Table of Contents
- The Project Management Challenges Most of You Encountered
- Other Project Management Challenges
- Best Practices to Mitigate Project Management Challenges
Being a project manager requires lots of communication both with your team and your clients, and project management is undoubtedly one of the most important and difficult business functions in software development. There are a lot of variables that need to be considered: time, budget, quality, and scope issues, constant pressure from team members and stakeholders, as well as many other potential problems.
Nevertheless, all of these issues are solvable, and there are plenty of ways to make the project management process easier and more enjoyable. In this article, we’ll look at some of the challenges that the Bamboo Agile project manager Yauheni Dzemyachenka and the technical team manager Alexey Shinkarev have faced over the course of their career and see how they have dealt with them.
The Project Management Challenges Most of You Encountered
First, we asked Yauheni to name the biggest project management challenges he had ever encountered. His answer was as follows.
Unclear Understanding of Agile Principles
– Sometimes clients ask to shorten the deadline, claiming they need some feature a few weeks earlier. Their main argument is, ‘You are an agile team, you’ll definitely figure out how to pull it off’.
Another common issue arises when a client asks to add some extra features that go beyond the project’s original scope. The team naturally requests a few extra weeks to deliver the result, explaining that the agile principles allow for extending certain deadlines. And in that case, that same client almost always responds, ‘Agility is junk. We’ve already agreed on a deadline. You have to give me my product on that day exactly’.
The solution to an issue like that is negotiation. It sounds simple on paper, but in practice, finding a compromise with a client usually turns out fairly difficult.
– We all know those demo sessions when you are hosting an online meeting with 25 people, and all of them have their mics and cameras off. You can talk for 20 minutes straight while getting absolutely no reaction from the others – sometimes, even after you ask them if they have any questions. You look like an insane guy speaking to an empty room.
Inexperienced junior project managers can feel completely lost after a demo session like that. And getting used to performing at such demo sessions without any confusion is only a matter of time.
Here’s a little hint from Yauheni: Always record your demo sessions with other members to avoid any future misunderstandings. Don’t forget to ask their permission first!
– This also concerns demo sessions. Very often PMs can’t carry out a demo session all by themselves as it involves specific technical information. Because of that, developers must be engaged to properly discuss it. However, very few developers are fans of talking and explaining things. Many of them even actively resist it, preferring to stay in their own world of code, classes, and objects. It’s hard for developers to explain certain moments in simple terms, especially to clients without a technical background or an understanding of the project’s inner workings. And that’s it.
There is another similar challenge involved: when a new member joins the team, it is necessary to fill them in on all of the project’s technical peculiarities. But from the 10 existing team members, 5 are extremely busy and 5 treat project information as if it were a government secret.
So what’s the solution?
Remember the main role of a PM: a facilitator, a guide between the world of developers and the world of those out of the loop. After all, you are the one who has to find the right words, ask the right questions, explain the obvious, dance ritual dances, and sing ceremonial songs to get through to other people, if necessary.
We also asked Alexey to describe his experience with project management challenges. Here is what he told us.
A Bit More About the Team
– A couple more things can be said about communication, interaction, and the tech-savvy people who prefer to keep silent. They don’t like talking at all, even with their colleagues, and engage only when the conversation has to do with the tech topics they are interested in.
This is quite often a big problem for both understanding what is going on with a specific task and what is going on inside a person’s head. If this is not constantly monitored, the lack of communication can lead to conflicts. The only solution to this challenge is to monitor such private people and to regularly initiate communication with them to find out about the issues they might have. The earlier you notice a problem, the easier it is to solve.
Unavailability of Necessary Specialists
– Oftentimes companies (especially outsourced ones) assemble a project team from whoever is currently available. Because of this, both the estimation of the project and the investment in this estimation suffer. You need to do your best to make sure that the tasks are performed by the people whose skills and experience are a good fit for the project at hand.
Lacking Technical Understanding
– A project manager has to understand the technical details of the project and its tasks to keep every process under control and make sure everything is done on time.
