Project Management in the Wild: Never Underestimate a Good Estimate
This week I spoke with Jeff Masumoto of DataHouse about the realities of keeping his remote team of 12 on track.
What kind of team are you working with at DataHouse?
I manage a team of 12 that includes developers, testers, analysts, and documentation specialists. DataHouse is based in Hawaii, so I have folks there, as well as in Memphis and L.A. I’m the only one working out of Seattle. Right now we’re working with the state of Hawaii on a custom student information system that is servicing schools across the state.
How does your team approach large development projects like this?
All of our tasks are built around software releases. It’s very granular; we track everything. Pretty much every significant task has at least three sub-tasks. I create and assign all tasks in LiquidPlanner and then individuals update their progress and estimates. Not everyone on the team is great about updating so I’ll just do it for them when I’m approving time sheets. If my team is focused on the work and we’re hitting deadlines, I don’t mind doing some of the updating myself. It’s worth it.
Does that mean all team communication also runs through you?
Not really. We use dependencies for notifications and this is really helpful for my team. A task is checked off as completed only once it is truly complete. Before, using just IM or email, it wasn’t quite as clear. Now, if it’s done in LiquidPlanner, it’s really done. This prevents miscommunication about when, for example, a developer is ready to hand off for testing. It’s a form of communication that works for everyone.
With a team spread out over four cities, what’s the key to staying on track?
Updating estimates is the key. LiquidPlanner has really helped my estimation skills. It’s been a big change. Before, my estimates or delivery times were way too early or way too late. I wasn’t resourcing properly. I found that other programs were great for planning, but they didn’t cut it for execution. Our projects are way too fluid for something like Microsoft Project to work. What happens when a task that was slated to take 12 hours actually takes 200 hours? Everything flows. It’s a reality.
This articles is the second in our series called, “Project Management in the Wild”. We’re reaching out to the LiquidPlanner customer community to hear, and share, their real-life project management stories.
Got a story that might help other teams think outside the box? Send it to info @ liquidplanner.com.