The contribution of a project manager to the app development process is one of the prerequisites to its success. A project manager leads the development team in our company at every stage of the project development process. We decided to reveal their concrete value on the example of a hypothetical project.
1. Rough estimate
Say, our client wants to develop a social / dating app for both iOS and Android. He sends us an email where he talks about what the app is all about. Generally speaking, the user of the social app will be able to:
- locate their current position on the map
- receive special offers from local places
- add friends
- video chat
- post and edit photos / videos / text
- share posts to social networks
- use the app in the offline mode
- receive push notifications
- make in-app purchases (group video chat, message stickers), etc.
Project manager gets into play at the stage of the rough estimate. Their role is to get special project details, look for the cost-effective ways and carry out project negotiations. According to the rough estimate, this project will require approximately:
- 800 – 1000 hours on development for each platform
- 20 percent of the cost to employ a project manager
- 20 percent of the cost to employ a QA specialist
- 300 hours on design + UX (prototyping)
- 500 hours on the server side development
Let’s imagine the results of the project rough estimate exceed our client’s expectations. In this case we can help him reduce the cost by offering an MVP version.
In order to map out the MVP, the project manager analyses the market, helps to define the features valuable for the client’s business model and suggests how to implement them to make the first version of the product stand out.
The shortened version will need basic functionality and features that make a realization of the business model feasible. In our social app, these features are in-app purchases and special offers.
When released on the market, the early product can potentially meet the expectations of the target audience, satisfy our client’s business goal and even attract investors. If everything goes smoothly, the client will be able to invest into the development of the full version of the app shortly after the first launch.
Getting back to the initial requirements for the social app, which features aren’t going to be included into the MVP? Video chat and offline mode, most likely. They need the biggest amount of time and at the same time are not relevant for the business model. That’s why we can put off their implementation till the next app version.
*Keep in mind, that this presumption won’t work for every project. Sometimes the most expensive and time-consuming features is what makes the app unique and gives it a competitive advantage.
2. Project planning
If the client agrees to build an MVP, the project manager gets down to project planning. The process of app development is typically split into iterations (sprints). Each iteration usually lasts about two weeks.
The first iteration contains design tasks. (Read a full story about the process of product design.) Some technical tasks, such as preparation of the development environment or composing the project architecture, are also placed in the first iteration.
The second iteration will have design refinement left and more precise development tasks apportioned in accordance with the mock-ups. Each next iteration including the second one allocates certain time required to spend on testing and bug fixing.
The break down into iterations continues until all the features planned in the MVP are addressed. It is important to mention that this plan is tentative. The client can introduce changes during the process of development. The only requirement is to do it early. Any change introduced during the iteration will hamper the app development process and increase the risk of getting out of the project scope.
When the project plan is outlined, the project manager can make a detailed estimate and prepare a proposal for the client. The proposal is a document that includes information about the process of project development, such as project scope, staffing, communication plan, date of delivery, pricing model, etc.
Most importantly, it specifies the risks that may influence the project development.
The lack of detailed requirements can potentially increase the time needed to develop a project irrespective of our competencies. Another risk is when the client doesn’t hire a project manager to lead the team. In this case, the customer will have to deal with project management on his own given the particularities of the remote collaboration.
So how a project manager can minimize the probability of risks and prevent the project from exceeding its estimate?
3. Project concept development
Quite often detailed estimate doesn’t clarify all the particularities of the project. The main stumbling block on our way is the lack of requirements in the form of detailed specification, user stories, mind map, or anything else that describes every single function the app is going to perform. In order to clarify the requirements, we initiate a project planning stage.
The purpose of this stage is to provide the client with a complete estimate of the project, taking into account all the underlying features inconspicuous at the first sight.
the project planning stage is a separate part of the project development not included in the overall estimate of the project. By the end of it the project manager will have provided the client with the following:
- detailed wireframes of the project
- basic design
- user stories
- product backlog, which is a list of items the client wishes to see implemented.
- priorities ranked from the most to the least important
- milestones, which are some key features at the each new stage in the course of the project development
- iterations schedule
- release dates (the date when the application got approved at the App Store / Google Play and the dates of the each update that follows)
Detailed estimate requires close collaboration between the customer and the team, shouldered by the project manager.
Only after the terms of work are thoroughly negotiated and agreed, does the client sign up the contract. Here is when the actual project development begins.
4. Project development facilitation
Project manager coaches the team throughout the whole project. They initiate team meetings, visualize the scope, address changes, control the deliverable planned in each sprint, resolve occurring issues or misunderstandings.
It’s up to the project manager to make the process transparent, enable fast responsiveness, establish close collaboration both with the client and between the members of the team, and eliminate any hitches preventing the project development process from a standstill.
Project managers do the document tracking and provide the client with team evaluation reports, bug reports, or any other documentation demanded by the client. They are responsible for backlog updates and inform the team about occuring change requests.
*Change request is an alteration to the initial specification / wireframes, which requires introduction of changes to the initially agreed project scope and the estimation.
Even though the project planning stage is supposed to minimize the probability of change requests, every other project deals with certain issues during its development. These issues may relate to technology, changes in the client’s vision, third party services, investors’ demands and whatnot.
Project manager’s job is to help the team settle the issues with minimum risks to the client, so that the project concept is maintained and the time frames are not exceeded by miles.
5. Ongoing project development
After our early version of the product is successfully released, we need to make sure it meets the requirements of the user. The process of project development is ongoing. It represents a range of iterations.
Project manager helps the client figure out each next sprint followed by the first launch. We build in analytic tools into every app to analyze the user engagement data and introduce improvements to the app functionality or user experience.
What is more, our specialists can suggest different growth hacking techniques the ways to increase your key important metrics.
Hope this article was useful. If you have any questions about the role of a project manager in the app development process, send us an email.