This article provides a bit more detail on how we manage projects here at Quba. There’ll be more blogs in the coming weeks on our actual processes, so keep checking back for them.
As a Project Manager here, I'm not enforcing a set of rules to keep things progressing; instead I'm keeping a close eye on the natural progression of the project and making sure that the road ahead is clear, so that we can deliver work to the best of our abilities. I’m part of a small but perfectly formed team of Project Execs and Managers, we all work on a variety of projects for a range of clients and we are driven by delivering exceptional projects.
vThere’s a barrage of different project management methodologies and processes including Waterfall, Agile, Lean, Kanban - all of which serve a purpose for a particular type of project and client. At Quba we appreciate these, and use the best snippets from each, but we’re not driven to produce documents for the sake of it, nor do we want to create project plans that are unrealistic (and that no-one looks at anyway).
There are a few key things I’ve learned.
Don’t tell fibs
‘Yeah, our developer is booked in to start that project tomorrow and it’ll be done by the end of the week’.
Remember what your parents told you? They were right - don’t tell fibs, it’s absolutely pointless and you will get caught out. You’ll know whether you’ve told a few porkies as something related to it will forever be the task on your to do list or that bottom email in your inbox that you ‘need to get round to’.
Here are some tips for not getting caught out again.
1. Manage client expectations from the beginning. Tell them what you are or aren’t doing, what you can or can’t do and what you’ll expect in return. Weekly catch-ups? Highlight reports? Get it out in the open from the off and it’ll set the foundations for a good relationship.
2. Don’t shy away from tell a client ‘bad’ news. If you’re going to miss a commitment or deadline, firstly do what you can to not miss it. That might mean you have to stop working on something else, ask for help or even work through a lunch, but if you are going to miss a deadline, give the client as much warning as possible. Anything is better than a client getting in touch with you to ask for that report, update or fix and you not having it.
3. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so do something about it. There’s no point saying ‘I knew that user journey wasn’t right’ the day before a site is launched. If something isn’t right, shout. For most web projects you may work for a client, but the website/app will be used by real users. It’s not just your job, it’s your duty. If you don’t have the support of a colleague, manager or lead, then say hello – I’ll happily help out if I have the time.
Use the right tools for the job
At Quba we use Basecamp for managing projects and DoneDone for bug tracking.
Sometimes our clients don’t want to use Basecamp, and JIRA may be their bug tracking tool of choice - that’s fine, we’ll work on any tool or system that is best placed for a particular project. There is zero point in us laying down the law by saying that tool A or B has to be used – it’s likely to make the client irate. We’re being paid to do a job, part of that job has to be making our clients’ lives easier – end of.
I’m a big fan of Trello and use it daily to manage my own workload and we use it as a task management tool for one of my big projects. It’s working fine, but it’s not right to roll this out for the rest of Quba, so we haven’t.
Recently, I was asked to create a project plan in MS Project for a client. It took me a while to remember how to do that. And last week, I amended a visual concept for a client using MS Paint. I wish I could have got a Designer to do it in Photoshop, but they were stacked on other projects. I didn’t feel bad – it was the right thing to do at the time.
In that order.
I work with an incredible team. It’s a little clichéd, but I really do mean it. From Design, Development, Account Management and the rest of the company, we have some great minds who have been employed for a reason.
Therefore, when I’m working with a team, their input is invaluable and they’ll likely know more about a given topic that I could ever dream about.
There’s no set way in how something can play out – we might chat through things over a brew, discuss over Skype about it or, forgive me, even have an email exchange about it. And there’s no set resolution either, it may be that we have learned better ways of doing things. It could be that we have encountered an issue with a third party solution, or it could be that a specced out item just isn’t working.
I have complete trust in our team(s) here at Quba.
Face to face is best
I’m in my ninth year of project management and, with this experience, I can easily say that face to face meetings, workshops, and catch-ups with a client are just the best. This isn’t possible all the time, but in my view it’s preferable wherever possible.
We’re lucky that we have some clients on our doorstep, but also work with some that are happy to alternate meetings between their place and ours. Quba is based in the fourth floor of a converted Victorian school in the centre of Sheffield, and is a great place to work and providing the team with a relaxed place to work and a natural environment which encourages collaborative working, problem solving and team work.
Our office is a big part of our company and is very much an extension of the team and we operate an open door policy where we encourage clients to hot desk from our office. We use our office space as often as possible, not just for day-to-day work, but also for help a client get completely engaged and excited about their project.
Have you got a project you’d like to talk to us about? Get in touch!