What did you want to be when you were a kid?
If you had asked me in the first grade, I would have told you, “A scientist!” My favorite thing to do was explore the creek in our backyard, and I thought that scientists got to spend all of their time outdoors. Basically, scientists were full-time bass fisherman and crawdad-catchers who on occasion wrote their observations down. Perfect.
Being a scientist stirred up my imagination the same way being a fireman, astronaut, or professional athlete did my friends’. Other jobs simply don’t hold the same promise of freedom and adventure: Burger flipper. Sanitation worker. Project manager.
How I Accidentally Learned Project Management
The last role is one I stumbled into by accident when I started my own business back in 2009. Several gigs into self-employment, I realized that selling only copywriting services might ensure that my refrigerator and my bank account stayed empty.
A man cannot live on mustard alone. I needed more meat, more revenue streams. Bright Newt’s menu expanded to marketing strategy, SEO, and social media management.
The growth was natural. I’d give my clients their finished web content, and they’d respond by saying, “How can we get more business through our website?” If I were just the writer, why were my clients asking for me for help growing their businesses? I had enough experience to make some recommendations but quickly realized this kind of advice was something new to sell.
Pretty soon, I was also selling other people’s services. Bright Newt became a one-stop shop for my clients’ design, writing, marketing, and business development needs.
I found myself wearing many different hats. I went to client meetings. I took the phone calls and answered the emails. I kept the designer on task and worked out the timeline with the web developer. Though I didn’t employ any of these independent contractors, I kept the project as a whole on time and on budget. Someone had to! Because I was the one who did the hiring and the one responsible for the budget, my reputation and my brand were on the line.
By default, I had become a project manager.
You Can’t Afford Not To
I certainly didn’t set out to be the project manager, and for the longest time, I had identified myself as the footloose, fancy-free writer who exactly didn’t miss deadlines but usually waited until the very last minute to submit drafts.
But when you’re wanting to make more money, you cannot afford—literally or figuratively—a self-indulgent approach to creative work. Inspiration is temperamental, rather like a dragon (not that I’ve met one): it will charm you one moment, and burn you the next. For my business’s growth to be sustainable, I needed more infrastructure and scalability.
Your app business requires the same things to grow, and app developers have every incentive to master simple project management. Your business and strategic partners will be impressed by your ability to get things done, your contractors and employees will enjoy not feeling like the ship is always sinking, and your bank account will be happier.
The faster you finish projects, the more profitable they tend to be.
Give Yourself Permission to Be Good at It
The challenge is reworking your workflow while it’s flowing. (There’s a tongue twister for you.) Project management represents a lovely Catch-22: you have every incentive to improve your project management and every excuse to put it off while you’re in the passionate throes of various projects.
If your projects aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like, I’d urge you to rethink your project management now. Give yourself a carte blanche—permission to do something different and expect different results. Give yourself permission to master project management.
6 Things Every Mobile App Development Project Needs
I’ll share some helpful tools in my next blog post, but before we talk about how you’re going to get to your destination, let’s talk about how to set yourself up for a satisfying journey. Here are six things every mobile app development project needs to succeed:
- clear goal
- approximate budget
- easily accessible resources
- complete instructions
- well-defined milestones
- hard deadlines
Think back on a project that exploded in your face. Did it lack one of the above? Probably.
To help yourself and your team succeed, you must set aside a budget to help with your decision-making. That way, when someone suggests a new feature for an app, you can say, “We’d better save that for Phase 2. Otherwise, we’ll blow the budget.”
I hired a new Unity programmer on oDesk, and halfway through the project, he pinged me on Skype and said he’d need twice the number of hours he’d originally quoted to finish the project. After probing a bit with more questions, I decided that he was telling the truth. I felt for him: when I was a young freelancer just getting started on my own, I had made the same mistake. But I sensed that the best way to sour a client relationship was to ask the client to pay—quite literally—for my mistake. I told my Unity guy that I wished I could help him but there simply wasn’t any more money in the budget. He had to decide what he thought was the right thing to do: quit the project or keep his word.
He decided to finish the project.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe empathy is important, and I often give my contractors bonuses. But setting a budget will prevent you from sabotaging a project (and your business’s health) because you feel bad for someone. A budget will help you and everyone else make smart decisions for the good of the project and the company.
You also need to empower your team by giving them all the necessary resources they need to do the job, including ideas, time, software, laptops, mobile devices, tools, log-in credentials, time tracking, access to decision-makers, and training materials.
In short, effective project management requires strong leadership. Your team needs you to call the shots. Give them a final destination, give them money for necessities, give them all the necessary gear, give them a map and marching orders, give them landmarks, and give them a timeline.
Good Leaders Eat Last.
But you must hold yourself to the same standards that you set for them. Respond quickly to their needs. Take care of them. Be fair to them, and be fair to yourself. If they make mistakes, they need to take responsibility and make things right!
Good leaders may eat last, but they still must eat in order to remain good leaders.