Regardless of what work you're outsourcing to someone else to do, people often forget that you can't just dump it on someone's desk or inbox, and walk away. This is especially true when you're getting someone to build you an online platform or mobile app. Since the building of your product is the most important part of getting it to market, it's critical that you make the time to manage your development project.
What's does it mean to "manage" your project?
At its most fundamental level, managing your project means that you have to keep an eye on what's going on. It seems obvious, but most people don't look beyond the basics of schedule and budget, which means they miss out on a whole lot of important stuff.
Here are 5 key things that you should be managing:
Cost is how much you're spending on your product development project. Yes, it's probably the main thing that you want to track. Most people have fixed price contracts (i.e. a set price to do all of the work), which means that they only think about costs when their developers ask for more money. Regardless, of your contract, you should keep a close eye on your costs. The more money you spend upfront, the more you have to sell to pay off your investment.
Time is another important part of your project. You want to have a clear view of when your developers will be giving you stuff (Hint: It should be in your contract.) If there are delays in completing development, then it will take you longer to get to launch, and you're waiting longer to start making money. Make sure you're seeing progress in your project.
Scope is about building the things that were agreed to. You want to make sure that you're getting what you asked for. Scope creep is one thing that's really common in development projects. It can cause your costs and timelines to blow out considerably. Scope also covers quality - developers may build what you want, but it might not work properly - and that's not good either!
Risks are basically anything that might affect the outcome of your project. They come in all different flavours and can be in your control, and out of your control. Some examples of risk include regulatory risk, technology risk, legal risk, resourcing risk, financial risk - pretty much anything can be a risk. You want to have an idea of all of the key risks that might derail your project, and have a plan for mitigating them.
Issues are things that are raised, and need to be addressed during the course of your project. These generally are related to things that aren't working as they should, or things that need to be resolved to complete a development project. For example, an issue might be that a button doesn't work on a screen, or maybe your developers can't get your website running on your host. You need to track and manage your issues to ensure that your project can finish successfully. You may not solve everything prior to your launch, but the important items will be fixed.
Cost, schedule and scope are all tied together. If you increase the scope, it will cost you more, and take longer to build. Alternatively, if you're behind schedule, you may need to get more people working on your project, which increases costs - or you can reduce how much you build. Finally, if you're going too far over budget, you can reduce what gets built.
Risks and issues run alongside of the other three. They can relate to any of the three issues, and to other things in and beyond your control.
As the person that's paying a lot of money for a developer, you have a very strong interest in seeing your product development project complete successfully. By having an awareness of these five factors for managing projects, you'll be able to track and monitor how well things are going. More importantly, you have a head start when (not if) things go wrong.
Want more tips on how to turn your idea into a great product?
Read our Foundations for Non-Tech article.