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14 ways to clarify project scope with your programming team

Convey Scope
Scott Gerber
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Scott Gerber

Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members rep… (show all) Scott Gerber is the founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

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With every tech project, it’s important to be on the same page as your programming team to save everyone time and unnecessary mistakes. As a leader, you’ll need to set clear expectations for your team and establish the scope and expectations for the project. However, this is often easier said than done.

To help leaders better communicate expectations and goals, we asked a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members the following question:

What is your preferred method for making sure your programming team is clear about the scope of a project and what needs to be done?

Their best answers are below:

1. Get them involved from the start

To avoid “guesswork” on the scope, the programming team needs to be involved during the planning and the design phase from the start. Don’t design the UI/UX without consistently walking the programming team through what is produced and receiving feedback. Not involving the programmers in this process can lead to designs that are impossible to build or under-budgeting the project. – Jinny Hyojin OhWANDR

2. Use the scrum framework

Scrum is a framework for agile project management. The main concept is a daily review for the whole team. Each team member answers three questions. First, what did you work on yesterday and what is the progress? Second, what is in the way of you completing your work. Third, what you are working on today? This is a proven process that the top software companies in the world employ. – Brian GreenbergTrue Blue Life Insurance

3. Focus on proper documentation

Fifty percent of software development is specifying what needs to be coded. Having proper documentation in the form of functional specifications and software requirements is critical for clarity about what needs to be developed. Having a business analyst document the project scope before coding begins is the most effective method for ensuring scope creeps don’t occur in the development phase. – Rahul VarshneyaCurveBreak

4. Keep it bite-sized

Smaller projects are much easier to estimate as a team, so keep things bite-sized. We work in two-week sprints, estimating user stories together before they’re assigned to a sprint. Anything estimated to take more than a couple of days must be broken down into smaller items with their own requirements first. This helps avoid unknown unknowns and enforce realistic estimates. – Pete KistlerBrandYourself

5. Ask for a timeline

The best way to determine if your programming team has a grasp on a project is to ask them to develop a timeline. This tactic helps build trust and communication among your programmers, while giving you information on how well they understand the current project. – Blair WilliamsMemberPress

6. Use the right tools

Just because we’re a remote team doesn’t mean there needs to be skewed communication and collaboration on projects. We use Asana to assign tasks, so everyone knows what they’re responsible for. Slack is used to create channels around communicating how projects are performed. Zoom is used to video chat when chatting via Slack isn’t effective enough. When you have the right tools, everything goes smoother. – Jared AtchisonWPForms

7. Break it down into specific goals

To make sure your programming team is clear about the scope of a project and what needs to be done, break it down into specific goals. When you break your project up into specific goals, instead of just one big goal at the end, it will help your team understand what needs to be done in order to reach the main goal. Plus, your team will feel more accomplished every time they reach a mini-goal. – Stephanie WellsFormidable Forms

8. Create milestones

When I want to make sure my programming team understands the scope of our project, I establish milestones that I want to see accomplished by a specific date. For example, I could tell my team that I want the software framework established in two weeks and a test build available four weeks after the foundation is complete. – Syed BalkhiWPBeginner

9. Hold weekly meetings

To make sure your programming team is clear about the scope of a project and what needs to be done, hold weekly meetings. By having weekly meetings, you can make sure everyone is on track. It also gives team members the opportunity to provide you and the others with updates and they can ask questions to clarify certain aspects of the project. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

10. Establish a communication plan

I don’t want to micromanage or keep an eye on my team when they’re completing projects, but it’s essential to make sure they stay on track and have guidance when needed. That’s why creating a communication plan before starting a project is crucial. Whether you decide on creating a separate Slack channel or holding a short weekly meeting, these are things that ensure quality and efficiency. – Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

11. Provide pictures and ask for reports

Two things critical to the success of any software project are pictures and reports. Pictures of the user interface, even hand-drawn ones, communicate scope more accurately than most documents. Reports needed are a close second because it lets the team know if the pictures represent all the data necessary to create the report. Then ask the team to define how they get from pictures to reports. – Monica SnyderBirdsong

12. Meet regularly in person

We document the scope of the project and timelines for all teams and hold frequent meetings prior to and throughout development. We use Asana for project management to get everyone on the same page. Developers, designers and account managers and SEO meet in person weekly for debriefs on projects and status updates. Teams also work in-office for certain projects to avoid miscommunication. – Matthew CapalaAlphametic

13. Map out the project visually

Communicate the entire process with the team in a visual way. This way, everyone can see the overall plan, specific goals and the list of tasks that need to be done. There are programs you can use for this like Asana, Slack and Hive that the entire team can jump on and update as they go. Have the team look it over before they begin and give them time to ask any questions they have. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

14. Discuss project limitations

The best way of ensuring that both you and your programming team have a full understanding of a project’s scope is to have a detailed discussion about any limitations. If you have a tight deadline that can’t be moved, or if your programming team won’t be able to implement certain features, these points need to be acknowledged as early as possible into the project. – Bryce WelkerThe Big 4 Accounting Firms

Published October 11, 2019 — 09:00 UTC