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The crisis arose in part because the greater power available in computers meant that larger software projects were tackled with techniques developed on much smaller projects. Project management is really just the problem-solving process in action—geared toward supervising resources, people, and team-based projects.
Activities in software project management:
- – project planning;
- – project scheduling;
- – risk management;
- – managing people.
The DNA of project management is problem solving and organizing the process so that you tackle the right issues at the right time using the right tools. Techniques were needed for software project management. Good project management cannot guarantee success, but poor management on signiﬁcant projects always leads to failure. Project-management systems take on a million forms (as do problem-solving systems), but if you truly grasp the ideas behind the labels, you can translate them into whatever management strategy your client, team, or boss is using.
The problem-solving process is creative in itself. A good solution to a problem can be artistic in its elegance and efficient grace. If you can grasp problem solving, you can learn whatever you need to learn now and in the future.
The following procedure will help when you need to solve a technical problem on hardware or equipment, handle an editing issue within your project, or figure out how to get your hand out of that jar you got it stuck in.
The first step of a problem-solving process is to learn. It includes two important steps: learning what the problem is and learning how others have solved similar problems (research and investigate). It seems simple, but the process can be confusing. Most projects with major problems get stuck at this initial step because they didn’t learn well— or at all. Let’s talk about them.
UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM
As we discussed earlier in this chapter, the first step of every project is to understand the problem. For most design projects, you must figure out how to most effectively help your client share their goals with the target audience. If the client is yourself, then it’s about getting to the essence of what you want to communicate and communicating it so that your target audience can act on it.
Understanding the problem is the most difficult part of the problem-solving process. Mess it up here, and by definition, you’re not solving the problem. You haven’t properly identified the problem, so how can you solve it? Sometimes you can make the problem worse by implementing a plan that creates a new problem without solving the real one.
You can avoid trouble down the road by clearly understanding and defining the problem at the start. "I want to sell a million widgets" is not a problem you can solve; it’s a desire the client has. So what’s the problem you can help with? He hasn’t sold as many as he wants? That’s not it either. How do you get to the bottom of the problem?
Start with good questions: Do people need a widget? If so, do people know widgets are a thing? If so, do they choose a competing widget? If so, why do they choose this other widget? Why do you think they should use your widget instead? Who would be most likely to buy your widget? What is your budget for widget advertising? What do you want to spend on this particular project? What are your expectations?
Many clients become frustrated with this set of questions. They just want action to be taken so that they can feel like they’re doing something. But let me repeat that old saying: "Aim at nothing, and you’ll hit it every time." This is when you sharpen your axe so you don’t have to chop at the tree all day.
This part of the project can be fairly informal on smaller projects but can be huge on large projects. Here’s a list of critical questions to answer:
- Purpose: Why are you doing this editing project? What result would you consider a success?
- Target: Who needs this message or product? Describe your typical customer.
- Limits: What are the limits for the project? Budget and time are most necessary to nail down.
- Preferences: Aside from the results we’ve already discussed, are there any other results you’d like or expect from this project?
- Platform: Is the project targeting the web? A mobile device? A kiosk? DVD? Broadcast TV? What are the specifications of the particular device?
These examples are intended to show how quickly you can determine a client’s expectations. The answers to these questions define the size of the job and how you’ll best be able to work with the client.
Sketches and written notes from this initial step will help. Gather as much information as you can to make the rest of the project go smoothly. The more you find out now, the less you’ll have to redesign later, because the client hates the color, the layout, or the general direction you took the project. Invest the time now, or pay it back with interest later. With a clear idea of what the problem is, you’ll get the information you need to solve it in the next step.
RESEARCH AND INVESTIGATE
After you understand exactly what your client is expecting, you can start doing the research to arrive at the answers you need. Let’s take a quick look at that word: re-search. It literally means "search again." Lots of people fail to research; they just search. They look at the most obvious places and approaches, and if things don’t immediately click, they settle for a poor but quick and easy solution.
Depending on the job, researching can be a relatively quick process. Find out about the competitive products, learn about the problem you’re trying to solve, and understand the demographic you’re going to target. The more research you do, the better information you’ll have about the problem you’re trying to solve, which will help you with the next step.
