Following proper project and task management allows you to estimate your time, schedule, and critical path (shortest path) to completing a project.
Here is an old well-known project management graphic.
Project Management Triangles
There are many project management methodologies but the project management triangles exist where you have to pick two corners (you cannot pick three corners of a triangle).
Project Management Methodologies
You can choose a well-known project management methodology like PRINCE2, Agile Software Management Methodology, PMI/PMBOK. Sequential Waterfall/Kanban scheduling /Xtreme Programming etc. Each methodology is different and you should try different methodologies if one does not fit. You can use software development methodologies for software development or for non-software development projects. In most projects procrastination, perfectionism is the enemy but project management keeps you on track.
Read more about project management and software development methodologies here https://www.wrike.com/project-management-guide/methodologies/
Spoiler: As a software developer I use Agile and the JIRA Software but I have previously used and liked PRINCE 2 as it pre-defines outcomes and responsibilities that Agile does not. The rest of this guide assumes you are using AGILE and JIRA Software from Atlassian. I like Agile and JIRA because I can throw hundreds of tasks (measurable/technical) and cherry-pick the next tasks to do in planned stated called sprints. I can add tasks and forget them.
All projects need a plan of what you are doing. If you are developing software you may need to create a mock-up of your software first. You cannot plan what you don’t know.
A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week. – General George S. Patton
When you know what you need to develop you can document and prioritise what needs to be created first. Group things into things together into “must be done” and “should be done”. Don’t be caught up doing things that don’t need to be done to complete the project (and are not part of the minimum viable product or critical path).
Do have a minimum viable product (MVP) in mind and do not have a never-ending backlog of stories that you hope to arrive at. At some point, you need to have realistic goals and aim to meet them. Break down larger tasks (epic and stories) into smaller tasks (or issues). Having idle resources/people (or people with assumptions) is not a good idea.
Set regular meetings with project stakeholders and talk about progress and issues.
Defining Your Resource
If you are developing an app or product you will need to decide on what you need to do and who will do it. Are you doing everything yourself on an Ubuntu server and managing the full stack or are you building a solution entirely in the cloud with existing services like AWS Aurora and AWS Lambada? Will you be outsourcing work?
You should estimate how long it will take to develop certain components (website, database or API) and try and stay on track. Should you outsource or pay for templates, advice or do courses?
Have a tidy work area
Don’t expect to be productive in an untidy area.
Digging yourselves into holes
Quite often experience or ego can cause you to “just keep digging” when you hit a brick wall. Hours or days may be lost when you think you can learn something or find a solution. You should admit defeat earlier and maybe do some Rubber Duck Debugging, ask for help or outsource. Recently I wasted a few hours because I assumed a problem was related to something else (I assumed some software was installed when it was not). Luckily I admitted defeat and asked for help on Twitter and a solution was handed to me. Project management allows you to stay on track.
In some cases doing more debugging, research or outsourcing may fix/prevent problems but stay on track and use tools to help you stay on track.
Do research before choosing a solution, is IIS on Azure ok or do you need something that will work on Digital Ocean, AWS? Should you use .NET or NodeJS?
Also, be careful of what are the immediate costs and long-term costs of choosing certain technology. Things may be cheap under low usage buy cost a lot under high usage scenarios. Digital Ocean may be OK but what about network traffic costs when you exceed the quota, AWS may be ok but what about CPU limitations (will scaling up or using too many credits be too expensive)?
Scalability and Performance
I like to measure the performance at every stage of research and development. You don’t want to be painted into a scalability, performance ceiling or pay more than you need.
Risk and Flexibility
Every technology stack you choose will offer higher or lower risks and flexibility. You need to choose ones that offer low risk and support and higher flexibility. This is something that is hard to determine on an app by app basis. One app may favour aaS solutions where another may not.
aaS (as a service)
Beware, I have found that aaS can be a blessing or a curse, it may be cheap upfront but will cost loads in the end. aaS is also hard to secure, attach to our app logic and inhibits scalability. I prefer (via experience) to roll my own solutions and tightly integrate my own logic and develop fast solutions. FYI Today MongoDB launched a Stitch backend as a service solution to allow developers to create layers over the database.
