With the dawn of every new day, the field of project management is undergoing multiple changes. New tools, techniques, products and practices are rapidly changing the role and best practices for technical project managers. At times, project management is even overlooked to give more emphasis to coding and testing in technical projects. In fact, only 53% organizations fully understand the value of project management. However, no matter how robust and comprehensive your product code is, in the absence of effective technical project management, your chances of success may not be that high.
A major change that has come about is the use of project management tools. 77% high performing projects use project management tools. However, the adoption rate is as low as only 22%. Invariably, greater adoption of project management tools is one learning for project managers. Additionally, there are a few best practices for technical project managers that can contribute to high performing projects.
Document from Day 0
Documentation is a very important and integral part of any technical project. And more often than not, the responsibility of maintaining the documentation and records falls upon the technical project managers. We are not talking about paper documentation specifically. In fact, paper documentation is a thing of the past. Technical project managers can use remote storage locations and software like SWAGGER to document end- to- end project knowledge. Invariably, it is important to not only document every step of the project, but also way before it. Simply put, project documentation must clearly describe the objective, plan blueprint, division of roles and responsibilities, project tracking and progress, etc. Therefore, documentation doesn’t begin with the start of technical operations, it precedes the latter, i.e. starts on day 0.
Have Everyone on the Same Page
When talking about the best practices for technical project managers, it is very important to mediate between different stakeholders. Put simply, everyone involved in the project must be on the same page. This means that the coder working on the project must always be in sync with the tester. Additionally, communication to the client about the project progress must be smooth. Having everyone on the same page is ensuring that everyone is aware about the exact progress, challenges and opportunities of the project. In the absence of this, there is always inherent miscommunication which leads to project inefficiency and loss of productivity.
Division of Work
As technical project managers, individuals need to understand that they cannot do all the work on their own. Invariably, there needs to be an efficient division of labor to ensure that the one with the best skills performs the task. Most technical project managers struggle with delegation of responsibility and end up completely choking their bandwidth. Therefore, it is important to allocate roles. As one of the best practices for technical project managers, delegation using the RACI matrix is very popular. It allows technical project managers to create a responsibility chart, clearly marking out roles, deliverables and due dates for smooth project execution.
Have Risk Management in Place
Threat of potential risks and project execution go hand in hand. Possibility of security breaches, loss of data, budgetary constraints, etc. are all major risks in the journey of any project. In the same light, risk management becomes an important attention area for technical project managers. In fact, over 27% project managers claim to always use risk management practices and only 3% report never using them. As an uncertain event that could disrupt a project’s timeline, risk deserves due attention in project management. Effective risk management practices ensure delineation of potential risks for every stage of the project and having a robust risk management plan in hand to mitigate them, should they arise.
Blend in Leadership Skills with Technical Expertise
The term technical in technical project managers offers adds a connotation that these project managers need to only have technical expertise. Undoubtedly, managing a technical project requires you to have sufficient knowledge about the technology and processes you are dealing with, but that’s not the end. There is a need to integrate your technical knowledge with leadership skills. Unless you are able to display leadership skills, your competence as a technical project manager will always be in doubt. Right from delegation of tasks to monitoring project execution, each step requires considerable leadership skills. Therefore, as one of the best practices for technical project managers, they must have leadership competencies.
Monitor and Track Progress
As a technical project manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that every step of the project is on time. This requires meticulous tracking and monitoring. This means you need to have robust knowledge about each milestone of the project, and its timeline. The major reason that most technical managers monitor and track progress is to ensure on time delivery. Additionally, it helps them calculate any delays and the reasons behind the same. Unless you track and monitor progress, last minute delays which have no intimation can hamper the credibility of your organization. If you notify your client in advance of the possible delays, there may be chances that you are able to stay in the good books. Therefore, most technical project managers agree that monitoring and tracking goes a long way into smooth execution.
Create a Plan to Incorporate Changes in Scope
As mentioned above, each project is surrounded by uncertainties. While risk management is important to deal with any unplanned event that may change the project timelines, it is also important to accommodate other changes. Generally, such changes come in the form of requests from the clients. It may be due to changes in the vision, or the process. Therefore, an able technical project manager always has a ready plan to incorporate minor changes in project scope, additionally, changes may also be due to the adoption of a new technology by competitors or a myriad of other reasons. The bottom line is that as one of the best practices for technical project managers, they should have a dynamic project plan in place. Additionally, it is very important to document every change on the go to have detailed records before final delivery.
Kick- start and Finish Formally
Usually projects start and end on designated dates. While most technical project managers abide by the dates and other formalities, the beginning and ending is far from formal. It might be a good idea to have the whole project team together at both the commencement as well as the finishing. Kickstarting the project formally ensures everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations. Finishing formally allows everyone to reflect on the project and share their experiences and feedback.
Best Practices for Technical Project Managers: Do I need them All?
Technical project managers often pose this question if they need to ace all these practices mentioned above. Well, no doubt it is a dream to master them all. However, not adopting each one will not make you a bad project manager. Rather, feel free to be selective and choose the best practices for technical project managers that work most for you!