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A Crash Course in Project Management

by Abel Avram on Aug 07, 2010 |

Ivo Manolov, a Principal Software Manager and former WPF SDET Manager at Microsoft, has written a short post on project management principles and techniques useful for those who want to be a project manager in their organization or want to improve their management skills.

Before presenting several project management techniques, Manolov outlines the role of the Project Manager (PM) throughout the life of a project using the following template:

image

Manolov continues with a number of project management techniques:

Over-communicate – Present the status of your project to your manager or stakeholders until you hear complains from them that they heard too much about it.

Scorecards – Use scorecards to track feature development over time. Rating a feature should use a 4-level scheme: “Not started or at risk”, “In progress”, “On track to succeed, low risk”, and “Done. Completed.”

Trends – Establish the trend of quantifiable observables through graphs in order to have an idea on how they are going to evolve in the future. An example is the “Resolved Bugs” graphic shown below:

clip_image004

Backlog – Use a backlog as a central repository for project features currently under development and those scheduled for future releases. This is helpful for all interested, managers, stakeholders and developers, to see the current status of a project and what is still to be done. Developers can track better what others are working on in order to have a broader idea on a project.

Email branding – Since the average Microsoft engineer receives ca. 200-300 emails/day, Manolov suggests email branding:

  • Standardized subject line (e.g. “WPF 4 Pulse: Stress”) – allows people to easily filter and search for emails pertaining to that project;
  • Standardized “look and feel” of the email – either by maintaining a consistent structure or by including a common logo in the email;
  • Setting up a custom alias for this project only (e.g. “WPF – VS Tactics”, etc.)

Scheduling – Manolov suggests scheduling events in Excel or Visio, the later being useful when time periods are to be represented graphically:

clip_image008

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While there are other ways, Manolov considers most PM tend to use these basic techniques. As a helpful tool, he recommends Excel for project management due to its simplicity and versatility.

More importantly, according to Manolov a PM should be a person who shows the following qualities throughout the stages of a project – Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring, Closing, and Post-mortem lessons:

  1. Independence and accountability
  2. Ability to construct, communicate and get approval for a clear and well-though-out plan for the project, including:
    • Timelines
    • Scope, goals / non-goals and success criteria
    • Internal and external “unmovables” and requirements
    • Stakeholders
    • Costs and funding
    • Risks and mitigations
  3. Ability to set the project in motion, keep the project in motion and close down the project
    • Proactive contribution of directive energy to the project, creating excitement, and identifying and removing road-blocks.
    • Active monitoring of the progress of the project
    • Proactive communication of status
  4. Ability to reach the desired results

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