I try and stay away from aaS as it increases the costs, increases latency, opens up security endpoints and vendors can close down id disappear or be bought out (e.g Parse or StormPath).
Documenting your work is a good idea and can help you to understand why you chose or dropped a certain technology and what you still need to do.
Project management charts
- GANTT Charts: I use Smartsheet to generate GANNT Chats online.
- MIND MAPs: I enjoy using Mind Node Pro by IdeasOnCanvas to visually display the areas of my development process. This helps me see where tasks belong and see the task or technology links and the big picture.
Sometimes if deadlines need to be met you may need to hire experts to stay on track and complete tasks
Don’t forget to backup your databases, websites and code along the way, don’t leave it until the end as you will never know when you may have a crash, ransomware or need to restore. Having a cheap low-end Digital Ocean Server and an open SSH connection for you to schedule automatics backups too is an inexpensive way to backup.
https://trello.com is a great online software package where you can create projects, checklists and share tasks between people. You can create teams in Trello and add other Trello users to your projects/lists.
It is advisable to create teams before creating new Trello boards. You can grant people admin or normal status when creating groups. Now you can create a Trello board for a project.
Now you can add tasks to the Trello board.
Depending on your desired project management methodology you can create lists as desired (I have created three example lists: “Important List 001”, “Low Priority Project List 002” and “Before Launch 003”).
Trello allows you to easily add tasks to a list.
Trello allows you to easily throw tasks as a task list, assign people, assign colours, add descriptions, add due dates, add checklists, record edits and drag and drop items to new lists.
The big Issue I found with Trello is I would end up with dozens of lists and hundreds of tasks and did not know where to start next.
A wise person once said “Less planning and more doing”. You can spend too much time planning and not achieve anything. You have to start sometime and pivot later. The more unclear an agile team is about what they are meant to be doing is directly correlated to the output (or participation dropouts).
Atlassian purchased Trello for $425 million recently and I decided to check out their software offerings. The Atlassian JIRA software package is a dedicated cloud-based Project and issues tracking solution.
The Atlassian Jira software package starts at $10 for 10 users and you get your own online project workspace (e.g https://myawesomeprojectname.atlassian.net).
Once you signup you can create your own project (based on your desired project management methodology) by clicking Project then Create Project.
I prefer Scrum/Agile projects. Read up on Agile at Atlassian’s website.
You can still add tasks like Trello (but Jira calls them Issues in a Backlog), every issue is assigned a number with a name (key) that you defined when you created the project.
You can add attachments, add comments and edit each issue.
When adding attributes to an issue you can also add sub-tasks.
Issues can be given an Estimation of time to complete. I prefer to add in how many hours it would take me to complete this issue. Read about story point estimation.
Many Agile developers use the Fibonacci Numbering scheme when estimating issues (e.g 1, 2, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144)
Agile Story, Bug and Epic.
Atlassian has a great page on Epics, Stories, Versions and Bugs so check it out.
Starting a Sprint
When you have enough issues (tasks) and you have estimated each issue you can create a new work sprint from the backlog screen.
Choosing Sprint Issues
You can drag and drop issues into the sprint (try and aim for 2 week sprints).
Start the Sprint
You can set sprint duration before starting a sprint.
As you complete issues in a sprint, you move them from the To Do to Progress then Done columns. All events are logged and completion estimations are displayed.
You can create a new project dashboard to display the progress of the project. Just click Load All Gadgets to get all gadgets after you create a new dashboard.
Dashboards can be as simple or complex as you like.
Updating your Information
Don’t forget to update Jira with the latest project status and add new issues, stories or bugs as required. Reporting and project management is only as good as the data you input.
Atlaz.io (BETA) Project Management Tool For Cross-Functional Teams the Trello and Atlassian JIRA Killer?
Agile Project Management
I highly recommend you follow Dmitri Iarandine at http://joinagile.com/ (Agile Coach, Trainer, Host of Lean and Mean Agile). Podcast. Author of GET HIRED as SCRUM MASTER).
Dmitri can be found here too.
Soundcloud (Lean and Mean Agile Podcast):
Atlassian has great help and support communities.
Developing software and delivering software requires practice so keep it up.
Read more about developing software ideas.
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v1.989 added atlaz.io link