When you are passionate about something – say, a startup project – you don’t count the hours. It is no longer “work” so there is no point in tracking time, milestones or other project management jargon that the companies use. Right?
Analytics, tracking and all other PM-related technicalities are an important part of a successful startup and if you want your startup project to succeed, you will need to organize yourself sooner or later. A lot of tools are available to track projects, milestones, hours spent and the investment made. But before diving into it, let’s check out why Analytics and Tracking turn out to be important for startups.
- Goal-Oriented: Quite obviously, when you fix milestones to achieve within a set amount of time, you are “driven” by the goal. This has a definite psychological impact and pushes you and your team to achieve the goals within the stipulated time.
- Useful Metrics: Useful metrics show up how fast/slow you are during development and how well your startup project is performing post-release.
- Organized Approach Invites VCs: Angel investors and venture capitalists are drawn more towards an organized, well-tracked project than a random, haphazard startup despite the worthiness of, or the passion shown in the startup project.
There are three important aspects of a startup project to track:
- Project Management Tracking
- Marketing Analytics
- Financial Analytics
1. Project Tracking
From rough ideas exchanged over chat to milestones that have been planned over a period of time, tracking can help you achieve things faster and in a streamlined manner.
- Core Ideas on code and design
- Version control (Subversion)
- Time tracking / Milestones
- Feature Completion
- File Management
- Testing / Debugging Schedules
Choosing a software that will integrate all the various things would be great. As an example, take a look at how Basecamp (from 37Signals) integrates chat (exchange of ideas, thoughts and other discussions) with file management and schedule management.
If you are starting on a shoestring budget – which is often the case – Google Drive can be a great alternative. But it is not just about setting up goals and milestones pragmatically: it’s also about pushing yourself to achieve them.
A Word About Version Control
For developers, the most vital aspect of managing their code is version control. Not every startup developer buys into it but if you’re planning to make sure your code is managed well, version control is absolutely required.
Small projects, involving small teams of developers working on the same piece of code can manage things without version control. But as the project grows (code, number of developers working on code etc.) version control becomes a necessity.
2. Marketing Analytics
Since most startup teams are initially made up entirely of developers, the focus on marketing is often misplaced or diluted. But in a crowded market, only effective marketing can push your startup to greater heights through greater reach. An effective marketing comes only from good analytics of the marketing effort.
- Traffic, Conversion (in case of websites)
- Marketing Methods (press releases, mentions, social interaction, content marketing)
- A/B Testing of the “pitch”
- Search Engine Optimization
With well-funded projects, a separate marketing team is setup to manage the marketing efforts. But with smaller startups, you will need to handle these on your own or hire someone with marketing experience. For most startups, Google Analytics combined with the Webmaster Tools is good enough.
3. Financial Analytics (a.k.a the Budget)
After all, one finally needs to talk about money too. Even amazing startups with great usability need to make money to sustain the service and that’s where tracking financial returns comes into play. With startups that are funded, you’ll have to track how the funding is allocated and spent too.
- Funding, Allocation
- How well your monetization works
- In case of subscription-based services, which ones fare well
- Revenue per user
- Ad sources, other revenue models etc.
Startup projects are fun because you are passionate. Analytics and tracking might appear to take away the fun out of it but in the long run, this is what defines a successful project. Take the reins and you might find out how easy it is to manage projects when there is an organized plan.
Image by Flickr user George Morris