Project Management in the Startup World
According to a survey conducted in 2015, 543,000 startups were set up in the US every month. 19.4 million non-employer businesses were a sole proprietorship, 1.6 million were partnerships and 1.4 million were corporations. These are staggering numbers, considering this is just the US representation. Just to think about how many of these go on to become enterprises of the future…Wow!
As exciting and cool as they may look, startups are an unstructured and constraint filled world. Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that they spend as many hours sorting out chaos as they do acquiring customers. Given the urgency of getting the product in shape and monetizing the business, many startups paid little or no attention to the nuances of project management. In the long run, this proves fatal, especially as they look to achieve scale and efficiency.
I will share some project management best practices aimed at startups. These are based on my personal conversations with startup founders.
Choose the Right Project Management Methodology
Deciding on a specific project management methodology is equivalent to creating a blueprint for day to day functioning of the organization. Force fitting a project management methodology could end up proving to be counterproductive. Therefore, the starting point should be to understand the priorities and figure out what works best for the stage the start-up is in. The methodology for a product company will be very different from a services company. For example, food technology startups might look at resource management as an area while a design agency might look at time, task and budget management as key focus areas in addition to resources. The team needs to evaluate present state, the challenges and visualize how project management can streamline the business. Experts suggest that startups should lean on Lean Project Management
for speed and to essentially eliminate wasted resources. But, each startup has its own nuances and adopting the right methodology (whether it be Lean or Waterfall or Scrum) will go a long way in ensuring long-term success.
Consolidate your Project Management Efforts
When it comes to project management, a lot of startups start with the right intent but fail on execution. They end up dealing with a number of spreadsheets and makeshift tools, which defeat the very purpose of making life easier for everyone. In a study
by Software Advice
in early 2016, about 44% SMBs were still using manual processes for project management (Read: Small & Medium Business Project Management Outlook – 2016
). A short-term strategy that doesn’t scale into a long term one is never going to work. The extra time spent up front on adoption of the right processes and tools is totally worth it. It is also important to ensure that your project management integrates with your finance and HR systems.
Track the Right Metrics
It always pays to bring some method to the madness. Startup environments tend to be chaotic, fast paced and outcome focused and justifiably so. While it’s the ideal to keep eyes trained on outcomes through metrics such as Customer Acquisition Cost, Customer Retention Cost, Customer Lifetime Value, Monthly Recurring Revenue, Profit, Customer Engagement etc., it makes great sense to also track key business & operational metrics such as Productivity, Quality, Budget Adherence and Employee Happiness Index. Adopting a metrics-driven business approach early on helps create a no-surprise culture. As the company scales up, the data-driven culture permeates across the hierarchy, enabling better decision making and better visibility.
Build a Good Knowledge Management System
In the startup world, every day brings new learning. There are unique business proposals, insights from investor interactions, customer feedback, product plans, process documentation, product guides etc. These learnings need to be captured and documented for future use. It always makes sense to adopt a project management system that provides a robust knowledge management functionality.
As a startup, you need to be creative about getting work done. You may have to work with contractors, freelancers, vendors and remote teams. Think about providing your clients avenues to interact with you on the ongoing project. In this digital age, startups need to stay ahead in the game by enabling better collaboration among teams, external resources and customers.
Having a unique idea is just a starting point. Taking it to its logical conclusion is a whole different ball game. To succeed, getting the project management game right early on is a must.