I'm curious to see how other developers, owners, freelancers, etc... have tackled the issue of managing projects as their volume ramps up and as larger projects require more team members to complete.
What are you using to keep projects on track, team members productive and making sure that details don't slip through the cracks?
Before you get into this business you need to know who you can trust and call upon. You need to test each member out really well and then when that big project comes you will have the team you can call on.
And once it is too big to even handle by yourself then you hire a good team manager and they will take care of that aspect of your business.
I'm just a solo designer but even I structure my work to ensure that I meet deadlines.
No matter how many people you work with, you just need to ensure that you deal with the two big issues.
Management (you'll want a project management app - and someone who will ensure that everything runs on schedule)
Communication (ensure you keep in contact with workers, make sure changes are iterated and they know what their doing)
I use a project management app (though it's not aimed for groups) in order to ensure that I don't fall short of my workload.
You need to build pyramid structure of management, it has proven to work through history.
As example: You oversee main project manager, that is overseeing two other project leaders, one of them in charge for graphic part, other programming part of your business.
More tasks, more managers, and everyone has to be in control of someone above him.
This strategy is good, because you can easy spot who is not doing its work.
Project management software is a big help - many people swear by Basecamp.
Thanks for the replies.
Maybe I should have qualified my question and asked for more detail or more pointed questions. I'm really interested in what sort of process other businesses are using. You get a job, assemble your team, what sort of system are you using to manage deadlines, the schedule and milestones or even team members. Does everyone work under one roof or do you work remotely. What do you do for QA, do you have scheduled weekly meetings, etc...
We've been in business for about 16 years and although we aren't big by any stretch of the imagination, over the last 3 or 4 years we've made the leap from projects that take a few months to complete, to complex projects that take the better part of a year or more.
We've always been pretty busy but now that we're experiencing this higher level of business volume consistently, I'm looking to streamline our process to make us more efficient and cost/time effective.
BTW: I have the Sitepoint book on Project Management... It's a pretty good read.
EDIT: Thanks for the Sam Barnes link... It's great so far!
I don't do any hands-on stuff anymore, I have evolved (?) into a full-time project manager.
Some quick tips:
- Get the Sitepoint book on Project Management
- Read some of the interviews here: http://www.thesambarnes.com/
- Don't think that software will do it for you
- Treat project management as a serious job or role, not just something you'll get around to in between doing other things
Personally I think Time Doctor is the best system for managing a team as you really know what they are doing, but other systems like Basecamp are ok.
In the end, it doesn't matter much which tools you use - what matters is your discipline. If you invest the time into project management, great documentation, clear and documented communications, etc. you will reap the benefits of good project management.
The tool that you use is less important, although as you improve at PM you'll have a feel for what you like.
A year long project is a project you can't control. I've seen developers go under the radar and emerge six months later with nothing usable to show for all their banging at the keyboard. I suggest you read up on Scrum and other agile methodologies, but the key point is breaking things up into manageable pieces. For example, break your project into 5 or 6 two-month projects, and make sure you deliver at least some visible improvement at the end of every cycle.
Don't plan too far ahead. As your customers start actually using what you built instead of just fantasizing about how they would use it, their priorities will shift.
Hey thanks again for the good points.
I guess in my case it comes down to pulling myself out of the production side of things as part of the development team and being more of a PM in charge of the development team.