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Saving A Struggling Project

By: Chris LaFay on May 31, 2018

It’s a business owner’s worst nightmare: you have invested months of your time and thousands of dollars into an exciting development project,  yet somehow it never seems to get completed. You’ve reached the point of wondering whether to abandon the project altogether. Maybe the delays have no explanation or costs just keep stacking up. It is tempting to feel that you can’t throw any more money at the problem and have no guarantee of success.

What if there were a way out? What if you could zoom out, take a breath, and get a fresh set of eyes on the task? A new team is often the only way past persistent roadblocks. You may need a fresh, uncluttered view of the problem in order to reach a creative solution. Even so, how can you be sure that a new team is capable of handling the problems that have haunted the project? How can you predict whether a new team will finally bring you across the finish line?

Step 1: Evaluate Trouble Spots for the Project

Before you begin seeking a new team to take over development work, it is essential to pinpoint the factors that have prevented the project’s completion. These may be specific development tasks or something more abstract, like ineffective communication. Either way, be sure to note everything that hindered the previous team. This information will help the new team approach the project with an effective and informed plan. They may even be able to overcome obstacles quickly with the advantage of learning from their predecessors’ mistakes. Bringing eagerness and a fresh perspective, the new development team is likely to impress you with quick results.

Step 2: Identify Technologies

Even if development is not your area of expertise, you need to be aware of the technologies involved before seeking out a development team. For example, you need to know whether your application is built in PHP or .NET. Similarly, if you are building a mobile app, you need to know if you are supporting Android or iOS development – or both. Ask yourself or your current team which technologies are essential. This distinction is critical, since not all developers work on all systems. A PHP expert may not have experience coding in .NET. Maximize the technical information you have at your disposal in order to help your future developers judge whether they will be able to handle the technical requirements of your project.

Step 3: Search for a New Team

Once you’ve identified the technology and trouble spots involved, you are ready to begin interviewing teams or creating your own. Fill them in on all the details you have researched in the first two steps. Enabling everyone to ask informed questions about how your new system empowers clear evaluation. Even if the work is within their area of expertise, ask if they have experience taking over existing projects and listen to their success stories. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of attitude.

Step 4: Include Discovery Time

Once you have selected a new team, be sure to allocate time in the budget for discovery. The newcomers will likely need to investigate the existing code. They need to get a feel for how the site or application is built before they are able to make changes. This far into the project, you may be frustrated. Remember, that you are bringing in a qualified team to improve the work of people who didn’t get you the results you wanted. The new team may encounter subpar work in the existing code, especially since people tend to take more shortcuts as they fall behind schedule. The more your new team can learn about the project’s progress early on, the faster they will succeed. Providing this phase also allows you to clearly establish your expectations.

Step 5: Set Smaller Deliverables

Allow the new team to knock out some simple tasks early on so they can get their feet under them. Confidence will build, and everyone will become familiar with the system before diving into anything challenging. You can take this opportunity to make sure you and the team are communicating effectively. This goes hand in hand with allowing discovery time. If you start the team off with the most complex work before they thoroughly understand the system, they may include solutions that hinder the project in ways they can’t predict. Difficult tasks early on will also strain your new business relationship. Intentionally create a productive environment from day one.

Step 6: Ramp Up And Go

Now that the channels of communication are operating effectively with a competent, confident team, pick up the pace. Begin tackling the problem areas you identified early in the process. Be patient with your new team, but don’t be surprised if they make quick progress. A great development team can reignite a project and complete it within your budget, especially if you choose them carefully and set them up for success using this simple formula.

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Written By:

Chris LaFay

Chris founded CCC after trying to figure out how to have the work-life balance that everyone dreams of. Not only does he get to enjoy designing + implementing websites, he also gets to play with his dog, travel, enjoy family dinners, and keep up with baseball. Check back with Chris for articles on web design, user experience, and project case studies.