3 Ways You Can Apply Project Management to Your Rapid Prototyping
The prototyping process is an important part of the development of any project, especially software applications. Since it exists wholly on computers, changes can be quickly implemented, and it can be tested one part at a time more quickly than physical objects.
Software prototyping has become a popular way to give the customer a little preview of what they’re getting, allowing the user to learn what they’ll be getting in the future and allowing the developer to receive feedback to make the final product the best it can possibly be. As the prototyping process goes on, the developer can also reassess deadlines and goals if necessary, revising those that look like they might be off well before the date.
Rapid prototyping, sometimes also known as evolutionary prototyping, is a way developers often skip all the early work of documentation and get right to the prototype, working closely with the final users to create the product. The process is basically to find out what the customer wants, create it, let the user use it, get some feedback, modify accordingly, then let the customer give it another try. Eventually, the product changes to the point where the customer is satisfied, and you end up with the finished result.
There are many excellent benefits to rapid prototyping. As the name implies, it’s a lot faster, which makes it somewhat cheaper, since less time is spent on planning and documentation. It creates a closer relationship between the developer and the user, as well. Most users are not programmers or technicians. When you present a design document to them, they may not be able to interpret them. Furthermore, as you work, you gain a more realistic idea of the timeframe in which you’ll be working, and the users gain a more realistic idea of what’s possible and can sort of nail down the exact thing they want to see as the end product.
Naturally, no idea is perfect, and that includes rapid prototyping. As an open-ended process, it’s impossible to tell how many times you’ll have to repeat the create and display cycles before you get to the finished project. In fact, it’s sometimes difficult to tell just when the product will be finished, because the temptation to make just one more pass at it to make it even better is strong in both the developer and the customer. In projects where there is more than one person invested in the final product, they may not completely agree on what they want, making the whole thing all the more difficult for the people designing the product. In the end, there may never be a finished product at all – just a prototype.
Many difficulties inherent in rapid prototyping can be mitigated or even completely eliminated if you have a good project manager or project management team in charge of the whole process. Like prototyping, project management used to be a somewhat limited process, more likely to constrain the ambitions of the final user than to act upon them. The style of management that serves rapid prototyping is, of course, very different. Instead of following a flowchart or schedule, the project managers involved in rapid prototyping have to be flexible and fast, coordinating and collaborating many different ideas to find common ground and build a cohesive product out of many ideas.
1. Structured Collaboration
When more than one stakeholder or customer is involved, and they want different things, management can help everyone reach a viable compromise. When the project manager is well-acquainted with the technology involved, they can easily be the mediator between the developers and the users, and may even be able to work out a project schedule, so the customers know what to expect and when to expect it.
Explaining exactly what’s possible in terms everyone can understand is one big advantage project managers can bring to the table. Few other measures can prevent as many delays down the road.
Rapid prototyping creates many ideas, some of them great, some of them simply time-consuming. A project manager can create focus, winnowing down all the suggestions to the best and the brightest. Development might well even be forecasted, so given improvements can be accomplished in discrete stages, creating a schedule in the process. This can lend greatly to accomplishing the next way project management techniques can assist rapid prototyping…
3. It’s Done When It’s Done
A project manager can determine when the final project is “feature complete”. If they want the product to ever get out of the door into the wider world, they can negotiate terms (or just set them) to say when the project is done. Once all the predetermined features are finished, the project manager can determine if there’s time to add more, or if the rest of the desired features will be added in the future, for a new and improved version. No project can be successful until it is finally released to the customers, and a project manager can make success much more likely.
Laura O’Donnell writes smart content on behalf of the rapid prototyping experts at Pivot International. As an avid writer and learner, she loves to use her skills for engaging others in important topics in creative and effective ways. When she is not working, she loves meeting new people, traveling, and bringing her Pinterest dreams to life. Find her on LinkedIn.