startup project management

Project management is a crucial component of successful software development for startups.

Look at statistics:

Therefore, a competent project manager must lead your expert development team.

The team has missing competencies.

You have your vision.

A PM becomes the missing line between your goals and the team. They convert your needs into a plan and help the development team work fast.

Here is in further detail how you increase resilience with the help of five-start startup project management.

1 Why is Startup Project Management so Important? 

Short answer: it is essential for surviving unchartered waters.

If you have no previous IT management experience, it is wise to hire a person who knows how to organize great execution—38.8% of startups shatter due to team-related problems.

In a startup’s life, things rarely go as planned. Competent project management is the key to structured startup software development. It helps navigate a chaotic environment and react effectively to emerging issues and opportunities.

A great project manager streamlines your processes. The team uses resources accurately, meeting your key goals and limitations.

Ineffective project management leads to project derailment. You miss deadlines while facing cost creep.

Here are the essential responsibilities of a project manager:

  • Roadmap

A project manager brings together necessary elements of software development into a consistent plan. They identify goals and requirements, determine an optimum strategy, and calculate needed resources.

The project manager ensures a shared vision of the development process, eliminating misalignment between objectives and the plan.

The startup and the team clearly understand how product development will take place.

  • Team integrity

The project manager removes disconnection between project parts, ensuring harmony between project participants and an effective allocation of available resources.

Project managers take the leadership role. They distribute tasks based on team members’ skills and expertise. They also motivate members to perform well.

The startup gets a well-coordinated team where everyone takes their part of the project seriously and does their best daily.

  • Change management

Constant communication is an integral part of Agile project management for startups. Project managers discuss routine during daily calls. Also, they help startups with backlog reviews and updates on project progress at the end of each two-week sprint.

Short delivery cycles enable the startup to sort out priorities quickly. The team switches priorities fast when required.

As a result, startups can plan their next steps flexibly and adapt to market challenges without spending an odd time on change management.

  • Cost control

The hard part of startup life is that while priorities can change overnight, available resources remain limited. Hence, startups must spend wisely.

A great project manager focuses on strict control over estimates and actual expenditures to prevent scope creep, which is a big problem for the industry. 68% of projects exceed their budgets and experience delays.

Startups get adjustments and precise estimates based on backlog review, which are needed to stay on track.

  • Risk management

Dealing with uncertainty is a natural part of startup project management. The biggest risks are at the project start. They decrease as the team progresses—both the startup and the team gain more insights about the system and its functionality.

Project managers identify and assess specific risks. They help eliminate controlled risks. PMs also prepare mitigation and contingency plans for those risks outside of control.

As a result, startups can adapt their strategy.

  • Continuous improvement

A great project manager focuses on shipping a quality product faster. They conduct regular Sprint reviews to analyze what could have been done differently with the team and the client.

The project manager introduces specific optimization activities based on growing project needs, e.g., test automation, transition to cloud or microservices, prolonging software lifecycle.

This enables startups to evade a deadlock and use the MVP codebase for further product expansion and scaling.

More insights on software planning and cost estimation in:

How Do We Estimate Costs of Startup Development?

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2 Practical Tips on Startup Project Management

The rule of thumb: look for a project manager experienced in delivering and maintaining STARTUP products.

Here is why. Project management is different for startups and enterprises.

Unlike enterprise development, project management in startups is looser regarding roles and responsibilities. A startup project manager takes over some duties that an enterprise project manager normally does not, such as:

  • handling product management alongside project management (these are different roles)
  • working autonomously
  • coordinating fluid processes rather than dealing with a rigid workflow
  • adapting and pivoting fast

In turn, a variety of duties can create room for misunderstanding. You and your project manager should align expectations from the future partnership. Deciding how to maintain agility and structured processes and maintain effectiveness through all project stages is crucial.

project management in startups

Tip 1. Initiate project discovery

The discovery phase enables the project manager and the team to learn the specifics of your project, detect risks, and make informed decisions. They provide you with a precise scope and schedule.

On your side, you ensure the selected team is a good option. You can trust your future with them.

Tip 2. Learn to accept a no

Accepting ALL client requests, even the most unrealistic ones, is one of the biggest mistakes in project management for startups.

A dependable project manager can turn down the request, knowing it is impossible to complete and will only damage the relationship.

Of course, they justify their objection with a reason and offer an alternative.