The next couple of steps represent the "thinking" phase. You can do this quickly using a pen and napkin, or you can do it in depth and generate tons of documentation along the way, particularly on large projects But thinking is the part that most of us often mistake as the beginning. Remember that if the learning step isn’t done well, your thinking step might be headed in the wrong direction.
Brainstorming, Idea Generation, Creativity, Problem-solving, Decision-making
Group brainstorming is widely adopted as a design method in the domain of software development. However, existing brainstorming literature has consistently proven group brainstorming to be ineffective under the controlled laboratory settings. Yet, electronic brainstorming systems informed by the results of these prior laboratory studies have failed to gain adoption in the field because of the lack of support for group well-being and member support. Therefore, there is a need to better understand brainstorming in the field. In this work, we seek to understand why and how brainstorming is actually practiced, rather than how brainstorming practices deviate from formal brainstorming rules, by observing brainstorming meetings at Microsoft. The results of this work show that, contrary to the conventional brainstorming practices, software teams at Microsoft engage heavily in the constraint discovery process in their brainstorming meetings. We identified two types of constraints that occur in
brainstorming meetings. Functional constraints are requirements and criteria that define the idea space, whereas practical constraints are limitations that prioritize the proposed solutions. for Detail of research Visit The next step is to brainstorm. As with research, you need to really grasp the meaning. It’s a brainstorm. Not a brain drizzle. A full-on typhoon of ideas. At this point, it’s important to stop thinking analytically and start thinking creatively. If you start thinking critically instead of creatively, you’ll change direction and you’ll lose ground on your brainstorming task. If you start moving in the critical direction, that’s the opposite of creative. Stop that! Don’t try to work hard on brainstorming. Work relaxed instead.
At times, analysis will need to happen. You start analyzing how to complete your ideas when you should be creating them. Here are some things not to do when brainstorming and directions that trigger the critical mode of thinking:
- Judging your ideas
- Trying to finish an idea when you should still be brainstorming
- Getting stuck on a particular idea
- Planning out the project
- Thinking about how much time you have
- Thinking about the budget
- Thinking about numbers
- Grouping or sorting your ideas
- Developing the idea that you think is best.
Here are things you should be doing to get into creative mode:
- Listen to music.
- Look at cool clips on YouTube or Vimeo.
- Call a friend.
- Doodle on something.
- Read a poem.
- Take a break.
- Go for a walk.
- Watch a movie.
- Write a haiku.
- Meditate for five minutes.
- Sleep on it.
When you’re in brainstorming mode, don’t edit your ideas. Let them flow. If a crummy idea pops into your head, put it on paper. If you don’t, it will keep popping up until it’s been given a little respect. Give the weak ideas respect; they open doors for the great ones. Brainstorming is a matter of creating ideas.
PICK AND PLAN
- It is etter to under stand about Types of plan: –
- Software development plan.
- The central plan, which describes how the system will be developed.
- Quality assurance plan. Speciﬁes the quality procedures & standards to be used.
- Validation plan. Deﬁnes how a client will validate the system that has been developed.
- Conﬁguration management plan. Deﬁnes how the system will be conﬁgured and installed.
- Maintenance plan. Deﬁnes how the system will be maintained.
- Staff development plan. Describes how the skills of the participants will be developed.
After brainstorming, you need to pick a solution that you generated in your brainstorming session and plan things out. You’ll find that the plan you go with is rarely your first idea. Through the process of brainstorming, the idea will go through several iterations. A common mistake for beginners is to fall in love with an early idea—beware of this pitfall! Your best idea is lurking in the background of your mind, and you have to get rid of all the simple ideas that pop up first. For a small project or a one-person team, you might quickly hammer out a contract and get to work, but in larger projects, the planning needs to be detailed and focused.
When planning a project, it is critically important to know what the key risks are, and is possible plan for them:
- •staff turnover;
- •management change;
- •hardware unavailability;
- •requirements change;
- •speciﬁcation delays;
- •size underestimate;
- •technology change;
- •product competition.
The larger the project, the more formal this process will be. Small projects with just one person working on it will have little planning necessary for moving forward. However, larger projects will need a project plan to set the project requirements for the team.
