Just like football coaches study the game, we have taken a step back and looked at what are the necessary qualities for a stellar project manager to make projects successful.
Over the years I have noticed similar patterns and mistakes that people make. I’ve seen this on both – our own project managers’ as well as on our client’s side. And believe me – I have made these mistakes as well.
Most likely there has been a situation where you’ve found yourself presenting a kickass idea or product. Now be brutally honest with yourself – has your audiences/reader been sold on it from the very beginning? Or were you in a situation where you needed to defend your “baby” with all that you’ve got?
If the answer is the latter, don’t worry. I’ve got your back. In this article, I’ve put together 9 simple-to-follow guidelines to crush it every time.
Structure, structure, structure.
A key to a well-received presentation is structure. Is it comprehensible? Does it have headings and clear paragraphs? Are the images related to the text or they are randomly placed over the document? The clearer the structure is the better your ideas and key messages will be delivered to your desired audience. Remember the storytelling lessons from highschool: have an introduction, have an outro, and also don’t forget about meaningful content between those two. It is hard to read documents that start straight with the conclusion without even mentioning what the problem is all about.
If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
“I just jot down something there.”
“I don’t have the software to make a good roadmap.”
These are such terrible excuses. And trust me – everyone will see them. Maybe not all will call you out on them but they most certainly will see them. You might have a brilliant idea and you could be the next NASA top engineer, but if your proposal is a wall of text sent out as an e-mail body without much effort (with clear laziness signs), then too bad – you are automatically losing your audience’s interest. Nobody is interested in a monotone history lecture, we all want Steve Jobs’s worthy presentations. Do better. Structure well and format your documents. Do your best if you really want to get the job or promote your product idea! Remember – if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Otherwise – why bother?!
What’s the current situation, available solution?
It is very common that people start by addressing the problem. Since people have grown together with the problem it is human nature to consider and assume that everybody else knows the problem or the topic as well. Do your audience a favor – give some background and context – what are we talking about? How many users does it affect? What similar type of questions should you answer for the reader? Even if you are talking about the most known bank in the region that everybody should be using – consider, maybe the reader is not from this region at all.
What are different ideas? Where do you get this information?
If you suggest new ideas or solutions then explain why it is a good idea to implement them. What was the concern? Was it just a gut feeling? Is this based on user reviews, customer feedback, competitor analysis, or some workshop result that is causing you to suggest these improvements? Anybody can suggest new ideas, but the reader is also interested in how these ideas surfaced. What is the larger intent behind ideas and to what extent it has an actual reason behind them? Developing based only on gut feeling can be very risky. You won’t always succeed so increase your chances of success by doing some research beforehand.
Compare solutions and decide.
If you have several competing ideas then also point out why one solution or idea should be chosen over the other. Again – it might be clear to you as you have done the analysis (maybe in your head). But it is not clear to the reader. If it is not clearly stated – these are the pros and cons of the solution and this is the deciding factor to go with a solution A with an alternative B, then your audience might not be convinced on the idea selection phase. Value-based prioritization might be one of the options that you could consider.
The 3 most important WHYs.
Describe WHY this solution is good, WHY it benefits all parties involved, WHY it is better than the current solution or alternatives. This shouldn’t be mixed up with the previous topic. Comparing different ideas gives an overview to the reader of why one idea was better than the alternatives. Describing the chosen idea is a more detailed view of it. Who benefits from it? Who has to make contributions? This is where you go all-in with your idea presentation. This is your elevator pitch. Sell your idea to the key stakeholders and explain how this can benefit them. Don’t forget that sometimes there can be stakeholders who are not using the solution but are impacted by the outcome or new process itself, having to change something in their day-to-day activities. You can do some mini design sprints to help to test your product idea.
How are you going to measure the success?
Measuring the success (or failure) of a product or feature is a vital part of any product lifecycle – you can’t always rely on your gut feeling. Also relying only on one type of metric might get you to the wrong trails and not giving you the opportunity to see beyond it. Don’t rely just on customer feedback – for example, if you compare the reviews in some app store or user NPS score – you just get the opinion of the user. What are you doing with an average rating of 5.0 when it was given only by one customer and the overall download count is 1? Measure alternative indicators also. Some examples include but are not limited to – usage, transaction amount, user retention, new joiners, deposits made. If you can – provide also some thresholds, what do you expect, what is a good result, what is considered a bad result.
Have you considered the stakeholders?
People tend to forget stakeholders when presenting ideas. When it comes to product development developers, QA, designers, and maybe even DevOps are always in roadmap and plan. BUT. Often the most important ones are forgotten – what about the customer? Or what about marketing and customer support? Each feature should also have an owner who makes go-no/go decisions. When these stakeholders are forgotten and considered only when it is too late: “Oh bollocks! I forgot to tell the customer support about adding a new SSO provider!” Don’t let it happen to you. Inform early, include stakeholders in the original plan. You’ll be glad you did it.
Have you indicated the next steps?
So you have your plan ready. Everything is clear and solved. The future looks bright. But don’t forget to mention what steps you are planning to take in the future. How this feature might evolve over time. Are there some other phases coming? What could be the new features based on this idea? Keep the reader interested and demonstrate that you can plan a wider roadmap than just delivering for 1 or two months. It will create not only trust that has it handled but as well will enable you to already start painting the picture for your audience on how the long-term success looks like.
Overall, good project management just requires a great game plan. I won’t lie to you. You might run into some hiccups, but with a solid toolbox in your pocket – you’ll overcome any challenge.