Recently I came across a very interesting question on Project Management Stack Overflow. The question is how to organize project management in tiny projects, where everything is done by a single person or just a couple of them.
The interesting thing here is that when we think about the point where organization introduce formal PM role we usually see at least a few dozen people. So how about startups, where just a few people are working in the whole organization?
Let’s consider one-man project. I leave aside all tasks directly related with software development, so for the sake of this article I don’t care about version control or bug tracking. Which leaves us with a few of basic areas.
- Scope management
You actually need to know what you’re going to do. At least on general level. Actually in startups it’s not a good idea to have detailed plans of development since, well, what you start with is wrong and you’re going to change the course along the way. However if you don’t know, even roughly, where you’re going and you can hardly tell what is your goal then you might look for another project or another job instead because you’re not succeeding. So yes, a bit of scope management is crucial – you have to know that you’re building a tower and not, say, space ship.
- Task management
You already know where you generally are going. Good. Now you have to figure out the next step. Or the next feature you’re going to build. Then you build it. And you repeat the process. I mean from the point when you figure out the next step, not from setting the general direction. Of course you don’t have to be so short-sighted to plan only a feature ahead but you do need to break the scope down to smaller tasks and start building your tower brick after brick. And of course you need to know which brick goes first and which goes next.
- Product management
This is kind of tricky. Actually if you know the scope and you dealing well with tasks you pretty much have this one covered. Given that you’re building the right thing that is. Product management in such small project is all about making sure that you’re building the right thing. It’s not on brick level but you need something more than just a picture of tower pinned over your desk. You actually have to know that you want to keep bad people in hostage there so you need cells, torture chambers and such. Then you need to figure out how these things should work so clients… I mean hostages are served… I mean tortured well.
- Communication with users and/or clients
Finally, you need to verify whether your dream about best of the breed torture tower is something people actually want. You need to regularly confront your ideas with clients or users or both (depending on your target group) to make a sanity check: are we still going into the right direction. Yes, you need to talk with those tortured poor souls to learn whether they’re happy with the service. You might also check your butchers – they do use your product as well. If the tower isn’t ready, go find potential customers and potential users and get their feedback. Since you’re running one-man project you don’t have clearly defined requirements so this part is even more important than in typical projects.
Now, I’m well aware these areas aren’t strictly connected with project management as some corporate PMs out there know. In big teams PM can be isolated from product management and from end users, scope can be thrown at the project team in huge specification before the project starts, but well, we don’t discuss big teams working on boring BDUF project here, do we?
By the way PMSE (Project Management Stack Exchange) site is awesome not only in terms of inspiring blog posts. You will find there a lot of great stuff so what are you waiting for? Go check the site.