Interview: how to manage IT projects effectively
The reality of functioning in dynamically changing social, economic and political realities requires entrepreneurs to be very flexible in their actions. The result of any changes introduced in the business is the appearance of more and more advanced software. These projects must be managed effectively to meet the established parameters of scope, time and cost, which translates into quality. How to effectively manage IT projects to ensure their efficient operation? We talk about these issues with Łukasz Brewczyński.
Marta Skiba: globalized and dynamic world translates into IT design reality?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: it’s inevitable. More and more companies, wanting to secure their position in the industry, willingly take advantage of the opportunities offered by dedicated software. Each project is characterized by a specific framework that must be adhered to during implementation. Specification, time, milestones, size of the project team, technologies used. Many guidelines leading to one goal. As a result, the complexity of the project management process is constantly increasing. Without the right tools and experience gained in practice, you can make your daily work much harder.
Marta Skiba: and I don’t think anyone likes to make life difficult… have you practiced any fixed action scenarios when running and managing projects?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: over the last years, we have developed a specialized framework for project activities based on the best methodologies, but the fact is that we approach each client individually. This is the only way we can work out a process in which the client will feel good, which will translate into the possibility of creating dedicated software that will fulfill its role. At the same time, we value an approach based on agile management methods, in particular the Scrum framework. Thanks to it, we maintain control over the progress of work and are able to achieve satisfying business results faster, as well as react immediately to changes. These are proven mechanisms, valued not only by customers who understand the product at every step, but also by our specialists.
Marta Skiba: sounds like a “golden mean” perfect for everyone. Is it true?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: the agile approach allows you to look at the entire project in an effective way, it assumes the client’s active participation and proactive action in the field of changes that, as we know, appear in every project. At the same time, we are dealing with the autonomy of individual project members and the systematic delivery of specific work results. In practice, agile methodologies have developed a set of rules that actually facilitate and improve IT project management. All parties, both developers and customers, are strongly involved in the created solution. Everyone knows exactly what they are supposed to do at a given moment, what expectations are. A huge plus is the constant presence of the client, understood in this context as an engaged partner. Any corrections can be made on an ongoing basis, and most importantly: we avoid a situation in which the finished product does not meet the customer’s expectations. After all, we know that most IT projects are associated with numerous risks. Agile methodologies allow you to efficiently control them and fully satisfy the customer.
Marta Skiba: you mention the risks. Are they related to restrictive time constraints related to the development of dedicated software?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: not only. Every entrepreneur who decides to use dedicated software counts on the return on this investment. Delivery time is always important. The sooner we deliver a working product, the sooner it will start working for the customer’s success. The agile approach allows you to deliver a working solution during the project (and not at the end), which accelerates the return on investment. Equally important is the identification and definition of all requirements. Very often we see how the project evolves during creation. Undoubtedly, this is an area that may involve serious risk, affecting the efficient implementation of the whole project. But not only. Any organizational changes, random events, even the choice of technology – all these elements involve a risk that is extremely difficult to define at the start of the project. The agile approach gives us effective tools to respond to change almost instantly.
Marta Skiba: can you please refer to a specific example. Of course, in the context of the mentioned risk?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: of course. At the initial stage of designing a new system, we create the software architecture. In simple terms, it is a collection of the most important decisions regarding the software, organization of the activities of individual system components. Whether the proposed solution solves all the goals set for it should be verified in practice. We are not able to predict everything at the initial stage. The risk of failure in this case is real. After all, we can act in accordance with the guidelines, within a set time, and the final effect will not meet the key business needs, and the initially adopted assumptions may turn out to be simply wrong in practice. Agile approaches help mitigate this threat by providing a prototype, a minimal version of a product that can be tested and then iteratively developed based on actual end-user experience. Nothing works better than allowing users to actually work with the software. The comments collected at each stage can usually be efficiently implemented, thanks to which the finished system takes into account the reality of everyday work and responds to the real needs of recipients.
Marta Skiba: risk in software development is therefore unavoidable, but you need to know how to limit it?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: yes, effective risk management is the basis for the success of the entire project. There are a lot of elements in the design and implementation work that can hinder the implementation of individual milestones. We are talking about the use of new technologies, system requirements, ensuring efficiency, reliability, etc. Efficient identification of these threats, assessment of the level of exposure to them and risk mitigation is a permanent element of effective IT project management.
Marta Skiba: OK, we know there are risks and we need to manage them. As I understand it, agile methods of IT project management allow for effective control over all this?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: in practice, there is no such thing as a perfect approach to project management. Agile methods have gained huge popularity due to the speed of action, in terms of responding to change, reduction of documentation and customer involvement in ensuring product quality. Ultimately, this approach reduces the cost of the entire project. Time and quality go together here. In order to ensure optimal performance of tasks, we often combine various techniques operating within Agile practices. In this way, we can achieve much better results.
Marta Skiba: it is interesting! We are agile and freely combine tools to effectively complete tasks. Sounds… efficient
- Łukasz Brewczyński: this is why we take such actions to increase efficiency. Scrum focuses on project management, Lean on product management and Extreme Programming pays special attention to the practical aspects of software engineering. Drawing on these sample tools, we are able to do a lot. And all this in a short time.
Marta Skiba: do a lot… after that statement I have to ask, how much?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: it all depends on the stage of advancement of a particular project. The potential is huge. Let’s take a look at Scrum for example. We operate here in short series of actions called sprints. The whole team meets every day to discuss the progress made and to review its effects. Such meetings are really short and allow you to share key information with all team members. This approach ensures constant control, tracking and elimination of risks, which ultimately optimizes the time needed to complete the entire project. The use of Lean practices allows you to additionally eliminate time wastage, increase the team’s potential and improve the process in small steps (i.e. effectively). In this case, the premise is constant learning and improvement. The perfect combination.
Marta Skiba: is there still room for Extreme Programming in this perfect combination?
- Łukasz Brewczyński: of course. There is always room for improvements in the areas of software development! XP is an approach that puts a lot of emphasis on good programming practice, which means we’re talking about technical aspects here, not general guidelines. In this agile methodology, we also deal with the continuous delivery of new functionalities, integration, testing, and obtaining constant feedback from users. A clear product development path that works in practice. One of the most criticized aspects of XP is also (in my opinion) its very strong point. What do I mean here? As you can guess – pair programming. This unusual approach allows you to maintain the coding standard, improve the technical quality of the product, and easily spread the knowledge of the developed software among the team. The team collectively feels responsible for the code produced. As a result, we get a product at the highest technical level, which is easy to develop and maintain. What more could you want from a well-managed project?
Marta Skiba: the satisfaction of the client and the entire project team is a game worth the effort
- Łukasz Brewczyński: correct. The process of efficient IT project management is a complex topic, of course. In our conversation, I only managed to outline it superficially. I promise to speak on this matter many times, focusing attention on precisely defined aspects of activities.
Marta Skiba: looking forward to more and thanks for the interview!
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