Project manager is driving force

Project management is a specialist skill, and at Dynappco we’re fortunate to have several experts who handle our customer projects and make sure everything stays on track. We spoke to project manager Kristof Raes to find out the tricks of the trade.

What do project managers do at Dynappco?

Kristof: “Our project managers coordinate our customers’ implementations. They’re the central point of contact, acting as the link between the customer, their plans and our own teams. They make sure everyone is properly briefed so everything runs smoothly, and deadlines are met within budget. Basically, they keep projects on course. They follow up each stage of the process and keep the focus on the customer’s needs. We usually adopt an agile approach, but that can depend on the situation.”

Things generally run smoothly, so you might not always notice the project manager checking all the steps taken or ensuring processes are running efficiently. But make no mistake: the project manager is the driving force, always at the ready with reins in hand.

What does your project management approach entail, exactly?

Kristof: “Always knowing how to keep the project focused on its essence, with the right balance between control and overhead.”

Do you choose an agile approach for this, or do you prefer waterfall?

Kristof: “We usually work with a hybrid approach because both methods complement each other so well. It’s not like agile is the opposite of waterfall. The waterfall principle can be useful for companies that want to get started with a perfectly finished application right from the off, for example. But you can also make these kinds of projects more agile by dividing them into sprints and incorporating user stories. And if the end result is a bit less fixed, an agile approach often offers the most benefits. We try to be agile in projects that have lots of test phases, but formal project management is always essential to keep everything moving in the right direction. These projects usually consist of various deliveries that can be spread over several months. We’ve got one like that at the moment, but we often have shorter projects as well.”

How do your projects start and progress?

Kristof: “The starting point is a project brief that translates the quote into a concrete project plan. We assess the schedule, budget, risks, dependencies and limitations. Then we carry out a bottom-up analysis, to make sure that the top-down of the quote aligns with the reality. Once we have all this information, we work out specific steps to limit the risks as much as possible. That’s a preliminary phase, but this risk control and following up any outstanding issues of course continues through to the execution phase. It’s this good monitoring that ensures projects succeed.”

“Then we actually implement the project. This is an iterative process in which we check every week or month that we’re keeping to the schedule or whether it needs updating. The test phases are extremely important – especially non-regression testing to make sure we’re not losing anything essential from the existing applications – because they help us verify we’re meeting all the requirements. Then it’s signed off and transferred to production. Finally, in the post-production phase, project managers and other people from the business perform a final evaluation and arrange day-to-day support.”

Good and continuous monitoring ensures projects succeed, because just one oversight can wreak havoc on the process. You might compare it with a turkey at Christmas: everything is fine for 364 days, and then all of a sudden you’re in the roasting dish… That’s how easily projects can rapidly veer off track. But you can avoid unwanted twists and turns by having sufficient feedback and revisions.

Can you guarantee clients that you will finish a project on time?

Kristof: “You can never provide cast-iron guarantees that you’ll meet the deadline, but there are definitely a number of things you can do to improve your chances of successfully completing the project on time. Good tools can help you to monitor the budget, schedule and scope, for example. And having a project manager who closely follows up all the stages and limits risks means you can be virtually certain when you’ll finish the project.”