Everyone has the potential of becoming a project manager. Whether you are managing your startup, partnering a new million-dollar business project, or trying to add life to your home through DIY landscaping, you are a project manager.

For your project to be successful, keep several factors in mind. Many projects fail due to unprofessional or poor managerial skills. No matter how big and experienced your team is, or how you document requirements, if you do not have sound project management techniques  you are more likely to fail. Spend every minute carefully in managing your project, and you will be closer to completing it successfully.

Developers, professionals, and newcomers have accepted that agile project management is a superb modern method in software development projects. Agile projects embrace frequent alteration of project requirements as a vital component of the project. This article will explain the fundamentals of agile project management using Kanban. Though you may have unmatched experience in agile project management and know its principles, it is essential to remind yourself of the basic concepts. The software development field has had numerous innovation cycles which complicate project management after every iteration. It is critical to go back to basics and study the fundamental principles of Agile. Repetition is the mother of all knowledge. If you need more practice on Agile software development, browse through the available projects on Freelancer, and bid on one you can deliver.  

The best method of managing all Agile software development projects is Kanban. Through Kanban, it is possible to work with a remote development team spread across different time zones. Many developers mistake Kanban for a process, but it is a smooth way to manage various processes while making minimal changes to the functional activities. If you want Kanban principles to work in your project, use these rules:

  • Envisage your process

  • Have little work in progress

Envisage your process

Visualization of data is a fast and effective way for developers to pass information in an understandable manner. When you look at images, your brain has the ability to process several thoughts about them simultaneously. According to research, the brain can process information 60,000 faster when observing images than reading plain text. A third of the gray matter of the brain makes up brain neurons which aid in visual perception. A Kanban Board is the best way to visualize various processes. It has several columns, and each column stands for a certain state in your process. In order to assess how a software development board looks, it is important to understand the various states inherent in software development:

  • Deployed: An accepted feature that is part of the application release

  • Quality assurance: The feature is under review

  • Development: A developer is working on a feature according to the project manager’s instructions

  • To-Do: A feature is under development

You can visualize individual tasks easily; it is like making a simple card with to-do work. You add the name of the developer working on the task, give the name of the task, due date, and any other information you deem relevant. Once you have added the card to a Kanban Board, you have visualized that a certain developer is handling a specific task whose due date is clear on the board.

Have little work in progress (WIP)

Human multitasking is a false impression. Our brains cannot pay attention to multiple things simultaneously since we switch between the tasks rapidly. You will see this in software development more than in any other field. A software developer can only work on one code at a time. Changing to anything else results in delays, and this affects performance and concentration.

It does not mean a developer must limit the number of assignments to only one at a time - software development is creative and complex work. Some tasks take a shorter time than others, and there are always delays when a developer is waiting for someone or something. The most critical thing is to make sure multiple tasks handled by developers are not conflicting, or causing confusion. Developers will not limit WIPs without your input. If you give them the liberty of limiting WIPs, your project will experience delays. Your job as a project manager is to prioritize the to-do list so you assign every urgent task to competent developers. If you manage your Kanban Board, you will get a clear picture of your project status. You can see there is enough work for your developers once they are finished with their current tasks, and your QA engineer is ready for any review.

Manage your Kanban Board using Trello

Trello is a web-based Kanban project management application. It enables timely  collaboration among team members, as well as different teams in different projects. Create a new Trello board, give it a title, and use the Add list to make columns for your project. Kanban is all about visualization. You can customize the cards in Trello in various ways, such as:

  • Setting due dates for your projects.

  • Including any attachments for the project at hand.

  • Assigning software developers to specific tasks.

  • Color coding the developers using distinct colors to differentiate them easily.

  • Including custom fields such as a cheat sheet, which developers can use to check if they have included everything in the project.

  • Adding a comment card where any team member can comment, and the comment reaches all team members in real time.

Have a rough estimate of project time and complexity

It is impossible to manage a particular project without having an idea of the time and effort your team members will need to complete it. Even with a plan, it is not easy in software development to determine how long a new software feature or product will take before it hits the market. A popular Agile principle to use is Scrum. The principle works with estimations, whether they are on complexity points or time. The team should spend a significant amount of time mapping out the scope of the task. This is because Scrum works in time-boxed intervals when developers should complete certain tasks. If you need to plan delivery, you should be fully aware of all the tasks planned in any time-box.

Kanban does not work with time-boxed deliverables. You can deliver on a daily basis if you have the capacity. Kanban optimizes workflow, which gives the team adequate time to work on the WIP. The team does not estimate the work it should do in advance. A developer should pick an item from the to-do list, complete it, and choose any other pending one. This does not mean a team should ignore the volume of the workload at hand. Use the daily, weekly, or monthly calls to verify due dates. If you have a small team, make sure developers focus on the urgent tasks and that you don’t have bottlenecks which could derail progress. If your small team experiences delay issues, you will have to be creative to ensure the overall project time does not change. Eventually, your project team will grow, which will call for accurate estimation of time and work.

Managing software development projects is no easy thing. It requires patience, teamwork, and professionalism. Your team should not waste time on unnecessary tasks and delay the delivery of your project. Make sure you have the best developers working on urgent and high-priority projects. Your clients should have confidence in your team based on past work. Focus on building a cohesive team that delivers quality work on time.

Now you’ve read the article, do you have thoughts to share? Put them in the comments section below!

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Posted 22 August, 2017

LucyKarinsky

Software Developer

Lucy is the Development & Programming Correspondent for Freelancer.com. She is currently based in Sydney.

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