Project management is the unsung hero in the world of crowdfunding. If all a team focuses on is a well-marketed pitch, once the money lands, there may be mass chaos in the attempt to execute. And if the team doesn’t complete the project as expected, it could very well be the last project they successfully fund.
Take a gander at these statistics and you’ll start to grasp how critical project management really is:
- 24% of all IT projects are cancelled before completion or delivered without ever being used
- 44% of IT projects finish late, over budget, and/or with fewer features and functions than originally planned
- This means that over half of all IT projects can, in part, be considered failures
In my book “The Project Management Formula: The Five Steps to Complete Your Projects on Time,” I outline in detail the recipe for a successful project launch, and the formula is especially applicable to crowdfunding teams. Stellar project management is a mixture of well-documented requirements, research into the industry or niche, intelligent estimations, top-notch time management, and concise scheduling and planning. Project management is not unlike the elusive great American novel; everyone seems to assume they can succeed, yet so few actually do so. The key here is to be educated and prepared.
In the world of crowdfunding, a lack of project management expertise can spell utter disaster for both the project owners and the backers. Take the recent case of the Kickstarter campaign for The Doom That Came to Atlantic City. The Forking Path Co. raised over $122,000 for this intriguing board game concept — several times more than its initial $35,000 goal — but after a year of struggle and chaos, the team sadly announced to project backers that the money had been spent, yet there was no game to ship. Nor would there ever be with this round of funding.
Judging by the many comments from backers, the project suffered a lack of experience and organization from the get-go. Communication was minimal, progress staggered, and it felt like the project was doomed from the start. The team raised almost four times the projected funds needed to launch, yet a lack of experience and project planning brought the game to a humble demise. And this is obviously not an isolated story.
Before a project is even brought to the crowdfunding platforms, the product team should have already mapped out a clear plan of execution. At least one member of the dream team needs to be well versed in project management, either from past experience or through extensive research. This is not about instinct; it’s about an intelligent, proven workflow. Without it, every penny contributed by a backer is in jeopardy.
In my experience, great project management can be compartmentalized into five core principles. They are:
As you go through the crowdfunding process, defining and clearly articulating your objectives is paramount, but many do not collect the detailed requirements and officially document these needs. That’s a big mistake. A comprehensive requirements doc is essential to communicating project goals and needs to all team members who assist in the execution. You need far more than just snazzy marketing copy to woo backers, you need to map out every last detail of what you project entails.
Drop a detailed requirements doc into the lap of a whip-smart developer and you’re likely to get a scowl in return. The advent of waterfall development methodologies has taught us that iterative, well thought out execution is preferable to the brain dump, all-at-once approach. This means a project manager must take the big picture discussed in the requirements doc and develop a feasible milestone schedule, articulating who does what, when.
Once a crowdsourced project is funded and good to go, the project manager should kick into planning mode. The first step is to take the bevy of features and requirements needed to complete the project and divide them into two to four week production plans (often called a “sprint”). These iterations give designers, developers, and other team members clear instructions in bite-sized pieces.
One of the core concepts in successful project management is that everything you create must be tested and verified, no guesswork allowed. This is also the pivotal time for the project manager to give clear communications to the backers about the project’s progression. As iterations are run and tested, you’ll have a good idea of whether or not you’re on schedule, and how the product is developing.
In the case of crowdfunding, your backers should indeed be your beta testers, if you’ve built that into your production cycle (which I highly recommend.) Giving them the opportunity to sample the product first — especially to provide valuable insights about success or failure — is integral to an admirable launch. Even if you’ve missed milestones or haven’t completed all the features, you’ll win major kudos for giving your backers a voice in the finished product.
The final word is this: if you’re crowdfunding even the simplest of ideas, project management must be considered if you want to have a happy ending. Don’t join the ranks of The Forking Path. Co and others like them; have the tools and expertise you need to be part of the minority who get it right, on time, and on budget.
Yaron Sinai is the founder Elementool, a leading web-based project management tool, and the author of The Project Management Formula: The Five Steps To Complete Your Project on Time.
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