10 tips to guarantee success on solo projects

Have you ever wondered how much project management practices can you handle by yourself? These 10 tips will help you keep focus on your target and guide you through the minimum amount of activities that you should do to guarantee the success of your solo-project.  This information could also help teams of 3-5 people who are struggling between too much or too little project management process.

Leave me a comment and tell me how many times you have started a solo project and later leave it mid-stream.  I had! Things happen, you get too focused on a specific problem, you kept adding more features to your idea making it impossible to ever achieve, you kept looking for the best solution, etc.

You may think that by being the main and only member of the team you need to prove that you can do all aspects of the project perfectly. This same thinking could take you to a failed project.  By being the main member and the project manager you need to recognize that the projects failure or success it’s entirely on you.  So the main way of making sure that your solo-project will not fail, is making sure you are adopting the right amount of project management techniques to guarantee success.

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

In other words, pick the tips below and make them part of your daily project work habits.  You will bring effectiveness to your projects.

With the 10 tips below, I will guide you on how to minimize that risk in your own one-man projects.

First thing, first.  Be aware of the following traps:

  • Since you are the expert and the project manager – be careful on stepping on the over-planning trap. Time your planning the same way you will plan your build process. It does not matter if you are constructing a road or software.
  • Don’t think you don’t have to use project management, when there is no team.  You will be the team to manage.  All the roles are still there.
  • People in general feel that deadlines are your enemy. In reality, you need deadlines for you and your team.  They are important.  Deadlines help you prioritize and decide what things not to do.

Here the top 10 tips for you, the solo project specialist.

  • The project charter still applies. Please keep it simple, but do it.  It can help you in the long run.  Use the following sections: Title / Synopsis / Scope / Out of Scope / Dates / Resources (in this case you) / Stakeholders
  • For all the software or content projects, keep track of your software changes. You can do this by using a version control system.
  • A risk register. This is a list with the 5-7 most important risks that can impact your project timeline, scope or cost.  Sit each day and think for 10 minutes, on what things can impact your projects, if you think of something, write it down in your risk register.
  • Procurement center. This is how I call, having a central place with all the contracts that I need to make sure my project goes as planned.
  • Break the project in manageable tasks
  • Plan your tasks, estimate your tasks before you start, track your time for each task.  You don’t have to go too much in detail. At the beginning start with big buckets like planning, development, testing, deployment, etc.
  • Have an issue tracking system. Extremely important, if you want to focus in continuing building, and take care of defects later.
  • Don’t allow for scope creep. Every time you have a wonderful idea, that you found in an awesome blog, please go back to step one and look at your charter. Charter will keep you focused.
  • After the project is delivered, collect all your sheets, defect list, risk register, a copy of the delivered product and archive it in a central place.
  • Last but not least, for software projects, try to adapt a methodology like Agile/Scrum

Above you have a list of 10 practices of Project Management that will make your solo-projects much more enjoyable.  We started by making sure you understand the common traps: Over-planning, not using project management for one-man projects, and love deadlines. Then we continue to discuss the 10 practices that in my experience tend to give the best bang for the buck. All of these factors can play a big part of your effectiveness and efficiency.

Please drop me a line if you think I miss anything or if there is any practice that you do on your own projects that you think will improve some of the one-man shows.

An ongoing discussion around minimum project management activities for one man projects is available here.

Thanks, Geo

Tags: ,

One Response to “10 tips to guarantee success on solo projects”

  1. Vamsi March 12, 2011 at 12:55 am #

    Thanks Geo.

    Very informative I have been struggling throught this situation myself. Currently I am running two projects and both are doing well, but I seem to need a little more structure.


Leave a Reply