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Taking your Ideas Beyond

5 Tips for sizing your project

This is it!!! You just had a flash of creativity and the project you have been dreaming of developing just materialised in your mind… Great!!! Now what??

Some will just lock themselves in their office, workshop or lab and start hacking it down, assembling, soldering, coding… it has to be done today!!

Others will take a piece of paper and start drawing, making a shopping list and evaluating how it can be done.

At the end, all of the above is okay as long as you include project sizing as part of your thought process.

Think big… they say!
So many times I have experienced students getting so excited about a project that they do forget to create a context in which it would fit. I have seen professionals creating a product and, at the end, wondering if there is a customer for it.
Unless you want to make it an academic project, you need to size it up and evaluate how far you want to go before starting the assembly of the project.

  1. 1) The lifecycle of your product
Let me correct one line of thinking so many of us (me included) have fallen into: I used to think that the project consists of the construction and delivery of the product, yet, the project also includes the research, planning, learning (if you do not have yet all the skills to create it) and, of course, the constructing, assembling and testing. A full project includes all elements that will WOW the end user, regardless if that is your boss or a customer that will pay for the final product. The project includes the lifecycle of your product from A to Z.
2) Mind mapping
Mind mapping come on top of my list of tools to size a project. It allows to quickly evaluate all the branches and dependencies of a project without spending too much time into formatting it. Mind mapping (read my article Mind mapping: organise your ideas) is a powerful way to jog down the idea, evaluate how far it needs to go and devise of the phases that you wish to tackle first.
3) No deadlines = no deliverables
Now that you might have a better idea about your project, you probably want to put some sort of time deadlines on it. Knowing how much time and effort you can/wish to spend are critical elements to understand when each deliverable will be produced, and yes, if there is no deadline, you take the risk of having things dragging and lagging behind, to the point when you might have a second idea and not finish this one.
Deadlines help size the project by providing a frame of reference about when you (and your customer) can expect its delivery. If the deadlines stretch too far out, break down the project into smaller deliverables that can be better managed.
4) Research and compare
Time to open your browser and spend some time for a little research. Unless your project is the first one of a kind, you might want to check similar technologies or products on the market, research about their development time and documentation about the conception phases. There is much to learn from previous attempts (successful or not) and it helps identify your positioning in the market towards any possible competitors. Part of the concept phase, you should evaluate what is out there. If it takes a great cook 4 hours to prepare a meal, it is most likely that you will be in the same ballpark when creating yours.
5) Use Teamwork
The time it takes to create a team is precious, and the value it give you back is invaluable. Building a good team requires research, discussion and convincing as you want to make sure you have (like the expression says) the right people on the bus. If you mind map is well done, you should be able to identify the areas where you might be missing skillsets, brain power and support. Assembling a solid team (doesn’t need to be large) is critical to the success of a project as dips and successes will follow during the lifecycle of the development and implementation. Only a solid team can weather the storms and celebrate the victories!
In conclusion
The size of a project can vary from a short expedition with friends to the creation of wonderful products and services for clients at large. All projects require the same preparation but vary in amplitude of work. A good entrepreneur and creator is one that not only gets the idea right but also can scope the project, identify the size and make the right decisions to address the requirements in consequence. The planning is part of the project, not before the project.

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About the writer: Flavio Stiffan is an allrounder content producer and business development specialist with focus on creating market expansion strategies supported by academia programs. He has implemented and managed alliance networks and is at the core of academia relationship management with a network of over 130 universities and 300 technology companies and distributors. For more articles, visit or check out his profile on LinkedIn.

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