Managing Large Projects
It is hard to manage any project, that’s a fact. Some of them can easily last up to one year, and it’s a major challenge to stay in focus, and never lose a single detail. They say the devil is in the details, and that’s the biggest problem with long-lasting projects – you start falling behind on something, and the only way is down. Let’s talk about preventing that from ever happening.
Don’t Be on a Losing Side
Remember, projects like these can cost your whole company’s reputation. Yes, every failed job puts you in jeopardy, but time and money-wise expensive ones are the ultimate tests where you have to show strength, effectiveness, and unwavering attention.
Everyone Has to Be in the Right Place
Right off the bat, you have to be 100% sure that the assigned team will be able to complete the project from start to the very end. No compromises. Not only that, you have to handpick every member. Make sure they not only possess the correct skills but have a spark for this particular project. A lot of team leads don’t care about this little detail, but it might and will backfire right at you.
Create an onboarding guide during the first phase, there is no guarantee that everyone will click with the job they have been assigned.
Prepare to be Agile
The only thing that is sure to happen with large and complex projects is a lot of changes along the way. You can’t do anything about it, they will come, and sometimes may require additional resources and time to complete. Moreover, if this is a major redesign, your client may require some additional deliverables not related to the new design system – business doesn’t stop.
What I’m trying to say is be ready for hard work and hundreds of back and forth comments, feedback, requests, critique, everything.
Be on the Same Page with the Client
The preparation and planning stage in general is definitely the most important stage of every project. Make sure you are clear with your client in every little detail – from NDAs, contracts, and payments, to the possible delays from both sides. For that, you’ll have a detailed agreement that your company and them should sign. Everything has to be written down, every possible and impossible scenario – accounted for.
Important: don’t forget to check everything with your legal team before signing anything. Both sides have the mutual right to suggest changes and refuse to sign a contract before the consensus is reached. If you are not sure about even the smallest thing – be sure to make the other party aware of the fact. Better clear any doubts before they turn into a slight nuisance, or even something worse.
Have Strong Design and Tech Leads
I know, I know, we talked about it a couple of paragraphs ago, yet I just can’t stress this enough – team leads are the backbone of your project. If they fail in their job, everything will start falling apart faster than a Javelin rocket.
Start with a round of interviews. Get to know every side of your client, their vision, their idea, and everything that is possible. Ask for every piece of documentation they have, and if they don’t have enough, ask to create a detailed scope of what they need and want to achieve, and ask them to build it with priorities in mind. No matter how good you are, you can’t get into other people’s heads, but what you can do is pull every bit that you need out, and nothing can help you better than a good old interview.
Depending on the number of people and especially decision-makers, there may be just one interview, or much more. Just make sure to talk the project through with every person that has a say in this, and do everything to make them reach a point where everyone has agreed on the goals. That way you will minimize future internal discussions in the client’s team as much as possible – and God knows you don’t want those delays to happen, both for your and their sake.
Use the Right Tools
There are plenty of tools that can and will make your life a lot easier. Asana and Gantt are definitely the ones that are both easy to use and extremely effective. With the first one being very simple yet outright awesome to work with (and feature-reach too!), and the second one being as detailed as possible – you are sure as hell won’t miss any deadline.
In addition to setting up client-faced projects in Asana and Gantt, set up an internal one for communication purposes. You can’t bombard the client with tons of notifications, and that’s why you need an internal project.
Set Up an Internal Weekly Huddle
Don’t rely on self-organization from every team member, be realistic – it’s not happening. You can’t blame people for that, their job is to create, and yours is to help them do that in the right order and on time.
Weekly huddles will take 30 minutes of your time, but there isn’t a thing that can replace them. Make sure to prepare the agenda before the call through to save more time. Discuss all the questions your team might have, set the right course for the week, and you’re all set for a mostly problem-free, deadline-respecting project.
Iterate & Present
In the beginning, it is vital to throw a lot of choices on the client’s table. You have to show them every possible way and let them feel they are in control. This feeling alone comforts them like nothing in this world.
Iterate as much as possible, and present the most suitable variants to the client. Not only they will appreciate the efforts you put into their dream, but they will also recognize your willingness to jump higher than they have ever expected you to. You want that awesome review, don’t you?
Be Prepared For the Delays
As much as we hate them, there is no chance something like this doesn’t happen. The bigger your client’s company is, the more decision-makers they have, and the more internal discussion they will have. It’s a normal process, but do warn them that the deadlines will shift in advance. Better safe than sorry.
Find a Better Employee For the Job If They Don’t Fit Anymore
It might happen that someone just doesn’t fit into the job they have been assigned to. They may have been the right person, but when it doesn’t click, there’s nothing you can do. That is why you have created an onboarding guide – it cuts the time the new employee spends getting acquainted with the project in half.
Be Positive and Non-Demanding (In a Negative Way)
A positive and friendly attitude is a soft skill that just can’t be taught. As a manager, you have to keep your team’s morale high every single day. Don’t be negatively demanding, be helpful and understanding instead. There is no use in being harsh in any way – it will negatively affect the employee’s performance.
Communicate With The Client. A lot
I’m stating the obvious here, but don’t forget to keep a constant flow of communication with your client. They want and must receive all the updates as frequently as possible. The best practice is to talk to them every day, show the progress, ask questions, making sure they feel like we are moving in the right direction. It’s best to catch the problem before it starts to be something that will need a lot of time to deal with.
Don’t Forget About Your Team
It’s just as important to talk with your team. Don’t forget that they play the biggest role in your project, and it’s in your interest to make them feel understood, comfortable, and safe. Check in on them every day, but definitely don’t be nosy – some people enjoy working on their own. Don’t micromanage them. I have talked about why micromanaging is bad in my article, check it out if you have any doubts about that!
Large projects pay a lot, but they are surely hard to handle. With the right team, tools, and management – you will make it happen, and it will be good. There’s no doubt you can do it. And if you are about to do it for the first time, I understand, we’ve all been there. Don’t forget that we are all human beings at the end of the day, and mistakes may and will happen. Correct them and go on, you can do it!