SETTING PROJECT REQUIREMENTS
Requirements analysis in software engineering, encompasses those tasks that go into determining the needs or conditions to meet for a new or altered product or project, taking account of the possibly conflicting requirements of the various stakeholders, analyzing, documenting, validating and managing software or system requirements. Requirements analysis is critical to the success of a systems or software project.
The requirements should be documented, actionable, measurable, testable, traceable, related to identified business needs or opportunities, and defined to a level of detail sufficient for system design. as:-
- Captures the collective knowledge of a team.
- Improves the quality, reliability and safety of the process/product.
- Is a structured process for identifying areas of concern.
- Documents and tracks risk reduction activities.
- Helps the team create proactive action plans and thus improve process robustness.
This is where the action happens. Look through the ideas you’ve generated and pick the one that seems best and plan how to make it happen. This is where you determine exactly what has to be done, establish some direction, and identify a clear target. This planning stage (which most creative types naturally tend to resist, myself included) is where you clarify what needs to be done; it establishes your direction and identifies a clear target. We resist it because it seems to limit us. It ropes in our creative freedom, and it gives us a checklist—all things that many creatives hate. These things are creative kryptonite—or at least we think they are. But let’s consider this for a moment.
If you don’t perform this admittedly tedious step, what won’t you have? You won’t have a definition of what needs to be done, a direction to head in, or a target to hit. Everyone will be in the dark. Although this step doesn’t seem creative in itself, creativity isn’t the priority at this particular juncture. You’re at a journey-versus-destination moment. Creativity without limits is a journey, which is great for your own work, but a disaster for a client-driven job. A client-driven project requires clearly defined goals—a destination. You need to arrive somewhere specific.
Two critical points that must be a part of every project plan are the project scope and project deadline. Every contract needs to have these critical components defined to focus the project:
- Project scope is the amount of work to be done. On the editor’s side, this is the most important thing to establish. If the scope isn’t clear, you’re subject to the Achilles heel of editing and production work: project creep. This is a pervasive problem in our industry (you’ll learn more later in this chapter), but simply writing down a defined scope can prevent the problem. Get in writing exactly what you need to do and make sure specific numbers are attached.
- Project deadlines dictate when the work needs to be done. This is the client’s most important element. The deadline often affects the price. If the client needs ten animated banner ads in six months, you can probably offer a discount. If they need a draft by tomorrow morning, then they’ll have to pay an additional "rush" fee. Deadlines on large projects also can be broken down into phases, each with its own fee. This division of tasks helps you pay the bills by generating cash flow during a large and lengthy project. It also limits the impact—for you—of payment delay.
As a Project Management and Project Controls professional dependencies , when shared and discussed with your client, will save time, money, and disagreements. These additional deliverables are the raw materials of project planning and help convey the exact target of the project. The need for better quality control of the software development process has given rise to the discipline of software engineering, which aims to apply the systematic approach exemplified in the engineering paradigm to the process of software development. The following two deliverables are critical for every production project:
- Storyboards are helpful to show the client how your project and edit will flow. It’s even better when the client has an idea of what they’re looking for and can give you their own storyboard, however crude. Does this limit your creative freedom? Yes, and it also saves you a ton of time. The goal of a client job is to get a project done to their satisfaction. If they’re very particular and know what they want, you’re not going to convince them otherwise. Sketches save time because they limit your direction to one that the client will accept, and they help you get to that acceptance faster. That means you get finished and paid sooner. The better the storyboards are before you get into actual editing, the fewer changes and revisions you’ll need. You don’t have to be a master sketch artist; just convey the idea. Sometimes sketches may just be wireframes—very rough representative sketches of how to lay out the project—especially in regard to interactive media projects.
- Specifications, or specs, are detailed, clear written goals and limits for a project. Many times, the specifications themselves will be referred to as the "project plan" and become part of the contract. This will involve the target platform and feature set of the interactive project. All project plans should include two critical pieces of information: the scope of the project and the deadlines that need to be met. Be sure to always include both of these items in your project specifications.
