How to Manage a Project - First Step

I take part in several product management groups, meetups and an association in New York City. These groups are a great source for networking and learning about problems, solutions, new products and my favorite - bounce ideas on colleagues.

A PM who grew in the business/marketing side of life asked for my opinion about project management. His product demands a closer interaction with the tech guys and a release of a certain feature in the next 6 months. Since I'm less familiar with the structure of his company and the leading functions I gave him my generic project management tips.

Generic Project Management Tips

Gather information

Why are we here?
Get a good answer in simple English to the question what is the purpose of this project. You need to understand, process and articulate how this project affects the company and the greater scheme. This is not only about failure, but also about success. A project is a step in the strategy, you need to take under consideration the hooks and leverages for the future projects.

What are the deliveries?
What is the actual thing, the tangible goal?
Are there mid way deliveries, important milestones?

When?
Dead lines.

What are the resources?
Budget and HR.

Process the information

Sit down and think. Do your planning. Now, go and ask more questions.
I wrote in the past about key points to write a project plan you can use my points or download a template from the web.
My recommendation is to start from the end (delivery day) and walk backward. I use a time line or a gantt chart (useful tolls are: Visio, OmniPlan.com, smartDraw.com etc). Start by marking the major milestones, add budget and HR constrains.

Second step is drilling down into the lines.
Identify the core group of the project and the contributors. Going forward with the time line specify for each milestone what is the delivery, who is the owner, who are the contributors, what are the gating tasks and what are the hazards. Highlight points of interaction and dependencies within the group.
In order to generate a good plan, you need to have a good grasp of the group's capabilities and effort. The gap between the plan and the actual performance will be the down fall of the project manager. The best way to get better understanding of the resources, therefore accurate estimations, is by asking. Go and ask.

Read more on How to manage a project - second step
 
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