Tip 3. Invest into relationships

The project manager is a key position with whom you will work throughout the development cycle.

You need to invest in finding the right fit for your project and take your time to build a positive relationship with the project manager. This boosts workflow on both sides.

Tip 4. Decide on the pricing model

The fixed-priced model gives you an understanding of your budget needs. However, any change in scope is only possible upon negotiations.

Yet, the maximum working hours limit the team’s response to change requests and creativity. Time-and-material conditions are better if you want to reprioritize issues and adapt quickly.

Tip 5. Arrange an agreement

It is always a good idea to write down important project details in a written agreement before development starts. This enables parties to outline expectations, such as scope, responsibilities, minimum level of provided services, and timeline, and adhere to the terms in the further process.

Also, sign an NDA to ensure your ideas are safe.

Tip 6. Stay one Zoom meeting away

Clear communication is the key to project progress. It is both-sided. You need to contact the project manager easily when you want task status.

You should also be ready to respond to your project manager’s requests. It will speed up the project pace if you promptly answer your project manager and reflect in detail. The result is lower project costs.

Tip 7. Think of the long-term impact

Good project managers keep long-term plans in mind, knowing their decisions may block source code scalability or lead to tech debt.

For instance, at IT Craft, we cut scope but not quality to meet a client’s project limits: offer an alternative stack, revise the scope of work, build with basic design, and more.

Tip 8. Keep your documents updated

Project documentation can come first or after the feature development, depending on the specific situation. Most importantly, the information is consistent and available to all project participants in the latest approved version.

The more information on the system is included in the documentation, the less discussion is needed during development.

Tip 9. Track reports

Whatever choices project participants make, reports help focus on particular tasks and organize the development process.

You and your project manager need to decide in what form the team should report on complete tasks and how often (usually at the end of a Sprint). Add evaluation criteria that are necessary to consider the work to be done.

Tip 10. Pay attention to cultural differences

Pay attention to cultural differences when you have little experience hiring a team from a distant location. Cultural barriers are dire and cannot be justified through the offered low price.

Ensure the project manager and the team share high working standards. They have a good command of English. They understand your goals and concerns and know how to help.

Consider a dedicated team when time is your priority.

Why hire a dedicated team at IT Craft

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3 How Does Software Save Money on Startup Project Management?

A positive correlation exists between project progress and software in use. 77% of high-performing projects rely heavily on project management software.

Teams use project management software for tracking, collaboration, analysis, and control:

  • Transparency

The project manager and stakeholders receive a comprehensive overview of the project situation. They can identify inefficiencies, competing issues, and blockers. Then, the team concentrates efforts on problematic parts.

Scheduling and prioritization improve.

  • Productivity

On average, employees using workflow management software save 498 working hours annually.

The software enables automation. Productivity increases. Team members focus on their duties rather than writing reports or providing real-time progress updates.

  • Control

It is easier to adapt to changing project needs, avoiding surging costs.

Project managers identify whether they need to add or remove personnel based on upcoming tasks. They manage resources effectively while avoiding underutilization and, thus, unreasonable cost expenditures.

  • Integrations

Integration with accounting and financial software simplifies startups’ expense management. Businesses need less time to calculate their key performance metrics, e.g., burn rates.

Data exchange between different pieces of software the team uses for project development ensures structured processes. Team members have access to all project information gathered in one place.

  • Communication

Communication between stakeholders and the team streamlines while the software enables instant updates on deliveries, document and knowledge sharing, and more.

Risks of errors and misunderstandings decrease, ensuring the team delivers the envisaged solution on time.

  • Onboarding

Integrating a new person into an ongoing project is easier.

Project management software helps new project participants understand the project state, its direction, and upcoming challenges. They start contributing earlier and increase productivity faster.

4 How Much Can Software Used in Project Management for Startups Cost?

Price and complexity vary greatly. Most providers offer free plans for tiny teams. Simple plans are as low as $7 – $12+ for a user per month. Premium plans usually start at $59/month. Advanced plans will cost $250/month and higher. Custom pricing conditions are available upon request.

There is project management software for different project needs and niches, from early-stage startups through agencies to enterprises.

The problem is finding the right balance between the current and future costs.

You might overpay for unnecessary complexity in the early stages by using a highly customizable system.

However, the lack of customization can impact the team’s pace during scaling and expansion stages when using a simple solution.

