Rethinking Project Management for 2020

Posted by Antonio Erdeljac on January 20, 2020

GSD

The new year brings a good opportunity to reassess the usual ways of doing project management.  Factors such as team size, culture and employee contribution all impact project management and need to be greatly considered as they are the most important parts of the project development flow. In this article, I will go over some of the biggest pain points in the software industry regarding project management.

What’s wrong with Agile?

It’s not an understatement that some companies use the “Agile” way of project management, with limited knowledge, or without even considering alternatives. As per Wikipedia, ‘’Agile software development’, is described as “various approaches to software development under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their customer/end-user.” This seems perfect for an enterprise team that is working on a disruptive technology and needs a project management system that works with them. However the needs of companies vary greatly and the agile approach often does not apply. 

The decision to go Agile is not one to be taken lightly. Increased budget, resources and the software development learning curve of the system are factors to be heavily considered. Agile development will not only cost more, but the time and effort put into a usual Agile approach system can take half the time of the actual software development itself. On top of that, it is much easier for the whole project to fall off track, since you are dealing with a much more complex project management tool. With a simple tool, it’s easier to complete the project tasks of  “To-Do”, “In Progress” and “Done”, however with Agile, there is much more tasks to assess the project such as epic links, components, types of issues, subtasks linked with original tasks, and grooming (this is an extra weekly meeting as well!). 

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How to improve it?

Communicate with your team first, then consult product management. Assess the time and effort exerted into the project management and compare with the results. Be mindful that extra costs does not guarantee improved productivity. Most importantly, consider the opinions of customers.  Data can quantify and prove evidence, yet human usability can provide useful insight and knowledge. 

What’s wrong with meetings?

“This meeting could have been an email” - a common experience amongst the workforce.  Meetings can be highly effective and productive but the reverse is also true and time and focus is lost on the work.The most common meeting of all, at least in software development, is the stand-up meeting. Everyone will go over what they are working on that day, and everyone listens to what others will be working on, even if it does not pertain to them or their work. The point of a meeting should be to improve everyone’s knowledge of the status of the project, but it makes no sense for an app developer working in Swift to listen to a frontend developer explaining his problem in React.

How to fix meetings?

A good way of fixing meetings is creating an agenda. Knowing exactly what to cover in a meeting is a good way to keep consistency and set expectations. To increase productivity and retain focus,keep the meetings short, and small. A good practice is to group the meetings according to teams working on the same part of the project, or those working to related parts of the project (like backend and frontend), this way they will actually want to know what is going on with other developers.

How to gather team opinions?

More importantly than taking any blogger’s or website’s advice is taking your team’s advice. It is the best A/B test you could possibly imagine, since your teammates and colleagues are the best source of truth for what’s best for them. Most project managements are focusing too much on the business side, forgetting that developers are a crucial part of that. Taking your team’s advice and recommendations is valuable, priceless and an easily accomplished task which can always be employed again and again. One of the best tools I’ve used for gaining everyone’s opinion is Retrium - It is a simple app which allows you to anonymously report what went well and what went wrong this month or week depending on the frequency of your retro meetings. On the day of the meeting, a product manager will go over all the points, good and bad and create an action on how to improve it in the future.

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Best tools to improve project management

Investing into software and hardware like JetBrains and MacBooks which improves the efficiency of programming and task completion is important, but investing in tools which will help you understand your team is equally important for well-being of the project. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular tools for improvement of project management.

Jira

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Category: Issue Tracking

Price: Calculated Subscription

Description: Jira is an enterprise-level issue & project tracking tool developed by Atlassian focused on Agile development. Used by enterprise projects worldwide.

Trello

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Category: Issue Tracking

Price: Free with upgradable options

Description: Trello is a kanban-style issue tracker, focused on simplicity and available for everyone, as well as being adaptive to transform into an enterprise-project issue tracking app, but with a cost.

Retrium

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Category: Retrospectives

Price: Calculated Subscription

Description: Retrium is an easy retrospective tool used in Agile development. It provides a variety of retrospective facilitation techniques to improve your team.

Zoom

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Category: Video conference

Price: Free with upgradable options

Description: Zoom is a video conferencing app often used to host remote stand-ups, groomings and retrospectives with fast streaming and tools for every project management.

Slack

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Category: Messaging platform

Price: Free with upgradable options

Description: Slack is the most popular messaging platform used among developers. Organized conversations in forms of channels and threads with strict focus on work completion makes it one of a kind messaging platform with hardly any competition on the market.

Final thought

Technology is constantly changing and keeping up to date with it is as important as being up to date with your team. Habits will make or break your team regarding whether you listen to it or not. Take the time to assess what works for your team and improve project management once and for all. It’s a great year to do so.

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Antonio Erdeljac

Antonio is an Experienced Full Stack Engineer with a demonstrated history of working in the computer software industry. Skilled in React, Node and general JavaScript environment.

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