Starting a new project can be an overwhelming process! From scheduling the right meetings to crafting the perfect roadmap, the decisions you make during these initial stages of the project play a huge role in its eventual success.
There's a lot to be done, but never fear! We've compiled our top 5 tips for successful project planning to help you ensure your next project starts off on the right foot.
No matter how detailed your project plan may be, if you fail to clearly define individual roles and responsibilities at the outset of a project, you're destined for trouble. Tasks will be forgotten, role confusion will emerge, and finger pointing will begin.
In order to keep your project from falling into chaos, it’s crucial that your team has a shared understanding of individual roles and responsibilities, along with explicit documentation to support it. A RACI chart is an easy and effective solution for mapping these out. It’s a simple matrix that allows you to assign roles and responsibilities for each task, milestone, or decision on a project by breaking roles into 4 different categories:
You can create your own RACI chart template in any spreadsheet software by doing the following:
A team's communication practices can make or break a project. Constant communication via email, Slack, phone calls and in person meetings are all essential for keeping everyone on the same page, but which should be used and when? Who should be contacted and in what circumstances?
In order to set your project up for success, it’s crucial that you answer these questions with a clearly defined and well conveyed communication strategy prior to the beginning of any project work.
The How’s :
We’ve learned the hard way that important messages can get lost in busy Slack channels. In worst case scenarios this can mean missed deadlines, or dozens of man hours lost to unnecessary work on a feature that has been deemed unnecessary. For this reason we’ve created guidelines for how information should be conveyed, based on its importance.
Remember that no matter which method you use to convey important information initially, be it in person or over the phone, you should always follow it up with an email.
When communication doesn’t flow through the proper channels it contributes to inefficiencies within the team and potentially harmful miscommunications.
We’ve encountered situations in which information exchanges through improper channels have resulted in misinformed changes being made to a project unbeknownst to project leads, resulting in hours of unnecessary work and a group of very frustrated individuals.
In order to prevent these types of mishaps it’s important to start your working relationships with a contact list that clearly states who should be contacted directly, how they should be contacted, and when.
Here at Yeti we’ve found that scheduling all of our regular meetings at the very beginning of a project is imperative. As projects move forward and schedules begin to get busier it can be nearly impossible to find collective availability for team meetings, so scheduling everything ahead of time is a must.
It’s also important to schedule each meeting on a recurring day and time to help everyone anticipate their arrival, and have the ability to attend fully prepared.
Every project’s needs are different, so your regular meetings will likely vary a bit. However, at the very least, we recommend including the following in your core set of meetings:
4. Build Your Roadmap
Whether you are developing a new product or building upon an existing one, building a product roadmap is essential to the success of your project. Your product roadmap should describe your product's expected evolution by plotting it’s journey over the course of production, giving your team a united vision to work from.
In our experience a successful product roadmap has the following attributes:
Prior to starting on your roadmap, we recommend running a discovery phase, or design sprint with your client or stakeholder during which you should run through the following exercises to ensure you are building the right product for the right users:
If you’d like additional help creating your product roadmap, take a look at our Complete Guidebook to Product Roadmapping!
If you are working with a new team, collecting general information about each individual team member at the outset of the project is a great way to quickly create helpful team profiles.
We’ve found that a short list of general questions, such as “what's your favorite snack” and “what’s your learning style”, can be extremely effective in helping you to understand how best to work with your team.
It’s important to include an open ended “what else should we know about you?” question in your survey, to allow each individual the opportunity to inform you of important information that might not otherwise come up.
This will provide team members with an opportunity to inform you of helpful information, such as food allergies or general likes/dislikes, and other, possibly sensitive information - perhaps a member of the team is dyslexic and would like to let you know that they may misspell words from time to time, or is dealing with family issues that might come up during the course of the project.
It's also helpful to gain some insight into how each team member likes to be appreciated. Some individuals shy away from public recognition, while others love it. Some people like to receive gifts, and others prefer to receive words of praise. Knowing what makes people uncomfortable and what they enjoy is imperative in order to ensure that your appreciation is actually having its desired effect.
You can have each of your team members, take this quiz, based on the book “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace”, to help determine how they feel most comfortable being appreciated.
We hope you'll find these planning tips to be helpful as you begin your next project. We know that the product development process can be a complicated and sometimes overwhelming process, so feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you stumble upon along the way!
At Yeti, we know the value of a great project manager, and have worked hard to develop a project management toolkit that keeps us on the road to success. Take a look at a few of our favorite PM tools and strategies!
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