If you’ve ever been thrown into managing a project, you know how easily things can get sidetracked. A miscommunication with a vendor can end up producing a less than desirable result. That misunderstanding causes the vendor to choose a subpar application to complete the project’s main tasks. Now you might have to put everything on hold or proceed, knowing you’ll have cleanup on the back end.
Any project can run into complications, but software development teams face layers of complexity. Project management tools aren’t an afterthought; they’re a must. As a leader, selecting applications with the right mix of features is often a challenge.
Knowing how to support and develop your team’s project management skills beyond your chosen app’s interface can be difficult. Despite the ambiguities and intense coordination efforts software development projects require, there are ways to extend your team’s abilities. Here are some things to watch out for and improve upon.
With so many software development project management tools to choose from, it becomes difficult to determine which one is best. To avoid extensive trial and error, start with your current project management process. Examine any tools and applications staff members use, and speak with each team member individually about them.
Are there procedures and functionalities that seem to cause repeat hiccups? What works well, and what suggestions does your staff have for improving flow? Take notes and look for outliers and commonalities to determine the team’s needs.
Once you identify gaps, you can ascertain the support needed and begin evaluating your options. Apps that help developers manage projects usually include planning, workflow, collaboration, issue tracking, and reporting features. Within each of these categories are distinctions that can make a big difference. For instance, your team might prefer to work with a roadmap of tasks and assignments.
Selecting features that will help everyone be more productive and collaborative is only one piece of the puzzle. You’ll want to consider the simplicity of working with the tool. If the interface is difficult to understand or the app runs slowly, all the functionality in the world won’t help. Evaluate how the application integrates with other tools you use for analytics or client support. And ask staff to test out a few potential tools before making a final selection.
When projects fail or get off track, it’s usually due to inadequate processes and a lack of cohesiveness. The common reasons project management efforts fall short include unclear or unrealistic goals, poor planning, and inadequate testing and measurement. Throw in some animosity and bad communication, and you have a recipe for disaster.
While you can’t change the past, you can learn from it. Conducting a review of prior projects and processes will help identify areas for improvement. Maybe there wasn’t a clear way to delegate tasks and get approvals for subsequent stages. Perhaps a few employees became bogged down with too many assignments, while others weren’t sure what to do.
Whatever the reasons, brainstorming ways to fix poor processes removes the tendency to point fingers. Assigning blame to people for project failures exacerbates any underlying cultural or communication issues. Working through what, rather than who, fell short can bring the team together around a common desire to succeed.
Even if your developers have been working on projects for awhile, there’s always more to learn. Sometimes bad habits and processes develop because people don’t know any better. They’ve learned how to get by through colleagues’ examples or on-the-job experience. Yet experience isn’t everything. Taking project management certification courses and studying experts’ techniques can provide insights separate from real-world practice.
Keep in mind that learning best practices doesn’t mean your team has to adopt everything by the book. Some advice and workflow processes might not fit your organization.
The goal is to get your team thinking about how they manage and work through projects. Maybe there’s a more efficient way to reach the finish line or a technique they didn’t know about. Professional guidance and textbook methods can correct shortcomings, but be open to adapting those methods to your situation.
Workplace conflicts often occur due to lack of transparency and can cause productivity problems. Because project management involves many moving pieces and individuals, good communication is essential. As the team’s leader, you set the example. You’re also responsible for mediating conflicts between team members and rooting out communication problems.
You might think you’re getting your message across, only to discover you aren’t. Without centralized communication, some team members might know details about the project that others don’t. While it’s natural to talk more with colleagues who share common interests and perspectives, leaving people out creates confusion.
When employees are surprised by a decision or new direction that impacts their work, frustration will flourish. Staff might feel resentful or not understand why they have to change gears. Trust can break down between leadership and the team.
Perhaps the solution is to hold more meetings, but it can also be as simple as leveraging communication tools. Collaboration doesn’t always have to occur in person or in real time. Intranets, wikis, knowledge bases, and collaboration features can facilitate transparency, especially with remote teams. Outlining or documenting conversations in communication software will keep everyone involved and on the same page.
Part of what makes project management complex is coordinating multiple tasks and the efforts of several contributors. Using project management software is a given, but it’s not enough to rely on a random tool for success.
Effective synchronization is achieved by selecting apps that match team needs, fine-tuning processes, learning from the experts, and transparent communication. By putting these principles into practice, your software team will eventually master the art of project management.