with good listening skills. If you don’t respond with your inputs quickly, the whole project might be stalled.
It is your responsibility to give your team the tools they need to finish your software development successfully. You might have to repeat the project scope and requirements. Sometimes, on several occasions. You might have to define your team’s roles repeatedly. This is expected, as your team members are humans and not machines.
If someone is frazzled at work, give them a day off to recover. You’ll never know what the other person is going through, so you have to remain patient with your team’s needs. Have an open-door policy with your team and engage them in one-on-one meetings.
Most importantly, let your team members know that they can count on you to have their backs, come hail or storm.
10. Utilise Project Management Tools to Streamline Workflows
Technology is advancing at a tremendous pace. The technological developments that you can utilise to streamline your project development process are numerous.
Project Management Software can help you manage your team better and more effectively to drive optimised outputs.
It basically acts as your one-stop shop for all things related to your project. You can upload your project files, important documents, and updates on this software to reach all your stakeholders at the same time.
You can also utilise the many project development tools offered by Project Management Software such as proofing tools, Gantt charts, and custom workflows. Confluence is a software that is commonly used by software development teams. In essence, you can orchestrate your entire project management process from a single centralised dashboard.
11. Be Open to Constructive Feedback From Your Developers
It’s a software development project, so ultimately, your developers will know what’s best. Even if you come from a technical background, do not presume to know better than your team when it comes to the development process.
Your team is doing active time in the field, so they will know what’s possible and what’s not. If the expectations for your final product are not realistic, give your developers the freedom to openly point it out.
Perhaps an idea for a functionality is not technically feasible. Your developers will know this as they have attentive industry knowledge, and you can put that on hold or rework it later when you don’t have any other priority tasks.
You can also utilise the inputs from your developers to prioritise tasks and set realistic deadlines. Take it from us, lending a willing ear to your developer’s words will save you effort and money in the long run.
12. Track Your Project's Progress Regularly
There is no way around this. You must track your project’s progress frequently and as often as your schedule allows.
Keep tabs on the pace at which your development team carries your project forward with daily scrums and weekly sprints. Monitoring your team will help you understand the key areas you need to focus on to optimise your development process.
Regular updates will increase a sense of accountability in your team and keep pushing them to break boundaries. It will also give you a chance to understand the issues faced by your team and resolve them immediately to avoid bottlenecks and technical debts.
13. Conduct Regular Performance Reviews for Your Team
A performance review is not an interrogation. Rather, it is a chance to check on the holistic development of your team members. It is an opportunity to check the project progress as well as to guide your team to improve as individuals.
- How are they doing?
- Is their work progressing well?
- Are they able to meet deadlines with ease? If not, what’s holding them back from utilising their full potential?
- Do they have any suggestions to improve the overall efficiency of the project?
Make sure you hold one-on-one meetings, rather than a collective assembly. This lets you access your teammates' performances without bias and without making them feel self conscious.
Has their performance increased or decreased? Or is it consistent? If a teammate is performing well, help them aim for consistency if they are good.
Sit down with your team members and analyse what’s wrong if their performance is down so that you can come up with constructive solutions to the problems they might be facing.
14. Try to Avoid Making Your Developers Multi-task
Multitasking is commonly mistaken as a good skill to possess. However, in recent years, it has become evident that multitasking is actually detrimental to productivity.
In the case of developers, this is very true. Switching tasks is not easy for a developer. They would need to realign their thinking process and start over every time they switch tasks.
What if your developer is in the middle of working out an innovative new code or trying to come up with a bug-fixing solution? Developers need time to think about the problems they’re trying to resolve, and switching tasks can disrupt their problem-solving process. Being asked to switch tasks could set their progress back considerably.
If your developers are working on multiple projects, help them schedule their work timetable. Make sure that you have made provisions to accommodate the needs of all the projects they are handling, without any of the projects overlapping.
15. Make Effective and Open Communication a Priority
We’ll be very straightforward with you here. Managers who do not communicate well with their team are setting themselves and the project they handle up for failure.
Make communication a key priority when you manage a software development project. If your army is in disarray because of improper communication, you have no hopes of winning the war.
If your stakeholders make changes, make sure they are conveyed to your team at the right time to avoid disruption of your project progress further down the lane.
And it’s not enough to just communicate. You need to make sure your communication with your team is effective. Try to communicate openly with all team members, across a public forum. This way, everyone is kept in the loop and you won’t have to waste time relaying the same message over and over to different people. You can utilise a company bulletin board, or common groups to do so.
