Houston, we have a problem…in startup project management
Today I’m talking about failures to launch, for software products that is. Consider this here a brief introduction for future lectures in essential startup project management because this is an epidemic amongst inexperienced entrepreneurs looking to get in on a red hot dot-com 2.0 industry. Lets start with a few questions: Are you pushing out delivery dates every few months? Find yourself chasing differing visions for the direction of the product? Feel the need to add feature after feature in the name of “quality” without ever putting something in front of a real customer? Then this is definitely for you.
Processes turn chaos into order. They tame the amazonian wilds of a new company and help it grow. I’m not talking about bureaucracy, which is process run amok, but there is a need to balance the agility of a nascent company with the core practices of change control, requirements gathering, communication/personnel management, quality assurance, risk management, and scheduling/budgeting, amongst others. These need to be documented and adhered to whether you are a 3 person consulting firm or a 300 person software company. Without them, you’ll very quickly find yourself on a long (and lonely) winding path of ever-changing, never releasing software products. Not a very happy place to be. In the same line of thinking, using the wrong methodology for the wrong situation will also leave you with extended (or too rapid) lifecycle iterations and, thus, potentially obsolete or unusable software before you even get a chance to make a dime with it.
I’m not going to advocate only some of the recently popular “lean” styles (which have actually been around for decades but simply repackaged with shiny new marketing for the modern internet era), though I will touch upon some of them briefly. I’m not going to say that one particular methodology is better than another in all situations. Heck, you could even come up with your own brand new methodology that builds upon the fundamentals I will discuss – whatever works. What I will say is that basic core project management skills are sorely needed in the startup world. With this first post I intend only to bring the problem to light, later articles will elaborate on proven fundamental project management processes.