Top 5 Capabilities Your Project Management Solution Should Have

To get your development projects under control, consider these five key capabilities when choosing a project management solution.

By Charles Seybold

There’s much to consider when choosing a project management solution for your enterprise software development team. After all, software development projects are really in a class of their own when it comes to the number of loose ends they can have and the sheer quantities of information to be organized.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with a platform your team has tried before; maybe you’ve never even considered the benefits of using project management software to help your team create better software. Either way, here are five key capabilities for you to consider -- or reconsider -- when deciding whether a particular platform can help you get your development projects under control.

Capability #1: Knowledge capture

Software development projects have a huge solar system of orbiting objects with multiple subtasks surrounding them. Although these types of projects tend to be associated with a very large number of disparate, loosely organized tasks, that doesn’t mean they can’t be reined in. Quality, cloud-based project management solutions can help a team connect the dots through document links, impromptu comments, data-driven insight, and unobtrusive oversight from seasoned development gurus.

Capability #2: Estimation and scheduling

One of the biggest challenges your software development team will run into is estimating the time of delivery. Numerous studies have found that software estimates are often inaccurate by 100 percent or more (see Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art by Steve McConnell). If you are looking for a best practice that yields a high return on investment, you cannot beat accurate estimation. Without the right project management system to calculate, monitor, and manage your estimates on a daily basis, your team will constantly be missing dates and making frantic course corrections.

Capability #3: Team engagement

Software projects are complex. If you fail to deliver quality, your clients’ costs will skyrocket and their confidence in your team will plummet. To get the best final result, you need fully engaged engineers -- creative craftsmen who care just as much as your clients about that result. The right project management solution for your team will dramatically increase transparency, creating new opportunities to apply subject-matter expertise in even the smallest project areas. A fully transparent solution will foster ongoing engagement and, ultimately, boost team morale.

Capability #4: Reflection (Learning from your wins and losses)

Reflection allows us to learn from our successes as well as our mistakes. Considering all the different components of a software development project, it might be hard to remember exactly where those ups and downs took place. If you have the entire project logged in a transparent project management solution, however, the whole team can learn in an objective, data-driven way how to get better. When you get to this spot in your next project, you’ll already have the information you need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

Capability #5: Taking one for the team -- or not

Managers of software teams are caught in the middle. Half the job is protecting the team from becoming overloaded from executives who want projects completed immediately. Project managers who have no proof or data to back up their team’s position will likely fall short in a battle with an over-eager executive, but a manager using a robust platform can quickly generate reports and analysis that address team performance and other metrics factually and convincingly.

Charles Seybold co-founded LiquidPlanner with Jason Carlson in March 2006. For over 25 years, Charles has been building software tools in one form or another. He has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was a front-line software engineer for over 10 years before moving into program management and later executive management. Charles gained his Internet experience as part of the core Expedia development team as the company grew from a startup to an e-commerce giant.

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