How to make project management work for you.
Every tool we use is there to serve the project management process, which in turn exists to benefit us and our clients.
There is a lot of jargon and fuss about project management styles. They have all manner of names: Agile, Waterfall, Scrum, Six Sigma, PMI, Kanban. If you’re new to the conversation then the choices can seem overwhelming.
Most of these approaches began life as humble suggestions in how to approach projects, but they have since become heavy tools wielded by large companies who will even sell you training and certification in how to use them.
At Worthers, we try to slip free of the heavy requirements that these approaches demand. Instead we head straight for the most pragmatic path we can find.
What it’s really all about
Good project management is a simple recipe once you remove the jargon. It boils down to a few key aspects.
- Communication. It’s a word that appears in just about every list of principles ever made, and for good reason. When everyone is well-informed throughout a project, they know what the options are and good decisions can be made on the fly.
- Clarity. The soul-mate of communication, is about getting everyone on the same page so that developers, designers, managers and the customer can move forward with confidence.
- Planning. A plan, even a rough one, is essential for keeping track of progress and giving everyone confidence in the process. Remember, it can always be reviewed and changed as things progress.
There is nothing forcing you to adopt a single project management methodology. While they scrap over market dominance, you can treat them as equals, mixing, matching and even developing your own. The only priority is choosing what works for your company and clients. Because no two companies are exactly the same, the winning recipe will always be unique.
What works for Worthers?
We try to keep a lean approach to project management. If it ever becomes a burdensome task, we re-evaluate.
We dabble in a little so-called Waterfall management. Essentially it’s about creating a step-by-step project plan. This suits most of our projects since they have a fixed budget and start with a clear outline of what is going to be built. We make a point of listing the features and designs so that everything can be confirmed upfront.
But after the step-by-step plan has been agreed, we aren’t necessarily rigidly fenced in by the Waterfall method. Instead we borrow from the Agile approach.
We let our clients change their minds during the project. We deliver updates throughout so the client can review our progress and, if necessary, change our course. Being flexible allows us to develop the best possible product for our client. It means we can bring the full force of our creativity to the table, and stops us - or our clients - from ever feeling limited by our own project management. By blending recognised project approaches, we tailor our methods to serve us and our clients, rather than the other way around.
Tools for the job
Project management is made much easier these days by the plethora of tools at your disposal. We are no longer limited to spreadsheets - though of course, we would never be anywhere without them. We still use spreadsheets for tracking the budget spend: checking how much work is completed, what is billable, how much of the budget is still available. Excel and its many spin-offs are the hammer-and-nails of all project management. They’re not going to stop being effective anytime soon.
We now also use Trello. It’s super-flexible, easy to get the hang of, and by reducing project management to a colourful drag and drop system, it’s surprisingly effective. We are also fans of Apollo, to help us keep track of time and all our project communication. This saves us from sifting through endless email threads.
We love Slack for fast, internal communication. It’s no substitute for face-to-face team work, but it can help quicken the pace when it comes to simple questions and quickly sharing snippets of code across the office or across the globe!
Ultimately, every tool we use is there to serve the project management process, which in turn exists to benefit us and our clients. No doubt our approach will change again with time, we’ll shake off any excess weight so we can stay effective and efficient. Everything is adaptable and nothing is ever one-size-fits-all. Your own approach is yours to decide.