Project Management is difficult – like running a ship

Under what circumstances, if any, can adding team members to a software development project that is running late result in a reduction in the actual ship date with a level of quality equal to that if the existing team were allow to work until completion?

There are a number of things that I think are necessary, but not sufficient, for this to occur (in no particular order):

  • The proposed individuals to be added to the project must have:
    • At least a reasonable understanding of the problem domain of the project
    • Be proficient in the language of the project and the specific technologies that they would use for the tasks they would be given
    • Their proficiency must /not/ be much less or much greater than the weakest or strongest existing member respectively. Weak members will drain your existing staff with tertiary problems while a new person who is too strong will disrupt the team with how everything they have done and are doing is wrong.
    • Have good communication skills
    • Be highly motivated (e.g. be able to work independently without prodding)
  • The existing team members must have:
    • Excellent communication skills
    • Excellent time management skills
  • The project lead/management must have:
    • Good prioritization and resource allocation abilities
    • A high level of respect from the existing team members
    • Excellent communication skills
  • The project must have:
    • A good, completed, and documented software design specification
    • Good documentation of things already implemented
    • A modular design to allow clear chunks of responsibility to be carved out
    • Sufficient automated processes for quality assurance for the required defect level These might include such things as: unit tests, regression tests, automated build deployments, etc.)
    • A bug/feature tracking system that is currently in-place and in-use by the team (e.g. trac, SourceForge, FogBugz, etc).

One of the first things that should be discussed is whether the ship date can be slipped, whether features can be cut, and if some combinations of the two will allow you to satisfy release with your existing staff. Many times its a couple features that are really hogging the resources of the team that won’t deliver value equal to the investment. So give your project’s priorities a serious review before anything else.

If the outcome of the above paragraph isn’t sufficient, then visit the list above. If you caught the schedule slip early, the addition of the right team members at the right time may save the release. Unfortunately, the closer you get to your expected ship date, the more things can go wrong with adding people. At one point, you’ll cross the “point of no return” where no amount of change (other than shipping the current development branch) can save your release.

I could go on and on but I think I hit the major points. Outside of the project and in terms of your career, the company’s future success, etc. one of the things that you should definitely do is figure out why you were late, if anything could have been done alert you earlier, and what measures you need to take to prevent it in the future. A late project usually occurs because you were either:

  • Were late before you started (more stuff than time) and/or
  • slipped 1hr, 1day at time.

Hope that helps!

Continue reading “Project Management is difficult – like running a ship”

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Good Companies Grow No Matter What

Every business demands growth, and double-digit growth is the dream of every dedicated business owner, even when lackluster results show up at quarter’s end.

Most entrepreneurial business owners need a guide to navigate their way toward substantial, sustainable growth.  It can be done even in a slow economy as demonstrated by such companies as Harley Davidson, Starbucks, and WalMart.  Even smaller companies such as Paychex and Oshkosh Truck have been able to make gains in revenue, gross profits and net profits.

Here are 5 disciplines of sustained growth:

Continue reading “Good Companies Grow No Matter What”

Become Your Own Personal CFO

Budgets and personal finances are not most people’s favorite topics, and certainly not one of mine.  Even bank executives have problems in this area, but if you’re an entrepreneur so do you.  You’re concentrating so much time on your business, your personal checkbook takes a back seat.  Then one day you are met with the startling fact that you’re not saving enough for lean times and you panic. Continue reading “Become Your Own Personal CFO”

Survival tips for small businesses

You may a local merchant with 150 employees; whichever, however or whatever—you’ve got to know how to keep your business alive during economic recessions. Anytime the cash flow in a business, large or small, starts to tighten up, the money management of that business has to be run as a “tight ship.”

Some of the things you can and should do include protecting yourself from expenditures made on sudden impulse. We’ve all bought merchandise or services we really didn’t need simply because we were in the mood, or perhaps in response to the flamboyancy of the advertising or the persuasiveness of the salesperson. Then we sort of “wake up” a couple of days later and find that we’ve committed hundreds of dollars of business funds for an item or service that’s not essential to the success of our own business, when really pressing items had been waiting for those dollars. Continue reading “Survival tips for small businesses”

Five Easy Steps to Staying Motivated

Motivating yourself to excel at your job or to be an example to your employees, should not be something you do only when the spirit moves you.  It’s an ongoing process that should include every facet of your business life. This means your mental attitude, physical well-being and appearance, work atmosphere, your interaction with others (clients and employees alike), and your off-the-job environment.

Motivational experts get paid big bucks to tell professionals, striving for success, that they must constantly examine these factors.  How do you do that?  Follow the 5 tips that follow, and watch the changes. Continue reading “Five Easy Steps to Staying Motivated”

Dispelling 8 Misconceptions of Organization

 

Some people were born organized and then there are those of us who struggle with organizing every year at this time.  It seems that it’s always at the end of the year when that little annoying bug begins nudging you to clear things up and start the new year organized.

Well, I’ve read just about everybody’s directions, books, and helpful hints about getting organized (in fact, I’m thinking of writing one myself), and I’ve got to tell you there are some misconceptions being fostered by every organizational guru.  It will be my pleasure to give you the “skinny” on that in today’s column. Continue reading “Dispelling 8 Misconceptions of Organization”

Hang On To Top Employees

08The best way to keep your top employees is to know them better than they know themselves.  Use this knowledge to create the career of their dreams, and they’ll stick to your company like glue.  The new “biz-speak” for this is called Job Sculpting.

The concept of Job Sculpting as defined by career experts, Timothy Butler and James Waldroop, in the Harvard Business Review, is that good people will stay only in jobs that “fit their deeply embedded life interests—that is their long-held emotionally driven passions.”

To adopt this strategy, spend a lot of effort listening to your company stars.  For each one of them, try to identify what life interests are dominant with them, and then offer them the assignments that satisfy this interest.  It may mean simply adding another assignment to the existing responsibilities, or it may mean switching one set of tasks to another employee.  It may even require moving your “star” employee to a different position altogether. Continue reading “Hang On To Top Employees”