However, if the matter you need to communicate is of a sensitive nature, then consider private emails or arrange a one-on-one meeting with the concerned team member. Never make any of your team members feel like they have been ambushed. Send out memos beforehand if you plan to question them one-on-one so that they can be prepared with the right answers.
16. Keep Your Team’s Morale Up At All Times
Being accountable for the project development is one of your main responsibilities as the project manager. Your teams are only responsible for the tasks that they are assigned. It is your job to bring them all together seamlessly and lead them to victory.
Software development is a long process, and the results are not usually quantifiable immediately. So, your team might need a morale boost once in a while. As the project manager, it is up to you to don your cheerleader outfit and wave those pom-poms!
Take moments to recognise the hard work and dedication of your team mates. If a developer manages to create an outstanding code, make sure he knows his efforts are appreciated. Give credit where it’s due, and take accountability for the setbacks. It is part of your job to shine the spotlight on others and motivate them to work better.
At the end of the day, celebrate the wins, and mourn the losses, but not for long. You have an end goal in sight, so regroup and march on!
17. Escalate Critical Issues on Time
If issues that need quick resolution are not escalated quickly, your software development project will develop bottlenecks. This can stall your project and cause further complications like expanding budgets and exceeding deadlines.
You’ll notice that the primary reason for bottlenecks is a lack of initiative to prioritise and escalate issues as and when they occur. In a software development project, the bottlenecks that develop will be hard to get out of, as these will most likely have built up technical debts. It’s simpler and more cost-effective to resolve issues as you go along, so that you won’t have to pause the project to clear the backlogs.
If an issue is not within your power to fix, feed it up the management chain to the right stakeholder as quickly as possible. Once you do this, follow up regularly with the concerned stakeholder till the issue is officially marked as closed.
It is important to remember that a development project is no place to let egos come into play. You might be frustrated with the time it takes to resolve issues. You might have to seek external help in some cases. But, no matter what, make decisions that ultimately protect the interests of your team and your project.
18. Stay Connected to the Project Owner
If you see the project as the war that needs to be won, the project owner is the ruler. You’re fighting this war on his or her behalf, so you need to make sure that you maintain clear communication routes with the project owner.
Get in touch with them regularly and keep them updated on the project progress.
- What are your wins so far?
- How close are you to ending this war and emerging victorious?
- How is your team performing?
- Are you facing any bottlenecks?
- Do you think there are any issues that need to be addressed to optimise the project progress?
- Do you think so-and-so features or capability can make your final product better?
Do not forget to take feedback from the project owner too.
- Does your project owner have any concerns?
- Do they want to incorporate scope changes that you’ll need to pass on to the troops immediately?
- Do they have any suggestions that could make the outcome better?
Customer success and satisfaction should rank high in your list of priorities as a project development manager.
19. Make Sure You Practise Good Management Techniques
The right management can be the crucial turning point for a software development project. As there are multiple teams involved, the project manager should manage them all and ensure that they complement each other’s work.
As a project manager, you need to understand that improving yourself and your skills is just as important as improving your team. Involve yourself in a continuous learning process to keep up with the technical requirements of your team.
There are many many good management techniques that you can practise to enhance your management style. Consistency is key, however, so try to improve yourself as a manager on a daily basis.
You can encourage your team to come up with ideas, and help them streamline their thoughts to improve productivity. You can focus on clear and concise communication between all stakeholders involved. You can make it a point to recognise and reward hard work.
You must remember that you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach with a team of diverse individuals. You should also strive to maintain transparency in all your dealings. Set an example that your team members will be motivated to follow.
20. Document Just About Everything
Technical documentation is an integral part of your project development process. As the project manager, you must ensure that every milestone in your project development is recorded accurately and stored safely for future reference.
The recorded data can prove extremely beneficial when you are conducting project progress reviews and when you hit the project delivery milestone. It’s also handy when you want to refer to notes on different project implementations and the effects they have on your final product.
Proper documentation can also help you share ideas and communicate more effectively with all your stakeholders.
If you have managed to process the above mentioned tips, it means you are already starting your preparations.
Now, it’s time to put on the war paint and help your troops take up their positions. Remember that your team is only as strong as its weakest member and make sure that no man is left behind as you move forward with the project.
As an innovative entrepreneur, the onus is on you to prepare all your team members to put their best foot forward. So, try to use the tips we mentioned to make your entire software development process a resounding success.
NeoITO has garnered a reputation as one of the reliable product development companies in the US because of our team’s dedication and commitment to helping our clients succeed. If you need more pointers or help with your product development, you can reach out to us at any time.