Let’s all be clear upfront: any IT project management approach is considered effective when it achieves the desired results. The global IT sector consists of numerous companies that face multifaceted problems on a daily basis using different strategies. What is going to be an effective approach for one team might not work for another. Still, what is one of the core aspects that will bring you closer to your business goals besides in-depth technical expertise?
The secret ingredient to successful project management (PM) in the IT industry is, surprising or not, the human factor. Although facing similar challenges, each company has a unique dynamic and team spirit. This has to do both with the personal and professional mindset of an individual and the shared mindset of all team members in a company. From my experience working in a bespoke software development company, I have learned the value of a strong team, sticking together through thick and thin. The truth is, it is all the people involved in a project who turn it into a success or a failure.
Having said that, I will now provide you with a look behind the curtain and show you how we at Dreamix structure our PM approach on a company level.
1. Incorporate Agile Methodologies Within Your Company
Our modern world evolves and changes more rapidly than ever, and only those who manage to acknowledge that can make the best of this uncertainty. Fortunately, when it comes to software product management, there is an elegant approach that revolves around all the unknowns surrounding us, e.g. business requirements, new technologies, investment opportunities etc., and it is the Agile methodology.
The Agile manifesto and its twelve principles define the philosophical understanding of how to achieve effective and continuous development. Vital requirements to live up to the high standards of flexible Agile software development is to quickly respond to changing business circumstances, concentrating on customer collaboration and working software and value individuals and interactions over technical tools and processes.
That being said, the frameworks Scrum and Kanban or the hybrid variation Scrumban are among the most popular choices that recognise the Agile values and implement them to increase productivity and success in PM. Let’s briefly look over what these frameworks constitute and why they’re going to help you optimise your work processes:
Scrum divides big chunks of product-related tasks into iterations and calls them Sprints. Usually, each sprint has two weeks duration, and it is when the developers do the actual coding. Other events include necessary steps of project management: planning, daily meetings (developers), review (demo with the client) and a retrospective meeting to discuss what went well + what can be further improved. There are also three artifact types – Product Backlog (all-time product to-do list, Sprint Backlog (current to-do list) and Increment (all complete backlog items).
Additionally, Scrum teams consist of three primary roles: developers that are technical experts and code the software, Scrum Master (SM), the process expert, responsible for sticking to the established Scrum Guide and improving team efficiency and a Product Owner (PO), the product value expert, whose tasks include maximising the product value, communicating precise requirements + expectations from clients for each sprint and delegate responsibilities to the developers.
Scrum is an effective IT product management approach because it gives a neat, practical structure, while at the same time allowing process flexibility so that teams can unfold their full potential.
Kanban is another Agile method that helps teams control the number of parallel work, maintaining the work in progress (WiP) limited. Thus, shorter lead times are achieved, and problems or bottlenecks are quickly visible. The four major principles that Kanban follows are: begin with what you know, commit to pursuing evolutionary & incremental change, respect initial processes, roles & responsibilities, encourage leadership acts.
Many people associate Kanban with visual boards only, but the framework offers many more approaches to optimise your project management. For example, two essential Kanban metrics are Lead Time (from task request until its completion) and Cycle Time (begins with actual work), which help you understand where your time goes and how can you utilise it better. Additional important metrics involve throughput (WiP/Cycle Time), cycle time histogram, flow efficiency etc.
Kanban has a lot in common with Scrum as they both represent Agile practices. To some degree, Scrum can be looked at as a possible implementation of Kanban. The main difference between the two approaches is that Scrum is a team-centred PM approach, and Kanban primarily optimises value generation along the value chain.
As they are both similar to each other, the existence of a hybrid approach is only natural. That is how Scrumban was born – a mixture of Scrum and Kanban, which uses Scrum design + Kanban visual capabilities. Generally, Scrumban aims to give Agile teams the combined power of Scrum’s agility + Kanban’s simplicity. The specific differences here are that there is no longer the need for distinguished roles like in Scrum, and planning occurs on-demand. As a hybrid project management approach, Scrumban can’t offer best practices and teams have to learn and improve workflows on the go.
2. Have an Effective Company Structure
When you’re in the IT sector, the chances are that you rely on other IT companies for external services or tech support, at least to some extent. Whether you outsource some secondary business management processes or your entire software product development to a vendor company, you need to get familiar with how their processes are organised to ensure your product success. Ultimately, a neat and stable company structure is something to look for in your potential outsourcing partner. You can pronounce a Process Coach, e.g. a dedicated Scrum Master who can observe the ways how teams communicate and collaborate and elaborate existing processes to achieve even more success.
We at Dreamix specialise primarily in software development, but project management is also essential to us as it is the backbone of our success. That is why we have one person responsible for one goal within a partnership (yes, partners, not clients). Apart from having multiple Scrum teams with an accountable PO, SM and developers, our company has a Partnership Manager who nourishes the relationship with partners on a broad level. A Technical Supervisor (local CTO for each partnership) is responsible for monitoring complex technical tasks and providing thorough architecture consultations for all team members.
3. Get Together Thought Leaders and Form Specific Boards
Not surprisingly, I’ve saved the best and most effective product management approach for last. It constitutes that you should gather distinguished company experts and form units that demonstrate knowledge, leadership and guidance. These professionals within your organisations can provide guidance, mentorship and insights to other team members so that the whole company, and consequently all company projects, can benefit from their distinguished expertise.
For instance, you can organise people according to domain expertise and form Technical Leadership Committees that supervise the work, validate the process quality, give consultations and provide constructive feedback to others and set company-level guidelines. Those are individuals that will be responsible for continuous knowledge accumulation pushing towards innovation. We have an Agile Committee (Kanban and Scrum coaches), whose main focus areas are a mutual exchange of best practices, current flaw detection, process optimisations within teams etc. The Partnership Manager can seek product management advice from the Agile Committee and the Technical Leadership Committees but still be responsible for end-decisions.
The main reason why specific boards within an organisation are valuable is because they help create order, which is essential to successful product management. In a chaotic environment, success can be often attributed to luck, chance, fate – all external factors that can’t be controlled or predicted. Instead, a well-maintained company structure with clearly defined roles and responsibilities contributes to optimised workflows, incorporating new trends and ultimately delivering supreme product quality as a result. A recipe for both continuous improvement and stability.
Biography Aleksandrina Vasileva
Aleksandrina is a Content Creator at Dreamix, a custom software development company, and is keen on innovative technological solutions with a positive impact on our world. Her teaching background mixed with interests in psychology drives her to share knowledge. She is an avid reader and enthusiastic blogger, always looking for the next inspiration.