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I have an engineering background and have accepted an offer from a tech company for which I will be leading a brand new web project (mix of PM + tech lead). There is no prior work done except overall concept of the project. Meaning, no team, no fix on what technology to use, no project management tools and methodology. I will have to handle all that, including selecting stack, people, PM tools etc. Also, what is important is that this company is a hardware manufacturer, not a software company as all of my previous employers, so they also do not have related tools and methodologies in place.

Of course I have ideas based on my previous experience and I've been on the other side of PM for a while, but I'd really appreciate tips and ideas to where learn more for my new job. I am specifically looking for tips for PM tools (e.g. Jira), outsourcing, automated testing, automated builds, deployments, team management, and common problems of PM.

Thanks a lot!

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Hi mvbl, welcome to PMSE! Following the Q&A approach for all SE sites, we expect to have objective and focused questions in order to offer specific answers, as you can see in our faq and How to Ask. I believe your question, as it stands now, is too broad, as you're asking several things at once. Ideally questions must present a specific problem you're facing (including what you've already done and where you got stucked on) to offer you the best answers / advises. Cheers! –  Tiago Cardoso Feb 25 '13 at 12:52
    
If you are willing to spend some extra time, its worth to read through Rapid Application Development by Steve McConnell –  oneworld Jun 6 '13 at 15:26

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

There are a lot of facets to your question but the focus right now should just be the broad subject of how you succeed on this first assignment. I agree with David that success is a bad teacher but the goal is to learn from small increments of failure that do not impact the overall success of the project.

I would like to add some detail about common PM problems that seem very relevant to your current situation.

  1. Ill defined scope, expectations, or deliverables.

    This doesn't just apply to the web project, it applies to your job as well. In terms of the next 90 days, what is more important to your employer; the launch of the web site/application or the creation of a framework for continued web or other software development? If the focus is on the launch you will be making judgements and setting priorities based on that. As the two previous answers suggested, keep it as simple as possible if the launch is the priority.

    How about the requirements of the project itself? If all they have is an overall concept, that needs some work before you can start thinking about many of the other things you asked about.

  2. Insufficient prioritization and task filtering

    A common problem with PM is the pressure to have an unmanageable number of things going on at once and it sounds like you are already right in the middle of that one. I would suggest starting with a high level task list and some focus on determining the critical path items. Take the most important task and build out the next level of the hierarchy for it, also in critical path order.

  3. Wrong fit of infrastructure or methodology

    To borrow from a popular quote: "your methodology and infrastructure should be as simple as possible but no simpler." Do a search for lightweight or simple project management methodologies and SDLC tools and pick the ones that seem accessible and realistic right now. There is time to upgrade and get more sophisticated later.

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thanks for the answer. You're right, from what I understand the scope itself has not yet been well defined, although overall idea is fairly clear. See, all my questions come because I feel comfortable with the technological and engineering side of things, but not so much with handling the project as a whole. Anyway, thanks a lot for valuable advice. –  mvbl fst Feb 25 '13 at 5:38

Focus on the "what" and make sure the team concentrate on the "how" as far as possible. Your job as PM will be to make sure that everything that needs to be done does get done. So plan, plan, and plan again. And ask what can go wrong, and work out how to deal with it (risk management). Apart from that, get yourself a good PM book and / or a training course, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

I would not worry too much about specific tools and methodologies right now. You can plan on a whiteboard or a big sheet of paper. The tools can follow.

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A lot of the PM training puts names and formality and rigor to what you have been doing since age four. There are certainly things like EV or various methods or quantitative risk analysis you did not do when you were a child, but there are many successful projects performed by reasonably mature PM organizations that do these things poorly and incorrectly. Rely on your instincts. You'll make tons of mistakes but success is a bad teacher.

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I'm afraid that my answer will also be non-responsive; you asked for a shopping list recommendation. Like many of the others, I'm going to respond only to the "common problems".

The PM is accountable for closing the project successfully, but doesn't control anything that directly contributes to closing the project. The staff, the priorities, etc. all belong to someone else. The one thing you control is information about the project and the project's status. Cultivate and nurture that information because it is your primary tool.

Your job is to uncover the risks/issues that will affect the probability of successful project completion on time/under budget/high quality/relevant to the enterprise' mission. Analyze those risks and issues and communicate the analysis to stakeholders who control the other resources. BUT make sure that your communications are laser focused. Ask each stakeholder what they need to know in order to maintain their support for the project, and make sure that each stakeholder has access to that information. Change control is your friend.

Hardware focused projects have a tremendous advantage ; metrics are generally much easier - you can tell how many widgets you've produced, the quality/quantity/cost of the widget, etc. Earned value is much easier to calculate.

Best of luck.

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