Walk into any fast growing organization and you’ll undoubtedly be able to locate the Development Department. These are the folks that are talking loudly on the phone, walking back and forth between offices in hot pursuit of information, collaborating feverishly over sets of architectural plans, crunching construction costs into their handheld calculators, and more often than not, carrying around spreadsheet reports identifying unit opening dates. These folks include the Real Estate, Site Development, Design, and Construction teams. In some cases, the Development Department can also include the Sales team.
If you think about any location that is currently opened for business, regardless of its use; its traction began in the Development Department. Milestones (and subordinate tasks) were performed that progressed the project from phase to phase until its opening day. The tracking of these tasks, milestones, and phases is one way the Development Department reports its progress toward the goals of the organization.
The way the Department tracks its development is a measure of efficiency within the organization. Many smaller organizations use excel to track their development. The pros of using Excel is that it’s (basically) free. And most people have a general idea of how to move around in the program. The cons are that Excel is a one-size-fits-all; I can use it to manually track opening dates, or I can use it to quantify the boxes of girl scout cookies my local troop sold. Its functionality is limited when it is applied to development. Larger organizations will likely use software that is customized for development. The pros to development software are that it allows their team collaborate in a space that is easily accessible by the whole team at any time, most reporting and date calculations are automated, and it increases team member accountability. The cons of using a development software are the cost and arguably the user interface. If the cons could be overcome, using development software is the best choice for a growing company.
A thorough understanding of the organizations’ development timeline, using historical data sets and taking into account current industry standards of practice, is also required to improve efficiency. This notion includes an awareness of which tasks can be performed concurrently with minimal risk. The historical piece is rarely revisited by mediocre teams because of the time it takes to both analyze the shortfall, and strategize how to overcome it in the next projects. A proper development software should aid in capturing this data and reporting deficiencies for the teams’ retrospective.
Some development teams meet on a regular basis to review their upcoming project milestones, and the associated tasks. Well-oiled teams forego this arduous type of review. They already know what milestones and tasks need to be done based on their roles within the organization. The accountability structure is an established measure. Notification that a dependent task has been completed causes an immediate response to complete the subsequent task. When these well-oiled teams do meet, they use the time to talk about specific projects that have caused a deviation from their standard timeline. The facilitation of this type of meeting should be succinct and create value as there may be precedent set therewith.
The Development Teams’ approach to project management should be proactive versus reactive. The software they use for franchise operations should perpetuate this idea; foreseeing upsets, notifying its users before their dates slip, recognizing historical patterns, promoting team member accountability, and aiding in the facilitation of required meetings.