No one needs convincing that project management is very important during development works. Effective management provided by a Project Manager guarantees the project's success: both in terms of ensuring the quality of the service rendered, as well as the time of implementation and the budget of the entire project. At Droptica, we focus on people. In addition to certified programmers, we also have Project Managers in our team. I would like to present one of them in the text below, and thus – show what benefits our clients obtain by working with Damian Michałowski.
Who is Damian Michalowski - one of our Project Managers?
Damian has been associated with the Internet industry since 2002. During this time he had the opportunity to work as a developer, a UX designer. Currently, he is a PM with experience obtained in digital agencies and start-ups in Warsaw and London.
Elements of the development project's success
Listing the things contributing to the project's success could fill a separate entry. What is more – these elements could be different for every company. Damian points out three values:
First of all – the PM's involvement in the project and the team's work. In my opinion, a PM should know as much as possible about the project. Secondly: excellent communication with the team and the clients. Continuous contact with clients, who – as the project owners – expect transparency in the implementation of tasks, is very important in my work. And finally: managing the risk skilfully, in such a way as to anticipate and reduce crisis scenarios in the project.
At Droptica, the "quality" applies not only to the completed service but also to the way we operate. We fully agree with Damian, because the third item he mentions, i.e. eliminating the dangers, directly translates into the entire project management process. Therefore, the clients can save their time and money – all thanks to skilful prediction.
It is worth mentioning here what are the most common mistakes in project management, and thus how to avoid them effectively.
The cardinal sin of Project Managers is exactly the lack of commitment and not caring for every detail of the project, emphasises Damian. The more PM knows about a project, the easier it is to see the potential threats. Before every project, I try to gather as much information as possible about the project and the client. I try to understand their needs, business expectations, as well as what to put stress on. Then, when I am fully aware of the business side of the project, I delve into the detailed scope of the programming works commissioned by the clients.
It is an extremely important aspect. Without efficient communication, no project has a chance to be successfully completed. The communication strategy is always adapted to the individual needs of clients who must have access to many communication tools and channels.
The basic tools I use in my daily work are Jira and Slack, explains Damian. Slack allows us to maintain constant contact with the clients, and Jira is perfect for tracking and reporting the programmers' work. The clients are kept informed on the progress of their projects. Regular meetings and video-conferences help with this. To this end, we use MS Teams, Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, among others. Meetings are held daily or, e.g. once a week.
Agile project management, in which the project team and the client actively participate in the implementation of tasks means better control over the scope, quality and budget of the project. Before starting every new job, it is important to always estimate the time needed to complete the works. The customer also has constant access to the project backlog when deciding on the order of tasks (priorities). How does it translate into everyday work?
Every day I use different methodologies for agile project management, says Damian. It is mainly SCRUM, but in some projects, I also use Kanban or an intermediate methodology – Scrumban. Its proper selection depends on the type of project, as well as the individual expectations and needs of the client.
What are the Agile methodology's greatest strengths?
Agile means transparency and constant contact with the team, emphasises Damian. Agile provides a lot of proven communication tools like the previously-mentioned daily team meetings, demo and retrospectives at the end of every Sprint. Agile also means a number of reporting methods, e.g. team speed, number of completed tasks per sprint, and overall work progress in a broader project perspective.
An important element at Droptica is consulting. Referring to the words of Damian Michałowski, but also to the opinions of our other project managers, we try to understand the business expectations of the clients well, but at the same time – based on this knowledge – we provide advice to describe the possibilities and the way to achieve them.
Yes, it is indeed an important issue, notes Damian. Over the past several years I have had the opportunity to work not only as a project manager but also as a developer and a UX/UI designer. Such experience allows me to look more broadly and better understand the projects I implement. My knowledge and experience can be useful to clients not only during the programming works, but also in the early stages of a project, when consultations are being carried out, i.e. defining the business goals, the scope analysis, including MVP, and project prototyping, e.g. creating wireframes.
The biggest challenge as a project implementation process
In the context of the above, it is impossible not to ask Damian about the greatest challenge in his career to date. This is because at our Drupal agency we undertake very large implementations. Therefore, we want the project managers coordinating the programming works to efficiently play the role of liaison between the team and the client and effectively manage comprehensive undertakings.
One of the major challenges was a project lasting several months, where one common Drupal CMS, supplying several client websites in content, had to be implemented within a schedule and budget planned in advance, explains Damian. In the case of very complex systems, programming works are always preceded by a detailed analysis. We did the same in the case of the above-mentioned undertaking. To this end, we have appointed leading developers who conducted a detailed analysis of the client's needs in close cooperation with the client (workshops and video-conferences with website editors and Product Owners). As a result, accurate documentation of the scope of tasks was created, on the basis of which a schedule could be prepared. Then, the leading developers divided into cooperating programming teams of many people, and began to produce individual components of one common CMS, emphasizes Damian. Daily communication with the client was also very important in the whole process. In their project management system, Jira, the client had constant access to the information on the work progress concerning specific tasks. To sum up, in the case of this demanding project, the key to success turned out to be a detailed analysis of the client's needs, documentation, close cooperation with the client, and leaders in individual programming teams.
It is usually a marketing slogan, which is rarely explained, and even less often described in the context of the work process and the benefits for the client resulting from it. So how should you understand the programming team members' teamwork regarding the tasks being carried out?
In order to meet the clients' expectations, every task performed by programmers is checked by other developers (code review) and finally – by the QA team, emphasises Damian and explains how he assembles a team. First of all, when choosing a team I focus on its members' experience in similar projects, their skills and competences. In every project, I try to have a leading developer who is also responsible for key technological and architectural decisions.
The Droptica team has over 40 people, among which 30 programmers are certified Acquia developers, and as many as 7 of them hold the Grand Master title. The extensive experience of our experts is therefore supported by the certificates of the world's largest digital platform specialising in Drupal.
Project management and remote work
At Droptica, remote work has been around since the beginning. Over the years, we have developed processes for its effective management, we use the right tools for this.
Many times during my career I have had the opportunity to manage projects remotely, adds Damian. In the current open market, where many clients are from abroad, remote work is already a standard in the IT industry. At Droptica we maintain constant, very good contact with the clients' thanks to many on-line messengers. Therefore, no external factors negatively affect the quality of the services provided to our clients. All projects have been and are implemented without any downtime or delays.
We asked our project managers why they decided to work with Droptica. Damian's statement includes their opinions:
Droptica is a leader on the Polish market in the field of Drupal implementations. Earlier, for many years, I managed web projects based on Open Source systems, which is why Droptica perfectly suited my experience and project interests. An additional great advantage of the company is high standards related to the management and quality of the programmers' work. The company provides interesting benefits and invests in employees' training and development. What immediately caught my eye was the full transparency and high standards of communication with the clients. In my work, the clients need to see the progress on a regular basis. Thanks to this, the clients are satisfied with the quality of the service, and I, as a Project Manager, can deliver projects in accordance with the agreed-upon schedule and budget.
Summary, or what does the client gain from working with you?
Damian: When I get involved in the project, the client can be sure that their project will be delivered on time, on schedule and within the budget set. In my opinion, these are the most important tasks of a Project Manager, and thus – the benefit that the client gains from working with me.