No plan is perfect. In product development, this fact of life is often evident - particularly when teams are battling against tight deadlines and expectant customers.
Best laid plans changing at the last minute, scope creep kicking in and surprise staff departures can all derail product development, but there are a number of ways to prevent such instances from ruining projects entirely.
As with so many things in business, it comes from the ability (and willingness) to assess the performance of each project. This often means asking tough questions and making even tougher decisions, but if you have a handle on the performance, you stand a far better chance of remaining on track for delivery.
In this post, we’re going to look at five factors to monitor that will aid you in assessing your product development performance.
A common issue with product development is the silent and deadly way in which resource utilisation can spiral out of control. Small, multiple variances in cost and over-utilisation of resources can take place without those in charge knowing - unless they keep a keen eye on the budget and subtasks.
If there’s an overrun of a particular resource, there could be a number of issues at play, ranging from excessive waste to inaccurate assessment of costs or even human resource problems. For this reason, you should always keep tabs on the team’s ability to meet their estimated budget and resource usage.
At the outset of any project, a scope will be written. Few involved will expect it to remain one-hundred percent accurate during the lifetime of the project, but any changes that come in once work gets underway need to be tightly controlled.
As product development starts to take shape, the ability to remain flexible is essential, but if too many scope changes creep in, the completion date will either take an unacceptable hit or be postponed indefinitely while the changes are debated.
Ensure requests for scope change only run through the project leader and assess each one very carefully.
Quality assurance isn’t a task that should be reserved solely for the end of the project - it needs to happen proactively throughout its lifetime.
Are individual product components being tested at the right intervals and passing sufficiently? If your project features high failure rates along the way, there is clearly a problem that needs to be investigated, but low failure rates can be equally as troublesome; is the quality testing process itself adequate?
Just like quality assurance, goals should be prevalent throughout the product development cycle. By setting small, achievable steps the team can meet, you’ll be able to assess their rate of accomplishment.
Rather than waiting for the big, overarching end goal, set clearly defined tasks that must be met. By dividing the project into bite-sized chunks, the team and management will have a far better idea of how achievable the end goal is, and whether or not there are any significant roadblocks in the way.
Businesses live or die by their ability to communicate effectively, and the simple fact remains that the previous four metrics can’t be measured accurately if the product development team suffers from poor communication.
This is a two-way street; the team needs to be able and willing to proactively keep all project stakeholders up-to-date with developments and potential scope changes, while management must ensure that everyone is kept on the same plan. That can only happen if great communication is made a company mantra.