Therefore, you should keep your long-term growth plans in mind as a startup.

Let’s analyze factors affecting the price of project management software: 

Number of users

Companies pay licensing costs for each system user per month. Flat fees and lower prices per user can apply to large teams. Software providers offer discounts for annual bills.

Free plans are often available for teams consisting of up to ten users.

Feature list

Basic functionality can be available for free or at a low price. Yet, software providers reduce it to the most essential features. The capacity of a growing project can be limited by low storage space, the number of available boards, report types, and more.

Still, a free is a great option if you do not need something advanced now and want to upgrade later.

Customization

Apart from the feature list, customization is an important consideration point. Ensure your software supports changes in your workflow and development methodology.

An upgrade to a higher pricing plan may be required. Or switch to an alternative provider.

Add-ons

System extensions are important for startup project management because they ensure process automation. Study the ecosystem across specific software solutions to ensure you can boost your workflow with the right plugin.

Open-source solutions

Open-source project management software can be deployed at no cost. Still, setting up may require time and experience. Indirect costs include hosting, software maintenance, improvements, customizations, and more.

Support

Premium customer support comes at a cost. Low-tier plans count only on slow, limited support. It makes sense to read reviews and consult with the development team to evaluate the probability of bumping into issues.

5 Choosing Best Project Management Tools for Startups

Choosing the right tools for startup project management is vital for sustainable project progress. Selection depends on several factors, such as project complexity and goals, applied methodology, risk management, and team cooperation.

Key features include:

Dashboard

Dashboards enable project tracking. They display task statuses, time estimates and expenditures, team performance, and more. Friendliness is crucial, ensuring zero distraction by unnecessary elements. Customization is required to support complex projects.

Collaboration

Management software streamlines communication by helping write descriptions, attach files and screenshots, leave and react to commentaries, and send notifications to assigned people.

Documentation

The more information on the system is included in the documentation, the less discussion is needed during the project. Management software should provide integrations with document/Wiki editing tools or offer internal document management instruments.

Charts and reports

Great software enables project managers to form and customize reports, quickly adding relevant data and comparing plans and actual deliverables. This helps manage workload effectively.

Templates

Using templates reduces the time needed for planning a workflow and establishing communication. Project managers benefit from available best practices, which they can further modify.

If you want specific titles, consider the following list of the most popular development management software for startups:

  • Jira – the best solution for software development teams.
  • Trello – nice for Kanban-style management.
  • Asana – great for progress tracking.
  • Wrike – works excellent for design and marketing.
  • Confluence – effective for project documentation.
  • Clickup – tracks all project activities from one centralized platform.

8 IT Craft’s Expertise in Startup Project Management

IT Craft’s clients rank high in software development experience provided by our teams.

IT Craft's recognition

The reason for it?

IT Craft PMs have extensive experience in Agile project management in tech startups. It lets our clients get their solutions up and running for a reasonable investment.

Our clients get: 

  • Software development focused on delivering business value.
  • Constant two-sided communication, clients’ participation in planning, and detailed reports ensure complete transparency. 
  • Flexible methodologies (Scrum, Agile) enable the team to react quickly to changed project priorities.
  • Fast-paced deliveries help clients incorporate user feedback quickly, catering to high user expectations.
  • Tech consulting helps find a cost-effective implementation for specific challenges.

Here are two of many successful projects:

MyCarrier

The client had a vision of their future product. They needed a team to launch an MVP on time and react quickly to changing priorities.

Scrum enabled us to integrate the client’s business department and IT Craft’s dedicated team into one cohesive unit. It allowed the client to respond to emerging business challenges efficiently.

MyCarrier

XPERTyme

The client had validated a prototype of the future system and wanted to launch a marketplace MVP fast to win first customers.

Agile project management enabled the team to deliver an MVP within a tight timeline. The IT Craft team focused on platform expansion, scaling, and transformation, helping the client grow their business.

XPERTyme

! Summing Up

Startup project management can be daunting. You need someone who prepares a plan, sorts out priorities, and maintains an efficient workflow.

Appointing the right person accelerates project success. You grow and scale smoothly.

As a startup owner, you should invest in a positive relationship with your project management and help them fulfill their duties effectively. For it: 

  • establish close collaboration
  • work in small sprints
  • provide your team with a timely response
  • find and use management software to boost workflow

This ensures your project goes in the direction you want.

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