Ideally, the PM should come to management from development. If not, then there is a lot of room for self-improvement. The main thing you need in that case is the desire to evolve.
– Usually, everyone thinks that the manager should be the one to broadcast what the project is all about and define a more or less concrete end goal. But people tend to forget that many managers are frustrated: they seem to have been doing something all day, but by the end of it, struggle to formulate how exactly all of that activity has helped the project. And this very often leads to disappointment. You should always define at least one personal goal on your own. Better yet, a lot of small goals on the way to a big one.
Other Project Management Challenges
There are a lot of other challenges PMs can face in the big world of project management. Let’s have a quick look at some of them.
No project is going to go exactly as planned: you are bound to encounter unexpected situations. That’s why it’s important to have some kind of foresight as to where these situations might arise and how to deal with them. It’s highly advisable to create a plan on how to diffuse possible risks and to devise alternative plans of action.
It’s common for businesses to find themselves in a position where they have to do more work with fewer resources. Solving a problem like that is the project manager’s responsibility. Budgetary and resource limitations can be very stressful to manage, and stakeholders can put a lot of pressure on project managers to make the project perfect despite the lack of budget and resources.
A situation like that is all about trade-offs, such as limiting the use of particular resources and implementing a strict cost management structure to prevent delays and, consequently, bigger costs.
Best Practices to Mitigate Project Management Challenges
So what are some best practices in project management for you to follow? Let’s find out.
One of the most important best practices in project management is creating a project brief, also known as a project charter. This is a short, concise document that gives an overview of the project and its scope. You should review this brief throughout the project to keep everyone in the loop. It doesn’t have to be a long and tedious document.
A short description of your project should be easy to digest and, at a minimum, include the following:
- Project name
- Project Overview
- SMART goals: specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic, time-based
- Success rates
- Budget, timeline, resources
It is important to understand that a project plan and a project brief are two different things. The project plan explains how exactly you are to accomplish everything in the project. This should be a more detailed description of how it will be managed, how your team will achieve the goals set before them, and what the project’s pathway to the finish line will look like.
Here are some of the aspects every good project plan includes:
- Scope and mission
- Team members
- Estimation and control
- Risk assessment
- Quality standards
- Deviation tracking and analysis
- Escalation and problem management
- Work authorization and change control
Project plans have to account for many moving parts, but it’s important to pay equal attention and respect to every team member’s workload. Once your plan is complete, make sure you have the right tools to identify bottlenecks, manage workloads, and monitor overall project progress.
Don’t forget to track or log time for your projects to create more accountability for your team. This is especially important if you are working with clients who want to know exactly what is included in your project plan.
Be Prepared for Changes
A PMI survey states that the top reasons for project failures are changes in the company’s priorities, changes in project objectives, and an inaccurate gathering of requirements which lead to more changes in the project. So it’s important to be prepared for these changes.
Any project manager can tell you that even well-planned projects can run into unexpected problems. Whether it requires you to adjust deadlines, budgets, or task management, you need a plan to address issues directly. One way to prepare a plan like that is to track deviations within the team. This will help your team understand why the project might not work and will allow you to prevent any recurring problems from happening again.
People are not the only resource you need to manage. To keep the project going, you also need to:
- Track KPIs
- Manage deviations and take corrective action
- Focus on Quality Assurance
- Manage risks
- Check area sprawl
By keeping a close eye on your data, risk levels, quality, costs, and other information, and by minimizing deviations from your initial estimates, you can resolve issues before they get out of hand.
As you can see, project management is a lot more complex than it may seem at first glance. Being a really good project manager requires a lot of self-study, patience, and perseverance. You have to constantly analyze the ongoing projects in your head, foresee all possible failures, and have solutions prepared for them.
The Bamboo Agile team is confident in its outstanding team members and project managers, who have vast experience from working on numerous successful development projects. If you have an idea of a project you want to develop for your business, contact us to book a free consultation and create a solution that is going to be the perfect fit for you!
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