Friday, 20 April 2012

What defines a successful project?

Single Fist Pump!
A colleague asked me over coffee, “What do you do?” I sipped my full fat cappuccino and reflected on the question. Sipping coffee and reflecting go well together so I may have milked the situation a bit more than was required. 

“Hello!” he interrupted. “Did you hear me?”

It was a good question erring on the side of existential and difficult to sum up in a tweet sized thought bite. 

For a bit of context, I have a technical leadership role which can mean many things to many people - including other people in technical leadership roles. I had to dig deep and try find an answer that came from my heart and wasn’t ripped off from the Steve Jobs Autobiography. 

“To make sure we deliver projects... successfully.” I said with the thousand yard stare of a visionary. 

“To deliver projects?” he smirked. “Truly inspirational.”

I put my cappuccino down which was a clear mark of man making a point and defying ridicule.  

I explained that the important bit was the word ‘successful’, hence the verbal ellipsis used for dramatic effect or to denote something of importance. He asked me what an ellipsis was and I said I didn’t know and had to look it up whilst writing this blog. 

Following on from the coffee I started to ponder what does a successful project actually mean. After a few more coffees and deep reflection, I came up with the official tech-rash list of successful criteria. 

It makes a profit

The buck stops with the buck. Web Site and Mobile application delivery is a business after all and making money is an important part of that process. Nuf said?

The product works well for the users

The application is stable, fast and delivers the functionality it is meant to in an intuitive way. 

The product is built well

When you lift up the hood and you should see a shiny, componentised, beautifully crafted engine that takes a techies breath away. Great frameworks, unit tests, best practices and patterns combined with the craft of the coder should all weave together to create a wonderful tapestry.

The client is happy

Keeping the client happy is all about keeping them involved and managing their expectations around delivery deadlines and scope. This is a team effort and requires the silky diplomatic skills of account managers and the firm hand of project managers. It also requires the technical team to explain what’s going and talk through the challenges and obstacles that we face. If this doesn’t happen then the client can end up thinking that the tech team are just drinking cappuccinos and reflecting somewhere in a Pret A Manger. This is why working in an agile way and keeping the client inside the circle of trust can do wonders for client relationships. 

The team is happy

This involves ensuring that each member of the team is given the opportunity to shine and grow or is supported when they run into trouble. Also, it is important to make sure they are not worked into the ground through underestimated projects.

The project turns heads

We’re all in the business of creating something (creativity spans all disciplines – including coders!) We like to see our work showcased and appreciated by as many people as possible. It may turn heads because it delivers measurable business results. It may attract a few wolf whistles for being very pretty. It may elict a howl of delight because it is innovative through UX or use of new technologies and services. It may one of those things or all of them. Either way, if the end product is appreciated everybody smiles.  

That is one perspective of what constitutes a successful project. Trying to make sure that future projects tick all those boxes is the difficult bit; but defining the criteria of success is the first step. I think putting a plan into action to deliver successful projects will require significant thought. 

Time to pop of to Pret. 

No comments:

Post a Comment