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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

What Would Be Your PM Approach: Scott Berkun

This is the last, but definitely not least, episode of What would be your PM approach series. For the grand finale I chose Scott Berkun, who I don’t need to introduce to anyone here I guess. Let me just state that when I found Scott and his writings for the first time my thought was “Hey, that’s the kind of person I wish I’ll be someday and I’d really like to build similar blog somewhere in far, far future.” It’s still an ambitious plan even though I don’t consider myself capable of writing such great books.

Over to Scott’s answers.

There are three situations. For each the question is the same – what would be your project management approach?

You work in a big company and are put in charge of big complex project which is about to be started. People in the company are familiar with Prince-2 but time or budget overruns aren’t anything new, although they’re kept at industry average level. A project team is gathered from different teams – they haven’t worked with each other on any project yet.

I’m not much for methodologies. If I have a method here it’s two things. First find out what my assets are. Who are the best people on this project team? What are their strengths? Second, what are my liabilities. You mention one: they haven’t worked with each other before. That’s a big problem. My first move is to get a core group of the best people to agree on the goals, agree on our top concerns, and agree on a plan for addressing the concerns.

You’re hired to clean up the mess in projects in company of 70 people. So far the company struggles to do any project on time or without major problems. Project management is pretty non-existent and software development along with quality assurance is drowned in chaos.
I have to start small. I have to find a small project, or a small part of a larger project, and release something good quickly. I need to demonstrate that good work can be done in this organization. Once I can show a small example of success it will be possible to get people optimistic and motivated to replicate that example. It might even be a small update that only takes 2 weeks, but if I do it on time, on budget, and will good results I have an example I can sell to other people on the team.

You organize a startup of four people, including yourself. The idea you work on however puts pretty strict requirements when it comes to software performance, high availability and quality. The team isn’t going to grow for some time but in a perspective of year you hope to see a dozen people on board.

If I’m at a startup it’s critical we all agree on those strict requirements. If one of the four disagrees, and writes code with his own requirements in mind, we’re fucked. I’d work very hard to continually make sure we’re all on in agreement on how to manage those strict requirements, and invest our time with the same priorities.

I recommend reading the whole series.

in: project management

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