I really like having the students back on campus. I was talking to Cameron about Seed projects. He is on the fourth year of our MEng course and he will be developing a project for a proper customer as part of his course this year. He was asking for any tips about project management. I told him that the best way to regard a project like this is to consider that the outcome of the work should not be a product, it should be a happy customer. If you think you are making a Stock Control System then you will focus on the technical deliverables and probably get them working, but you might not provide what the customer wants. If you think about the problem in terms of making “Wonder Widgets” happy about the way they are now able to manage their stock that puts a different perspective on the job.
This doesn’t mean that you have to do everything the customer wants, including washing their car. What it means is that you should engage with the customer as much as you can (or they will let you) when you are building the solution. We have found that the best Seed projects are the ones where the customer really gets involved with the team making their solution. The best way to do this is to make it easy for the customer to work with you. Bring things to meetings to talk about and leave with lists of things to do. And keep the cycle as short as the customer will let you. Thinking “We’re OK, we saw the customer last month” is kind of dangerous, in that this is the way you end up with a half working solution to the wrong problem.