In the engineering and technology field, effective project management is key to your success. It is critical to understand the life cycle of your project as it relates to standard methods of project management, yet remain flexible enough to meet the needs of your project. A project can be a complex, living organism and, as any living thing, it requires care and attention.
Every project you work with will have a number of stages, depending on the complexity of the project. Each stage of the life cycle of a project will require a measured amount of resource time, and estimating that time is a key requirement. As a general rule, you can plan on a project having the following stages: requirements gathering, resource planning, specifications design, design review, development, design testing, user testing, production deployment, and warranty support. Stages will vary but these are a good baseline to work from for estimating resource needs, though the resource time for each is significantly variable.
Requirementsgathering is a fairly low resource stage for you as project manager, the project sponsor, and a representative from your design team. Most of the work for this stage rests in the hands of the project sponsor as they develop their wants and needs list for you. Estimating a few hours for this stage is a good starting point.
Planning your resources is probably the most complex part of the project that you will do. You have to review each of the stages independently to determine how much time you expect to be used, how many cycles might be required, and apply the physical resources you have to them. Dividing out the physical work time will allow you to determine another important time factor, the overall project length. Completing the project plan is something that may require a couple of days. From technological aspects like having the right hardware and software, to ensuring you have the proper bandwidth of high speed internet to complete projects is essential to success.
Calculating resource requirements for specifications design is another area the design team will contribute to significantly. They will be responsible for creating mockups of the design based on the requirements. The time required will depend on the complexity of the product, but you can usually gauge the amount based on a review of the design requirements with the team. Divvying up the responsibilities across the team can provide time savings and efficiency. Have one person estimate the technological aspects of the project such as proper hardware, software and requirements for internet bandwidth, while others prepare specific information for the spec design work you are completing.
Once the design is complete you will need to review it with the sponsor. This stage is actually one that should be fairly short. The review can be wrapped up in the space of one or two meetings, maybe an hour each. This gives the sponsor the opportunity to call out anything missing or not to their original specifications. Tele-meetings are also possible if you have the right technology. A fast and reliable internet connection, a software to transmit video and audio feeds and a way to collaborate conveniently is recommended.
The development stage is the largest variable in a project and the one most out of your control. The development team will determine the timing so you will need to ensure you meet with them when the project has moved to this stage. Developers have a history of working on different projects and can provide a reasonable estimate of the resource requirements. Coupled with the resource availability, this information will allow you to finalize your project timeline.
Design testing and user testing are the next two stages and may be run concurrently, depending on your comfort with the product at this stage. It is usually good to have at least one or two test cycles with the design team before turning it over to the sponsor for testing, though. The amount of time set aside for testing is variable as well, but a good rule of thumb is to provide at least two weeks, which will allow the developers to make any needed corrections.
After the product is complete, your next step is to put it into production. Most projects also include a warranty support period that runs in parallel from the time the product goes into production until an agreed upon end date. This provides a final opportunity for your customer to incorporate any additional feedback for changes missed in the development and testing, and provides your team the time needed to tie off any loose ends with the project.
Combining all of these times together should provide you a solid base to work from for your project life cycle. You just have to keep in mind that things change so be as flexible as you can!