Project development, also known as project management, is the process of alighting talent, tools, and various internal and external processes to create a smooth and straightforward project. Regardless of what the project is, the key goals are always the same:
- Stay within the budget
- Stay within the project timeframe
- Ensure efficiency between departments
- Ensure seamless collaboration
- Protect project and business data on-site and digitally
- Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations
- Minimise human error and setbacks through continuous testing
- Find ways to improve operational efficiency
- Drive productivity and zeal with continuous education and incentives
Focusing on these micro-goals throughout the project development process will produce expected outcomes and allow the project and operations managers to reach project completion faster. Put simply, you’ll be able to roll out a better product or service faster while retaining quality.
Whether your project is big or small in scope, budget, or end-goal, there’s no denying that project development is a complex process with numerous challenges. Today, we'll share the best practices you can use right now to ensure your project is a resounding success from start to finish.
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Validate your product and project idea
Surprisingly, the first step to ensuring a successful project development process isn't defining the charter or the goals, or even the budget; it's to validate your idea. This step is one that business leaders and decision makers in organisations large and small love to skip, but experienced project managers know is crucial.
Skipping this can have terrible consequences for the entire team and company, causing delays, frustration, setbacks, and financial loss. The idea behind product validation and thus project validation is to create a viable approach to your project that'll ensure you achieve all the micro-goals we mentioned above.
You and your team leaders must validate the core idea and figure out if a project development process can guide the idea, from inception to successful roll-out and long-term ROI. You can do this by:
- Defining the product goals and hypothesis
- Aligning it with the overall business strategy
- Conducting market, industry, and consumer analysis
- Factoring in market projections and future demand
- Testing the concept before starting the project
- Defining your minimum viable product
- Creating mock-ups to analyse project demands
2. Create a detailed project charter
Once you've validated the idea behind the product or service and the project itself, you can create a detailed project plan, or charter. A detailed project charter is a comprehensive document created by project leads and key department heads involved in the project, which needs to be reviewed and signed-off by upper management.
Collaboration and alignment between team leads is crucial as you want your charter to be as data-driven, accurate, and comprehensive as possible. Because the higher-ups will sign-off on what’s inside, adding budget allocations or making amendments later on will be a challenge.
Your project charter should therefore contain these key points:
- The scope of the project
- The budget and financial allocations
- The timeline, timeframe, and milestones
- The talent requirements
- The software and hardware requirements
- The goals and objectives and key results (OKRs)
- A segment on possible setbacks and suggestions for solutions
- Talent training and education
With all of these logged into the project charter, you'll have a comprehensive overview of its requirements and be able to invest in the right tools, tactics, and talent from the start.
3. Ensure project, facility, and documentation security
Let’s pause for a moment to consider project security. This step is often overlooked by organisations and business leaders who are eager to kick-start project development without first assessing the potential risks of data leaks or on-site security breaches.
Serious projects that can define the future of a company require serious security measures, both online and offline systems that'll protect the integrity of the project and its people.
On-site, businesses should work with commercial security companies to protect all hardware, devices, and data centres that house sensitive data, trade secrets, and proprietary project information. All it takes is one missing flash drive for sensitive data to get leaked to your competitors.
Online, you’ll need to set up robust cybersecurity and access management measures to safeguard the collaborative environment from unwarranted access and data theft. Consider:
- Combining software and hardware firewalls
- Using automated threat detection for emails and logins
- Using a secure web gateway to monitor the network
- Using one-time passwords for guest access management
- Conducting professional cybersecurity training before starting the project
4. Define key talent roles and responsibilities
Your people will make or break the project development process, so invest in the right talent from the get-go. It'll be difficult to bring in new people mid-way through, so it’s important to get all the talent requirements right for the project. Proactively plan for the people you need to bring into the project later on; screen, select, and notify them on their duties and start dates ahead of time.
Key talent roles and responsibilities include titles from product owners and head project managers to developers, software engineers, operations managers, and data analysts.
Talent rosters for project development will vary between organisations and their needs, so your roster will be unique to your project goals. It's up to you to analyse and collate all the points we talked about above and determine whom to bring on to the project.
To help you do this efficiently and effectively, follow these steps:
- Assign teams and departments across the project timeline
- Define how many people each team needs
- Define the tools they’ll be using and consider what you can automate
- Ask for feedback from every team and department head
- Remember post-project teams like marketing, sales, and customer success
5. Bring customer success management into the fold
Customer success is another step that tends to get overlooked but is crucial for the project management process. Customer success managers are the people in your organisation who develop the process, tactics, and the overarching strategies to maximise the lifetime value of every customer, retain new customers, and provide the best possible experience to those who have just converted.
Needless to say, these experts are essential for long-term business growth and resilience in a hypercompetitive market, which makes bringing them into the project an extremely prudent decision. The way to bring customer success managers into project management and the development process is to leverage their business, industry, and customer knowledge to optimise every step of the process.
These experts provide invaluable information to your decision-makers, operations managers, software and product engineers, and marketers about the end user and their needs and expectations.
6. Invest in talent training and education during project development
Continuous employee education and training is something that all businesses need to invest in, to boost talent retention and satisfaction. After all, skilled employees are not only happier but bring more value to the business regardless of the industry you're in.
With that fact in mind, employee training is equally important during the project development cycle. This activity is not an “extracurricular” one, but rather an integral part of the process that'll boost project efficiency. Plan for employee training in advance.
Remember that people are also learning while working, so take this opportunity to transfer that new knowledge into training content that'll serve future projects, hires, and business objectives.
Delivering training and education in small, bite-size chunks is a great way to invest in your employees and empower them to achieve better results throughout the project.
You have plenty of options here as well. You can create an evergreen webinar to use in future projects and employee training modules and create bite-size training videos and assign them to different project milestones and chapters. There’s also always the option to share written educational content like PDFs, checklists, and infographics, but interactive and video training is typically more engaging and memorable.
7. Ensure successful project collaboration for remote employees
Remote work remains a key operational model for businesses of all sizes, and even though managing project development on a remote work model can seem like a daunting task, it actually brings numerous benefits to the table. It's crucial, however, to set up an organised remote work structure for everyone involved.
To create an effective workflow management system to bring remote employees together and ensure efficiency throughout, you need the right communication and collaboration tools. You'll also need a detailed communication hierarchy that defines all the communication lanes and requirements between employees, teams, and departments.
Accountability management plays a huge role in successful remote workplaces, as you want to ensure you’re able to track all the work performed and all the milestones and results achieved by different remote teams. Monitoring the project on all fronts is the key to seamless management and staying on-track with your budget and timelines.
Don’t be afraid to kick-start a remote project development process - all it takes to make it work is to set the right foundation and follow the steps we talked about above.
Over to you
Successful project management demands meticulous planning and preparation, talent acquisition, and a number of tools and key processes to create a safe, seamless, and productive development project for everyone involved.
If you want to save time and money on project development in 2023 and allocate resources to other mission-critical objectives, be sure to implement these tactics to bring projects to successful completion faster than ever before.
About the author:
Nikola Sekulic is a seasoned brand developer, writer, and storyteller. Over the last decade, he’s worked on various marketing, branding, and copywriting projects – crafting plans and strategies, writing creative online and offline content, and making ideas happen. When he is not working for clients around the world, he is exploring new topics and developing fresh ideas to turn into engaging stories for the online community.