Being a junior project manager and a lowly intern, with a level of experience that could be best described as being a virgin in a brothel, I’m not really in the best position to preach about best practice approaches to project management; but in the 3 months of working in this role at Trustev, I have picked up some great tools and techniques that I believe are very important to carrying out this role in any tech start-up.
My role in Trustev so far could be described as administrative, organisational, supportive, and focused a lot around the area of prodding people until stuff gets done (or communication as it is commonly referred to in College). It is a role that often involves bridging the gap between the technology team and the business functions within the organisation to try and open communication channels between them and get them to work in tandem. It is all about trying to strike the correct balance so that both sides realise the importance of each other and work toward the same common goal.
Here are some simple tips to help with this process:
Get it on Paper – Planning is very important when it comes to getting pretty much anything done. Drafting up a project plan is the first step to every project that should not be ignored, no matter how un-important it may seem to other team members. You could discuss the plan over and over again, but the reality is that unless the team has some physical copy of the plan to refer back to, they will most likely forget everything. A good project plan will help you and everyone else within the organisation to understand the timeframe, deliverables and overall goals of the project.
My advice is to keep it simple, mainly because of the laughter (yes, actual laughter) that will ensue when you offer to draft up a Gantt chart, but also because keeping it simple means that people might actually look at your plan. What I would suggest is a simple document outlining the overall goals of the project, deliverables broken down into specific tasks and a matrix which includes the milestones to be completed, who is responsible for it and when it is due to be completed.
Introducing Structure and Policies – Part of the bliss of working in a start-up is the organised madness and lack of corporate bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy that seems to be present in many established organisations. At the same time though as the company progresses out of start-up phase it is important to start thinking about policy and structure that makes sure things don’t get too messy when you start on-boarding new employees and customers. I’m not saying that you strip away the hoodies and jeans and introduce a ‘formal-wear enforcement policy’, but certainly certain processes need to have a structure to them.
This can start with the fundamental things such as document control, organising your storage files in a proper structure, etc. It might also mean paving the way for new employees such as the creation of induction packs, training documents, and best-practice guidelines to certain situations (e.g. bug reporting). You may feel like Sir Buzz-Killington himself introducing these rules but it is worth the efficiency and clarity that they bring in the long-term.
Pick up the Slack – Often at Trustev, my role involves completing the tasks which otherwise might fall through the cracks. These tasks could be simple administrative tasks such as scheduling meetings, marking events in the company calendar, communicating general updates or taking minutes at team meetings. In the grand scheme of things these may not be crucial tasks but they are important to ensure that the team stays organised on a daily basis.
And Finally. Be Annoying! - Sometimes you will need to annoy one function within the organisation at the expense of another. A common example is reporting bugs in the system to the technical guys to make sure that the Sales guys don’t lose out on customers. Also, all of your plans, structures and policies are useless without someone there to drive them into action. Unfortunately you will probably have to be the guy in the office that people may want to throttle because you are just so damn passionate about your project plan being followed, but it is sometimes an evil necessary to make sure that it is worth the ink that it is printed on.
Michael Linehan is a 3rd year Business Information Systems who's working out his placement as a project manager at Trustev. As outlined in his article he excels at being annoying.