Project Management is the best hand-off method.

The best hand-off development tool is no tool.

It is said that being a great designer requires having good management skills, which is true to some extent, especially on very small teams where you have to wear more hats as a designer rather than focusing on very well-established and documented routes/methods/tasks.

A methodology will give you that path. A methodology will give you the guidelines to make your project manageable, smooth, and effective. Here is a short story about why following methodologies rigorously might stumble you rather than helping you.

A client had an idea about a potential product and wanted to get their first round of funding by demonstrating how their product might work in the wild.

All went pretty smooth up to the point of getting a development team helping us moving forward after we validated that idea.

I did pretty much on my side to make the knowledge transfer from us to the dev team as clear as possible.

#1 Created an interactive prototype showing how the MVP works.

Usually, this is a powerful way to make sure the development team knows exactly the look and feel of what you’ve designed.

#2 Created a Content Inventory.

What content and capabilities do users have access to in our product, how is it structured, and what is the overall quality?

#3 Task flows + Sketches

Task flows tend to be linear, showing the high-level steps that a person would take to get to a specific goal or endpoint. I have combined both the “Task Flows” and “Sketching” steps from the Project Plan into a single deliverable.

#4 Offering support for the development process

Being there for answering every possible question and making trade-offs here and there for a faster implementation.

Now you might be thinking that this is a pretty well-documented process for facilitating a good collaboration between design & development.

Not really!

In the start-up world, most of the time, along the way things are changing, priorities change, features are changed/removed, and so on. It’s an iterative process.

Of course, for this kind of process you use project management tools for keeping track of the changes, and so on. You are thinking that you don’t need someone to manage the project because it still very early on and we are fine with just a project management tool.

The result:

A very chaotic development process.

  • Lots of back and forth for due to the very nature of the startup world,
  • Not being able to involve them at any business decision which affected the design of some feature and so on.

In order to get stakeholders to see it the way we did, I facilitated a quick workshop exercise where we’ve gathered feedback on the things that we think are currently working and the things that are holding us back.

We came to understand that our production environment wasn’t predictable at all. We clearly were not able to create detailed plans months ahead, because constantly things changed along the way. For example new insights in how to solve a certain topic, what we learn from software that already had been built, market developments… We acknowledged that our production environment was complex.

Good design requires organizers. Organizing becomes even more important and complicated when that’s true. Project managers are godsends.

We needed one person responsible for the priority of the stories in the backlog

Our team was lucky with the one project manager. We decided to change from everyone being responsible for the product backlog, owning it to a single person. This would help to shield the team from being totally disoriented and help them to regain focus.

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