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Project Management for App Development (+ Best PM Tools)

Keith Shields September 22, 2021

There are several methodologies used to manage software builds, and each of these methodologies can be useful. While the methodology has an important role to play in building an application, project management is just as crucial to a project’s success. In this post, we share our perspective on why project management for app development matters and the project management essentials that we use to produce top-quality apps on time and on budget.

Why Project Management for App Development Matters

Having a thorough project management process that supports your software development methodology has three key benefits. 

  • Establish expectations — Effective project management ensures all stakeholders are on the same page and know what to expect. When everyone knows what will happen next, there won’t be any unwelcome surprises. 
  • Improve communication — Developing a mobile app is a complex process with many people involved, from the client to the designers and programmers. Good project management creates a streamlined communication process so nothing falls through the cracks.
  • Better manage resources — The nature of product development is one of iteration. As you learn new information about your target market or as data comes in from user testing, change requests come into play. Good project management allows you to manage changes efficiently, keeping the budget and timeline as tightly controlled as possible. 

Learn more: How Much Does it Cost to Build an App | How Long Does it Take to Make an App

Foundations of Effective Project Management

Project management is both an art and a science. We have learned over the years that each of the following elements is foundational for a successful project.

1. Consistency

One of the most important aspects of project management is being consistent. Effective project management requires a disciplined approach. (In fact, we’ve found this is even more important than the development methodology used.) There will always be a multitude of issues that arise. Without a disciplined approach, a project can “go off the rails” quickly, either because people get excited and want to start on a step too soon, or because delays were not planned for and cause problems.

2. Clear and detailed communication

Another important aspect of effective project management is clear and detailed two-way communication. Everyone involved with a project has such a wide range of skillsets, and everyone looks at things from a slightly different perspective. We all sometimes speak our own language while working on software development projects, falling into jargon or simply assuming someone understands what we mean when they don’t. So every project must have a focus on communication. And documenting what was agreed upon ensures that miscommunication is kept at bay.

3. Breaking down tasks into actionable components

Breaking down tasks into actionable parts is critical to get a complex project completed on time. There’s no better way to really understand a project than to break it down to its smallest tasks. This activity helps to provide clarity to each member of the team so everyone knows exactly who is responsible for what and when each task is due. 

Project Management Tools for App Development

To successfully and efficiently execute a project, you need to make use of tools. There are a lot of different activities happening simultaneously when an app is being built, and it’s essential for those activities to come together seamlessly. Tools help you with internal and external communication, issue and time tracking, documentation, resource allocation planning, and task management. After many years of testing various options, we’ve landed on the following collection of project management tools.

  • Basecamp — We use this tool for client and internal communication. Basecamp helps to keep project communication organized more efficiently so important information doesn’t get lost. 
  • Gmail — The Snooze feature in Gmail helps us to prioritize our inbox and gives us a line of sight to priority emails. The Snooze feature also helps ensure that we keep track of tasks that clients or team members are responsible for. 
  • Redmine — We use Redmine for issue and bug tracking, logging time, storing the project Wiki, and a host of other tasks.
  • Spreadsheets — We use spreadsheets for all sorts of tasks, including providing detailed estimates that break down projects by feature, development resource needed, and estimated time to complete each task.
  • Float — Float is excellent for resource allocation planning. This is what we use for scheduling our designers and developers on projects, and it gives us an accurate picture of our availability for new projects as well.
  • Slack — Slack is great for internal communication, although it can be a double-edged sword. Chat messaging can be helpful for quick exchanges, but can also become a distraction, so we try to be mindful of how we use it. 

Project Management Creates a Foundation for a Successful App

No successful app gets built without effective project management. Project management ensures that the app is built precisely to specifications, handles any necessary changes efficiently along the way, and keeps the budget and timeline as tight as possible. Over the dozens of apps we’ve built and projects we’ve managed, we’ve honed a process that we have confidence in and our clients appreciate.

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