If you’re a project manager you’re probably all too used to the fact that you can’t have all the resource all the time; you have to share designers and developers with other PMs on other projects. You’re probably also more than aware that your budget isn’t endless… With this in mind, effectively juggling the various team members’ time and where they fit into the project is a skill in itself.
Ideally you’d get a team to work exclusively on one project for its entirety; a dedicated UX guy, the project’s own designer and a developer at your beck and call. The team can then work collaboratively for the lifetime of the project.
But, we live in the real world, and unless you have mega-rich clients and the team can work on just one project at a time, this isn’t going to happen (and possibly not even then!). So, how do you deal with getting the maximum involvement you can from your team without blowing the budget?
Internal project kick-off meeting
One of the most simple things you can do to maximise your team’s involvement in the project is to get everyone together early on; get in a room and discuss the objectives, the core users of the site and their needs, the business requirements.
This is commonly known as the kick-off meeting, and is a great way to get everyone on the same page, and for the team to bounce ideas off each other. Everyone should also get a good grounding in the project without taking up huge amounts of their time.
Weekly status report
Creating a status report with an overview of project progress and future actions once a week will not only helps keep the client on track, but also is a useful tool to keep up your internal team’s involvement in the project.
It will help keep your team aware of decisions that are being made without eating up lots of their time, and keeps all relevant information in one central location that is devoid of Chinese whispers and misinterpretation. See my previous article on status reports for a more in-depth overview.
Handovers between stages of a project
Like a lot of ideas, the most simple ones are the most powerful. Something as simple as getting people together across subsequent stages of the project (for example, between the initial research period and then design iterations) is crucial.
Although the team should have an overview of what’s happening on the project already, it gives them the chance to specifically find out why decisions have been made, what are the visions for the project, how they see the functionality working and so on. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy presentation or discussion, just a brief summary of the key decisions or ideas that have come out of that stage, and where they are going.
An easy way to get your team involved across the extent of a project is to have review points. Has the developer seen the design, has the designer reviewed the build…? Make sure you plan these reviews in so that the team does get enough involvement at different stages. It’s important to enable collaboration between the team. Also, don’t forget to put these in the project plan and costs, so that they are budgeted for early on.
Bite-sized reviews at more regular points in the project process can also be more time-effective than a larger review at the end—I learnt this the hard way recently where a technical review came late in the project and highlighted some key issues which then had to be dealt with last minute. Smaller reviews earlier on would have likely circumvented this and made everyone’s life a little easier.
Share key decisions
It’s crucial to keep the main members of your team involved in important decisions; if there is a decision to make which affects the project, don’t just decide it between a smaller part of the team!
With any major decision you need to make sure all leads on the project know about it because that last-minute decision could cause major headaches for future development. It should avoid any big surprises and save time in the long run.
So, to summarise:
- Try not to see the team as isolated parts, and keep up involvement from the key members throughout.
- Plan involvement in smaller chunks to save on resource and budget; involve people little and often.
- Plan the team’s review points and handovers early on to secure the timings and budget.
- Update your project team on the project’s status regularly; give everyone the same information at the same time.
If anyone else has any useful tips let me know!