Tips For Software Project Management Success

Gimena Aguerreberry
June 25, 2021

Project management seems so straightforward. You set a deadline. You set a budget. You select the right people. The project gets done. In reality, project management is rarely straightforward.

Even seasoned project managers experience difficulties in successfully overseeing projects because every assignment brings with it new challenges and different criteria.

Being a successful project manager comes with a lot of responsibility. You need to be continually developing your skills in leadership, goal setting, and communication.

But it’s also highly rewarding. The ability to see a complex project through from start to finish is an excellent way to boost your career and add value to your organization.

Whether you've been assigned a project manager role or simply want to help your business's projects to stay on track, here are our top tips for project management to help you and your business to thrive.

What does a project manager do?

Project Managers (PM) are responsible for planning, organizing, and executing the completion of a project or several projects for an organization while ensuring these projects are completed successfully on time and within the designated budget.

Being a good project manager is a role that requires a lot of flexibility in the way you think. As a project manager, you need to know how to prioritize, how to analyze many different details, and know how to work with the people needed.

What is considered a successful project?

Your definition of success will be something that’s agreed upon by you, your team, and your client. However, expect this definition to change as the project evolves.

It’s no surprise that a project manager’s role is central to the success of any project, and creating a framework for this requires a large amount of thought and attention to detail. The biggest hurdle? Not every project manager knows how to do this. Time, experience, and passion will always work in your favor, but so will a few expert tips along the way.

Tips For Software Project Management Success

Successful project management is really about creating the right environment, using resources wisely, and having the right attitude. So to help you plan for your soon-to-be successful project, here are some simple project management tips.

1. Identify key requirements

Before you can define the scope of the project and fine-tune day-by-day tasks and goals, you’ll need to identify the key requirements and have a thorough understanding of what you want to achieve and why.

Make sure the stakeholders share a common understanding of how they will determine whether this project is successful. Too often, meeting a predetermined schedule is the only apparent success factor, but there are certainly others. Begin by identifying your stakeholders and their interests and expectations. Next, define some clear and measurable business goals.

2. Define the Scope

Often, thinking of the scope, we envision a list of precise features, described in as much detail as possible. This level of specification is time-consuming and unnecessary. What is necessary, however, is to know which values the product will bring customers.

The scope should include interim milestones, with deliverable dates and a budget worksheet that represents all time involved. If the initial project write up has enough detail, the better you and your client will interact through its production.

3. Create an estimate

Developing a product is a creative process that’s intertwined with the discovery phase. It’s unrealistic to estimate the entire scope, feature by feature, in the very beginning, and adhere to it as the project progresses and evolves.

At the same time, financial predictability and planning are among the most important aspects of a product’s success. Make sure you monitor if you're on track with delivering features and that the budget is still sufficient. Incorporate this into your sprint routine.

The results of your analysis should influence every subsequent sprint planning. Check what needs to be done to deliver the upcoming business value and don’t be afraid to cut the scope and get rid of some nice-to-haves if necessary.

4. Identify Constraints

Every project must balance its functionality, staffing, cost, schedule, and quality objectives. Define each of these five project dimensions as either a constraint within which you must operate, a driver strongly aligned with project success, or a degree of freedom you can adjust within some stated bounds. The project manager must have some flexibility to react to schedule slips, demands for increased functionality, staff turnover, and other realities.

5. Keep Communication

Besides being an important leadership trait, communication is also essential in effective project management. To run your projects smoothly, consistent and effective communication must take place between the relevant stakeholders and clients, and most importantly, your team!

As a successful project manager, the greatest step you can take towards effective project management is ensuring that all communication lines between your team members and yourself are always open so that anyone can come up to you with any questions or doubts.

6. Choose your people

When you're managing a project, regularly ask yourself what skills and experience you need to have onboard to make the project a success.

In the early stages of planning a new project, identify if you need to hire a new candidate or outsource some tasks. Make sure everyone involved has sufficient background information about your organization and the project goals so they can deliver the most value and champion your cause.

7. Risk management

If you don't identify and control project risks, they will control you. A risk is a potential problem that could affect the success of your project, a problem that hasn't happened yet, and you'd like to keep it that way. Risk management has been identified as one of the most significant best practices for software development. Simply identifying the possible risk factors isn't enough.

Risk exposure is a combination of the probability that a specific risk could materialize into a problem and the negative consequences for the project if it does. To manage each risk, select mitigation actions to reduce either the probability or the impact. You might also identify contingency plans that will kick in if your risk control activities are not effective.

8. Evaluate Performance & Track Progress

Once the goal is achieved, it is easy to skip the final step of being a dynamic project manager; evaluating the project performance.

Strive to run the project from a foundation of accurate, data-based facts, rather than from the misleading optimism that sometimes arises from the fear of reporting bad news. Use project status information and metrics data to take corrective actions when necessary and to celebrate when you can. You can only manage a project effectively when you really know what's done and what isn't, what tasks are falling behind their estimates and why, and what problems and issues remain to be tackled. The five major areas of software measurement are size, effort, time, quality, and status.

Final Thoughts - Tips For Software Project Management Success

Even the most experienced project managers struggle to predict every possible situation in the project. Do not be afraid to act, even if it leads to a mistake. There’s nothing worse you could do than remain passive and just let your project move forward by itself.

Make sure you’re aware of what is going on and what’s coming next. Think a few steps ahead and try to predict what could go wrong or right and prepare for it.

Hopefully, these tips help you in future projects. You’re never alone in the project management process; your team and your client care as much as you do about the development project.

"Tips For Software Project Management Success" by Gimena Aguerreberry is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Firmbee.

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