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Project management: first steps

Projects like developing an app or an iOS game are not “normal” work. A bricklayer can calculate exactly how many stones and how much mortar he needs for a wall that should be so long and so high. A car mechatronics technician also knows which spare parts he needs.

If he does, however, restore an oldtimer, it can happen that a problem lurks beneath the body panel that he did not know when he started the project.

You have to live with surprises like that. And then work harder, at the risk of losing your nerves and endangering the project. Right?

No, you don’t have to.

Project management and resource planning are not rocket science

Even in confusing projects you can and should plan as much and as well as possible. This means: foreseeing what challenges might arise and laying out the tools for Monday on Friday.

But how can you plan problems at the beginning of a project that only appear towards the end?

Simple answer: Schedule some extra time for something unexpected. And here we are already at the most important difference between amateurs, who are losing their overview and nerves towards the end of their project, and professionals who complete their project with a clear workload:

Capacity Planning in the Project: Only with Schedule and Task List

Project management professionals think about what they need and how to achieve their goals. They have a schedule, i. e. they know when the project should be finished and when which function will be created; and they have a task plan – they already know at the beginning of a project what tasks there will be.

Especially beginners are often surprised by unforeseen hurdles in the project. This is due to the fact that many employees simply get started in the joy that is evident at the very beginning of many projects. But simply getting started often also means “acting headlessly” – at least from our point of view.

You don’t have to use Program evaluation and review techniques or MS Project. But even for relatively small projects like the iOS-Game Cold Crash by Tiny Tap Gems it is worthwhile to plan at the beginning of the project:

Project phases for successful project management – Cold Crash as an example

  1. What goals do I want to achieve with my app or project?
    For example, the App Cold Crash was designed to provide the user/reader with an interactive story that develops in real time and can be experienced and played in between, with a thrilling story about a young woman’s struggle for survival.
  2. What functions should my project or app have in order to achieve the goals? Cold Crash should…
    1. …be open for other stories or for a second, third, fourth part
    2. …. display text in additional languages
    3. … be easy to operate
    4. … be realizable with a clearly arranged effort for both the programmer and the author
    5. … reach the largest possible target group
  3. How can I technically implement the functions? Cold Crash needed…
    1. …. a scripting language that the author uses in the text that can control events, such as fading in a question – and branching into this or that part of the story, depending on the player’s choice.
    2. … a structure in the scripting language to realize additional languages
    3. …. professional-graphics to show a kind of chat or messenger service
    4. … motivating and emotional music that fits the genre, especially for the trailer
    5. … a lot of marketing activities like blog posts, press releases, screenshots etc.
  4. What resources do I need as a project manager or project manager and my team (personnel, technology, time, tools, materials, etc.)? The answer to Cold Crash was simple – there was only Joachim Mertens and Tim Müßle, two friends who had known each other since their school days and who wanted to realize the project together. They bought everything they couldn’t do themselves, such as graphics and music, either in direct contact with graphic designer Grobi or they bought material from Audiojungle. How long the project would take was not so important to both because it was primarily about fun at work.
  5. Create project plan: When does the project have to be finished? When semi-finished? Which functions are based on each other? Who can work on what and when? This plan is particularly interesting from the point of view of the author, the copywriter. Tim Müßle wrote the text for Cold Crash and made a plan for it before he wrote the first line. The following questions were important here:
    1. Storytelling means: Someone wants something and doesn’t get it. Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” only wants to celebrate Christmas in peace and quiet. Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” just wants to experience the next day. In Cold Crash, Anna survived the plane crash in the Alps, but has to fight for survival in a snow desert – she doesn’t want to freeze to death. She wants to survive. But winter and the circumstances oppose it.
    2. What is the outcome of this story? Here it was important for us to offer the player several ends of the story. Happy ends and tragedies. Since the player in the middle section of Cold Crash has the choice between two different centers of the story, we quickly came to eight different ends.
    3. The theme of story. Every successful story combines a thesis and an antithesis into a synthesis: Anna has to fight not only against the weather, but also against herself – she doesn’t dare to do much and thinks she can’t do much – the “thesis”. Her counterpart Marcus has to drive her – he has the “antithesis”: You can, you can do it, and if you don’t even try, you die. This leads to the “synthesis”: I can do this, and it was not as impossible as I thought at first.
  6. Execute project – in addition, at least one project member must supervise the team:
    1. Do the employees work on the things which they are supposed to do – or do they do other tasks, perhaps because they prefer to work on these or because the other task (still) seems too difficult to them?
    2. Do employees have sufficient resources, such as software, technology and material?
    3. Are the employees all right? Is the workload okay and does everyone still have time to go to lunch and finish work on time? Occasional double shifts are okay, but in the long run putting too much strain on employees leads to miserable results, especially from project to project.
  7. Completing and testing the project – for Cold Crash we asked several test players to put the project through its paces. Since we started very early on, even in a phase where only half of the text was written, we were able to detect and fix a fundamental error in the concept of Cold Crash at a very early stage. If we had only recognized this mistake when the text was already finished, it would have taken twice as much work to fix it.

Tl; dr: If you want to realize a project like an app or an iOS game, you should first create a plan to avoid any nasty surprises.

Tim Müßle

Journalist, Editor, PR Consultant, Author Freelance Journalist Tim Muessle info@timmuessle.de

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