Project managers regularly have to accept projects from other project managers or companies. Typically, the transition time is limited to a couple of weeks or less. Whether this process goes smoothly depends on your experience, the development phase, as well as the management system in which the project was launched.
It is easy to define the project’s purpose and specifics and quickly join the workflow if you already have similar projects in your portfolio and know the shortest pathways to their successful implementation. With no practical accomplishments, you should at least have theoretic knowledge and learn on your colleagues' experience.
The best way to familiarize yourself with the best practices in the industry and gain useful resources is to attend large-scale conferences, with both niche and adjacent subjects. At first glance, some topics discussed at such venues may seem irrelevant to your projects. However, the broad outlook will help you think outside the box and find unusual ways out of challenging situations.
Acquiring an unexpected project can be overwhelming for a newly appointed PM. The sheer abundance of new information, people, connections, and communications can make it challenging to understand all past and future tasks. But don’t worry, you just need some time to acclimatize to your new work environment. Adhering to a clear step-by-step strategy will definitely help:
- The primary task of the project manager is to build effective communication channels among all project participants. In the beginning, it may be unclear which team member is responsible for what, so be sure to immediately write down each member’s name, position and contact information.
- Next, you should carry out an audit of the project to get an idea of its current state.
- Think about what needs to be done for your team to successfully finish the project. Draft a BackLog (task registry).
- Once you have a clear understanding of the project’s mode and timeframe, you need to establish effective reporting, notifying, revising, and testing processes.
Begin your in-depth research by collecting all available project-related documents. If some documentation is missing, it is worth drafting it on your own, at least in general terms, even if you don’t know all the details.
Pay attention to the description of the system, its structure, and features. This will help you understand the nuts and bolts of the project and decide which specialists are best suited to perform each task.
Gathering information on technical support, testing and production environments, and basic development approaches will also prove useful.
All this can be described in 5-10 pages. Use a wiki-like system so that all documentation is accessible to each team member, and not just the project manager.
You can use different description sets and templates when drafting a list of project-related documents.
It is important to highlight the following features:
- The main goals and objectives of the project overall, or its individual stages. The description does not have to be detailed, but it should provide enough information to help all team members understand the purpose of your project.
- Business logic. If some business logic is implemented in the project, it is a good idea to provide a detailed description. A block diagram is particularly useful here for mapping out its characteristics.
- Interaction systems of external and internal integrations. If your project has integrations, you should have descriptions for each of them. At the very least, you should know the purpose of integrations and have API documentation at hand.
If the team has been working efficiently on past projects, they probably have a streamlined system of actions and procedures in place. As long as things are running smoothly, there is no need for excessive oversight. However, be ready to step in and make changes if necessary to refine the workflow.
Before getting started, take time to determine which team members will be responsible for which tasks. It’s great if every team member is qualified to do all tasks, from development to testing and release. But to make the process flow smoothly, you need to impose some order.
While revising and planning, the project manager should pay attention to work methodology and completion. Also, be sure to specify the procedure for testing results.
When all tasks are in plain sight and every team member can learn the current state of the project at any time, it is much easier for the project manager to evaluate and make decisions about the work’s progress.
It is convenient to control projects in a task management system. Ordering the activities of backlog grooming and setting the right priorities can help you create a steady workflow.
In addition, if all tasks are carried out through a common project management system, it is much easier for the project manager to collect information for reporting on the project and its labor costs.
When you accept a new project, take some time to identify its purpose, and to create effective communication channels among all participants. Obtain or develop documentation that describes the business goals of the project, its structure, architecture, and all possible requirements. Once work begins, continually audit the project and make necessary adjustments to the registry of tasks, working hours, and project reports.