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Complete Projects on Time

Three principles that save you time and money

The following three principles lay out the steps you should be following, to make sure that your projects are completed on time, and on budget, successfully.

1) Communicate
Forty-percent of project managers cited poor communication as the leading cause if IT project failures.
If everyone involved in your IT project doesn't know what they're working on, when it's due, how to get itdone and who the audience is, how can you possibly expect your project to succeed? All of the other principles that come later on rely on your communication, expectations, goals, resources, deadlines, priorities, reports and budgets all need to be available to your team so that they can do their jobs properly. Yes, communicating all of these things can sometimes be difficult, particularly if it's a short project with a tight deadline, or half of your team is located overseas. It doesn't matter. With all of the technology readily available to us today, there is NO excuse for lack of communication. Tools like web-conferencing actually make it possible for your developer in Hyderabad to share his screen with you in New York, to demonstrate how exactly to recreate major bug in your application.

If you make it easy for your team to communicate with management, and with each other, they WILL be more productive. If you put up unnecessary roadblocks in communication, you are preventing your team from working cooperatively and making it more difficult for your product to be released on time. However, using every tool at your disposal to encourage communication and knowledge sharing will absolutely save time when it comes to your project lifecycle.

If your developers and testers are able to easily communicate and view results from their team members, they can quickly incorporate feedback and issue fixes. As a manager, you should want to do everything you can, and use every tool at your disposal, to facilitate communication between and within teams.

Ongoing feedback on the status of bugs and issues and individual test case steps during the Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), can and will significantly reduce the amount of time your application spends in development.

2) Consolidate

  • Among all IT development projects, 84 % exceed acceptable constraints of cost, time and quality
  • The average person gets 1 interruption every 8 minutes, or 50-60 per day.
  • The average interruption takes 5 minutes, totaling about 50% of the average workday.
  • 80% of those interruptions are typically rated as "little value" or "no value" creating approximately 3 hours of wasted time per day.

We're talking about information and tasks here. Think about your typical day and how often you stop in the middle of one task to do something else; be honest. How much time do you spend looking for one specific email, out of the hundreds in your in-box? Searching for files on your hard drive after forgetting which folder you saved the one you need in? Opening files to find the most recent version or worse yet, working off of an old file version? Asking around for clarification on an issue? Writing reports? Almost every company can improve their process, cut down on tasks and put data within easy reach, but it isn'teasy and will require change.

Make a policy of saving all company data in a common location, be it a shared server or a cloud application. Enforce this rule. Your project is much more likely to be completed on time if all the relevant project data is easily available and everyone knows where to find it.

Just take a second and think about how much time your team will save every day if they don't have to search for files or through emails. Reports could be pulled together quickly, background information on issues or test cases would be right in there with the initial issue report, and your project probably wouldn't run over time or budget.

3) Prioritize
You'd be surprised at how much time you, and your development team, are wasting by not assigning priority and severity to every task. Issues come in, bugs are discovered, and new application features are conceived of every day. Every item won't be crucial to fulfilling your business goal, but your team has no way of concretely which tasks are most important to the company unless someone in management tells them. Priority tells your team how important it is that they resolve this issue immediately. Assigning priority and enforcing it, whenever any task or issue is assigned, will make your team work more efficiently.

Setting priority is akin to designating a time slot for every task that you assign a team member during the day. Urgent issues and tasks are certain to be tackled first thing in the morning, with low priority items waiting until later on when all others have been completed. With a clear idea of which tasks, issues or tests are most important, your team members can easily plan their days to make the best use of their time. Think about your own work habits. Without prioritizing, it's easy to get caught up in busy work, fielding every new issue that comes in. But just because an issue was the last one to cross your desk doesn't make it the most important. Now think about how you structure your own to-do list? If you think that something is critical, but potentially time consuming,are you more or less likely to put it first on your list? However, if you KNOW that this thing is of highest importance to your boss, does it move up on your to-do list?

Severity tells your team how serious the issue or bug is, based on how much it affects your software system. The severity of a bug gives it a more detailed ranking on your team to-do list. If you have 3 high priority issues, then how do you know where to start? By designating severity as well as priority, you're giving your team further direction so they can spend their time working on the most important tasks and get the best results.

Teams that know what is expected of them can quickly and efficiently go about their work. It's that simple.

More Stories By Michael Kowlowitz

Michael Kowlowitz is a project manager at Elementool. Elementool provides its tools to software companies and business web sites from all over the world. Elementool is used on a daily basis by its customers, and is integrated in their product development process. He is also ablogging enthusiast.

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