AVOIDING PROJECT DEVELOPMENT CREEP
Scope creep can originate from several sources and is a leading cause of project failure when handled poorly. You must take measures to control project embellishment and to ensure that you and your team don’t fall victim to its unsavory results—deadline delay and budget shortage. Project creep occurs when a project starts to lose its focus and spin out of control, eating up more and more time and effort. It is important to be aware of this phenomenon. It happens all the time, and the main culprit in every case is a poorly designed project plan that lacks clear specifications and deadlines.
the following guidelines to set yourself up to successfully control the scope of your project:
- Be sure you thoroughly understand the project vision. Meet with the project drivers and deliver an overview of the project as a whole for their review and comments.
- Understand your priorities and the priorities of the project drivers. Make an ordered list for your review throughout the project duration. Items should include budget, deadline, feature delivery, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction. You’ll use this list to justify your scheduling decisions once the project has commenced.
- Define your deliverables and have them approved by the project drivers. Deliverables should be general descriptions of functionality to be completed during the project.
- Break the approved deliverables into actual work requirements. The requirements should be as detailed as necessary and can be completed using a simple spreadsheet. The larger your project, the more detail you should include. If your project spans more than a month or two, don’t forget to include time for software upgrades during development and always include time for ample documentation.
- Break the project down into major and minor milestones and complete a generous project schedule to be approved by the project drivers. Minor milestones should not span more than a month. Whatever your method for determining task duration, leave room for error. When working with an unknown staff, I generally schedule 140 to 160 percent of the duration as expected to be delivered. If your schedule is tight, reevaluate your deliverables. Coming in under budget and ahead of schedule leaves room for additional enhancements.
- Once a schedule has been created, assign resources and determine your critical path using a PERT Chart or Work Breakdown Structure. Microsoft Project will create this for you. Your critical path will change over the course of your project, so it’s important to evaluate it before development begins. Follow this map to determine which deliverables must be completed on time. In very large projects, I try not to define my phase specifics too early, but even a general plan will give you the backbone you need for successful delivery.
- Expect that there will be scope creep. Implement Change Order forms early and educate the project drivers on your processes. A Change Order form will allow you to perform a cost-benefit analysis before scheduling (yes, I said scheduling) changes requested by the project drivers.
Of course, if the client asks for something that makes the job easier and faster, then make the change and do it for free. The bottom line is this: Establish goodwill whenever it’s good for both you and your client. But when an 11th-hour alteration serves only one side of the relationship, the requesting side has to pay for the service. This arrangement ensures that everyone ends up winning.
Do at your best
The last phase of the project plan is to knock it out! This is the "two snaps and a twist" phase because it generally happens quickly when you have a good plan—unless there’s a hitch. But at this point, on most design projects you’re pretty much wrapping things up.
This step is obvious: Make it happen. This phase is where most people think all the action is…but honestly, if you’ve done the prior steps well, this can be the fastest part of the process. You already know what to do—now just do it. The design decisions and feature specifications have been made and you can get to work. Of course, when doing this step, it’s best to regularly refer to the specifications and keep the client informed. The best way to do so is to have a feedback loop in place.
A feedback loop is a system set up to constantly encourage and require input and approvals on the project direction. Keeping your client informed is the best way to speed through the process. For an interactive media project, iterative work establishes effective guideposts to send to the client for review and input. Iterative work is work you’re sharing as it’s done. Doing so performs a couple of critical functions. First, it lets the client see that work’s being done and helps reassure them that the process has momentum. Second, it lets the client chime in on anything that they don’t like while it’s still easy to make a change.
Establishing this open communication channel encourages and enforces a healthy exchange of opinions and can enable you to most efficiently adjust and fine-tune your project to suit your client.
TEST AND EVALUATE
This very last step can also be fast if you’ve had a good feedback loop in place. For Premiere Pro projects, it’s essentially checking the work against your project plan and making sure that you met all the specifications to satisfy you and your client. If not, you should essentially start the problem-solving process again to understand the current problem. Find out exactly what the client believes doesn’t meet the requirements.
Assuming a good project plan with storyboards and a good feedback loop, the test-andevaluation phase should require only minor tweaks—no different from any other iterative work resolution. If you don’t have a good feedback loop and the first time the client sees your work is upon delivery, that client could become unhappy and demand innumerable changes. Avoid this migraine headache with an effective and well-defined feedback loop as part of your plan. Those two tools are your weapons against project creep and unreasonable clients.
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