Over the years, each project manager has developed a list of his favorite and necessary tools, with which he moves from project to project and considers them to be the most effective. Below is my set of basic approaches and tools, which is not intended to be complete, but, I hope, will help you in your projects.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that when using this or that tool, it is necessary to clearly understand its meaning, as well as the tasks that you want to solve with its help. Since misunderstanding can ultimately harm the project.
MUST HAVE Toolkit and Approach
In my opinion, any software development project lasting more than a month should have:
Code repository (for any duration of the project) – everything is elementary here, if you lose the developed materials (specifications, code, instructions, design, etc.), then the project will have to start all over again. Also, the lack of a repository will incredibly complicate the work of the development team. Therefore, it should be on all projects, and its absence is an unjustified risk.
Bug tracking system – or as it is called in Russian “Error Tracking System”. The system acts as a kind of circulatory system of the project, it allows you to set tasks, track their progress and the progress of the project as a whole, collect various statistics, manage priorities and many other things.
Wiki – storage of all frequently used information on the project (instructions, team list, leave of team members, addresses of stands, details of test accounts and much more). Everything is stored in one place, structured and does not require a lot of time to search.
Continuous integration (CI) – the practice of software development, which consists in merging working copies into a common main branch of development several times a day and performing frequent automated assemblies of the project to quickly identify potential defects and solve integration problems.
Some teams are in no hurry to implement CI, citing a lack of time, but, in fact, they eat up many times more time without using this tool.
Status rallies – In different companies they are often called in different ways, but the essence of this does not change. Such meetings are held with a certain frequency, preferably every day in the morning and at a certain time, at which each team member briefly tells what he was doing, what he plans to do and whether he has any problems. These meetings can be held both in person and remotely through modern group call services. The main point is to quickly receive information on the project progress and also promptly make adjustments, as well as increase the level of awareness of team members about the project progress (increase their motivation). These rallies should not take much time, for a maximum of 15 minutes, details and problems are not discussed at rallies, but only their presence is recorded, so that after you can only get together with those people who are needed and do not waste the time of others. If the team is large, then break up the meetings: the manager holds statuses with the leaders of the areas, and they with their people.
Quite often, I observe how project managers:
- hold statuses for a long time – it exhausts even those who are not involved in the discussion and their productivity falls that day, not to mention the fact that while they are on status, they do not do their job;
- often canceled postponed late with the beginning – this all kills the meaning of these meetings. Such situations should be an exception.
Personal Toolkit & Approach
I also want to list several approaches that make life easier for the IT project manager and which we use as necessary in the company:
- If you are planning a fix-price project, then do not be lazy and plan it right away in MS Project. Only this product allows you to comprehensively assess the timing, cost, what resources at what stage to introduce and many other aspects. I have not heard about a full-fledged analogue of this product.
- Online date calculators. Such services allow you to quickly calculate working days relative to the production calendar, which often saves a lot of time (how many working days are left until a certain date, how many working days are between two specific dates, etc.).
- Cloud note services. There is definitely information that you cannot store on the project Wiki, in which case these services will come to your aid and ensure its availability even outside the office.
- Fixing statuses. On statuses with a team or customer, tasks constantly arise that need to be performed or monitored. The whole status does not make sense to record, but to write down who you promised and by what date is necessary. Due to the abundance of constantly arriving information, if it is not written down, a mess appears quite easily in the head. For each type of status, you can keep your own tablet where the status date is fixed in the first column, the questions you want to raise at the meeting in the second column, and what you agreed on in the third, and tasks are recorded in it. Again, it’s better to keep this tablet in the cloud notes service.
- Remote access to a working computer. The project manager is one of the critical members of the project team, if he gets sick or quits, it can bring a lot of problems on the project. It is difficult to defend oneself from the second, and the manager himself must defend himself from the first. If he becomes ill, he must be sure that he can at least to a limited extent provide project management remotely from home and for this it is better to take care in advance and configure remote access to a working computer.
- The team will help. Many times I observed situations when a problem arises on the project and the manager runs to the management or starts looking for an external expert to solve it, but does not bother to bring all the details to the team and ask them if they have ideas on this. A team is people already immersed in context and details. When submitting a problem to a general discussion with a team, you often get an elegant solution from professionals. Do not miss this chance.
I tried to share the tools and practices that I use myself, reducing project risks and facilitating my activities and teams.
If you want to understand this issue deeply, you are lucky, the project managers of the past took care and created the Project Management Institute (PMI), which in turn developed the Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK). At the moment, its sixth edition of 2017 is already available. This set of knowledge is universal and is suitable not only for IT projects.