Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Managing a one man project

Ken Egozi asked me to put an answer I gave on the Alt.Net mailing list so here goes.

the thread started by someone asking for an online Gantt service and later evolved on how to manage a project without the use of a Gantt. the specific project is quite small - about 2 months total and will be done by a single person. however the client is pressured and want to be sure that it can be done by the specified target date.

Here's what I wrote:

If I were you I would start by:

write down in a list all the things need to be done (from the point of view of the client). not the technical 'how', just a list of things that define "what' needs to be done.

after you have your list, sort it by priority and roughly estimate how long each item is going to take you.

when you finish, take a step back and look if everything make sense, i.e. you can complete it in the given time.

Next step is taking the first month or so, and dive into details. plan out your next 4 weeks in details trying to figure out exactly what are the technical steps needed in order to complete every item on your list. (in most cases this kind of details does not interest the client, it is used by you to track progress and verify that you are on the right track). When you finish define your first milestone to contain all the items from the initial list you know you'll be able to finish in the first 2 weeks. (make sure not to over commit).

at this point you should notice that everything adds up, i.e. if for some reason after going into details things looks they are going to take longer make sure to reflect that back on the content of your project.

Now you can go to your client and:

  1. agree with him on a delivery point/milestone every 2 weeks.
  2. show him your commitment for the first 2 weeks.
  3. show him a rough layout for the rest of the plan
  4. agree with him that after 2 weeks you will review progress and update the plan as needed.

if you want I can email you an excel backlog template I'm using to track and manage my pet projects. It's build for this kind of management and might help you to put things in context.


What I actually described here is a very simplified Scrum process. In my opinion it will work in this context as is mainly due to the fact that this is a one man project (and a relatively short one). This simple version will most likely not be great for a bigger team.

I was also asked to put somewhere excel template that I would use for such thing. So here's a link to a zipped file containing simple templates for both a product backlog and an iteration backlog (which either of them can be used for this specific context).


אמיר סימן טוב said...

Very good ;)
Will help me heaps!

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