Project management is critical for any type of business but managing software development projects requires a unique set of considerations and an understanding of not only business operations, but also how software developers do their jobs, and which management structures allow them to be most productive.
Here are five things to consider when it comes to managing a software development project:
1. Understand what a software developer does.
To manage a team of developers, a good starting point is to have some background on what software developers actually do. While coding is a big part of software development, the role also involves creativity, innovation, problem solving, maintaining or improving existing code, testing, and collaboration—among the tech team or with clients. Though different developers will better respond to management styles, trust that they know how to do their jobs, they don’t always need to be micromanaged, and they may not favor compromising quality just to make a deadline. Lastly, code is never done. It requires ongoing maintenance and new features to be introduced, and there are typically bugs to fix.
2. Know how to build a great team.
When it comes to tech recruitment, it helps to have some background on the position being filled. By learning the lingo, grasping the basic idea of what a tech person does, and being able to discuss programming languages in a way that makes sense, you can better relate to prospective employees. Culture is also important for recruitment because you will want to be sure the person you hire fits in with the rest of the team, can work well with them, and will be comfortable bouncing ideas off their fellow team members. Look for an applicant whose interests in technology go beyond work—someone who seeks out knowledge, teaches themselves different languages, builds their own apps, or embarks on other tech-related projects in their free time.
3. Understand why IT projects fail.
Project outcome can never be fully predicted but understanding why many IT projects fail makes it possible to avoid repeating mistakes. Things like lack of leadership support, insufficient requirements planning, an unclear scope, compromising best practices in a time crunch, and not involving the end user early on all often contribute to a project’s demise. Add to that, a sales team who is overly optimistic or promises the client things that the tech team can’t deliver, and you have a recipe for disaster. Before kicking off a project, take a look at past mistakes and tackle some of these issues right from the get-go.
4. Factor in time for Quality Assurance (QA) testing and User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
Often overlooked or glossed over, QA and UAT are essential to project completion and need to be built in to the project schedule. While companies that build complex software are likely to have entire departments dedicated to testing, internal IT organizations don’t always factor QA into their projects. Keep in mind that after QA testing, time also needs to be allocated for UAT to ensure the software can complete required tasks and function properly in the real world. To address the issue of lack of QA sources, more and more companies are hiring QA experts with hands-on experience who are also adept at problem solving, communications, and project management.
5. Have a plan in place for accommodating scope changes and client demands.
When creating a project schedule, remember that clients often end up changing their minds at some point. This can change the scope of the project and then trickle down to throw off the schedules of everyone involved from management to developers to QA teams. Effective scope change management can go a long way. Be proactive when identifying scope changes, get proper approval to move forward, conduct change impact analysis, and effectively communicate the changes to the entire team.
To learn more about what it takes to be a successful technology manager, you may want to consider the Online Master’s in Technology Management program at Georgetown University. This degree can help propel your career whether you are a business executive looking to learn more about the tech world or a technology professional seeking to move into operations or management.