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5 Tips for working with a (SilverStripe) Project Manager

SSB5rulesforpm

Here's something a little different, experienced SilverStripe project manager Kulsoom Kausher of digital agency Wandering Bear, tells us her top 5 tips for the SilverStripe developer to make their project managers life a little easier.

After more then ten years in the digital ‘pm’ game, most recently with Wandering Bear I volunteered myself to SSbits to write a post. What better way to share some of the tricks of project management I‘ve learnt along the way. I update sites myself, spend a lot of time working with developers, and am the link between developers and end users of Silver Stripe. (Developer – Project Manager – Client/User)

So here is my first post if you like it let me know @kulsoomkausher if you hate it tell me what you think you might want to hear about. My specialities are people, talking, listening and very recently coffee.

 

The tips

PM’s are funny little things. A lot of them run around waving their hands, speaking far too loudly into their iphones and drinking endless amounts of overpriced coffee. They also are sometimes the connection between you, Mr SilverStripe developer and the end user. So to stop the PM getting into more of a flap here are a few rules to work too…

1. White lies are good lies.

If you think it’s going to take you half a day to do a job, give yourself some breathing space and say one day. What you don’t want to see is a PM skipping away because you have made their day with an over ambitious deadline.

2. Do or die.

If you commit to a date for delivery stick to it (unless of course the ‘dog eat the code’). There is nothing worse for you or the PM to have to deal with a pissed off client.

3. Private Tour.

Nothing better then giving the PM regular tours of new features and uses of Silver Stripe. I loved being shown how to use the drag and drop feature, sure made my life easier. This way the PM knows what they are talking about and don’t just make it up.

4. KISS for the PM? Keep It Simple - Silly.

As much as the PM would love to hang out and find out the nitty gritty of Silver Stripe they probably only need to know what is relevant to them. Maybe even give them a checklist of stuff they need to remember when putting a page live. There have been so many times when I have forgotten to use that little ‘T’ or ‘W’ briefcase to copy in text.

5. Invite yourself.

To the planning stage of a project, that way the PM gets your thoughts, concerns, tips right from day one, instead of day 30 when they have already got carried away with what is being delivered.

Comments, thoughts, banter on the article or tips all welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Aaron Brockhurst
    29/03/2011 12:06pm (3 years ago)

    Great article with some great points that will make any developer's life easy with their PM.

    Giving the pm screen shots, flow diagrams and outlines of your understanding of what they want helps no end. Especially if you put them in a way that they can share them with the client to clarify what's required.

    Buying them the odd expensive coffee often helps as well

    From my experience giving the PM bad news early with reasons why and options that they can then take to the client so that they are prepared is a must.

  • Kulsoom Kausher
    29/03/2011 1:31pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks Aaron. Agree with the diagrams especially as they take away technical jargon that often confuses clients!

  • Simon Erkelens
    29/03/2011 1:37pm (3 years ago)

    My experience is to try and ignore them as much as possible...

    Ok, no, not really, but indeed giving them something to be happy about works pretty fine, until they find out you can work faster then you say you can.

    Careful with the exaggerating the time needed for a project!

  • Kulsoom Kausher
    29/03/2011 1:44pm (3 years ago)

    Agreed, maybe tell the PM you have built in an additional 'half day / one day' to allow for unforeseen technical issues or tidy up.

  • moloko_man
    29/03/2011 4:34pm (3 years ago)

    I've been a web developer for 8+ years now and I've found that those 5 steps can save your skin in many occasions.

    My boss is essentially the PM (which is good and bad), but when he asks how long it will take to build feature X, I tell him roughly double the amount of time it will take. So when I finish the new feature in "half the time" he is impressed and happy to know that I can move on to feature Y. This also allows for hiccups throughout the process, I have time to fix bugs and improve little things on the way. If he is uncomfortable with the amount of time I can adjust it as needed and still get things done with out stressing out too much.

    Being part of the planning stages is key. My boss will attend a meeting and over promise things I might not be able to deliver (has happened more times that I wish to remember). So now, if I know about the meeting, I will tell him that I want to attend and everything seems to go much smoother.

    Maybe this should be part of 4 or 5, but Don't be afraid to say "No", without actually saying "No". My boss and designer wanted Feature Z to sing and dance, and I bluntly said "No, I wont do that". I got yelled at, so now when I know something can't be done, or shouldn't be done, I help them to see that it will probably be a bad idea, and I can focus on the stuff that needs to get done and the cool stuff.

  • Kulsoom Kausher
    30/03/2011 3:47am (3 years ago)

    Thanks for the comments. As a PM I have been a culprit of some of the above myself (promising things before checking, and not liking the 'no'). Over the years having worked with some great developers who do say no, suggest alternatives, and educate as to why, have shown me the way.

  • Darren-Lee
    09/04/2011 7:30pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks for sharing, @kulsoomkausher - as one who has worked as a PM and a Tech Dev, I can definitely say that your 5 tips are on point! Very relevant to a developer. You know, another thing that kills developers is all the reporting that some PMs make them do. A nice Agile Project Management methodoogy with a good Agile tool such as Agilo or Teambox really helps to keep the PM and Clients/Stakeholders up-to-date, while allowing the developers to focus on what they do best with minimal administrative duties ;)
    What methodology and tools do you use to manage your projects/clients/stakeholders and developers?
    Thanks again for the post.

  • swaiba
    11/04/2011 3:59pm (3 years ago)

    "White lies are good lies"

    I'd say "beware your optimism" - mostly all developers think of that moment when the function works for the first time in a protoype, not writing a complete test suite (considering all eventualities and combinations) and executing that testplan.

    There is a lot going on with Software estimation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_development_effort_estimation) and most of the time I'm under the most pressure to estimate the hardest things - e.g. brand new things using new technology.

    I still remember a lecture at uni where I was told to think of the inital number, double it and then if it's very complicated double it again. I don't often say it out loud because it is not the number people want to hear - they go crazy if you say too much of a large number or "I don't know" - but I've often found that simple rule to be very accurate.

  • Kulsoom Kausher
    11/04/2011 4:43pm (3 years ago)

    Hi Darren

    Thanks for the feedback.

    As not all projects are the same I use different tools depending on the size of project, who is involved and how much reporting is required.

    For example if its a small project sometimes a five minute daily verbal catch up is enough.

    However for a bigger project especially where there are a few people doing the same role involved I've used google docs.

    On some occasions i have had to use the clients own project management software as this is how they have requested the project progress to be tracked.

    There are also lots of great (and sometimes free) online programs you can use but you need to find the one that works best for you and everybody involved.

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