All students completing any one of the UOW IT based degrees will have the option to take part in a year long subjected based around a real life project. Before 2016, the subject was compulsory for all students but has since been made an option. It is arguably one of the hardest, yet fulfilling subjects that you have the option of doing. Hair will be lost, sleep will little (especially by the end) and by the end, you’ll just want it to be over. However, the feeling of accomplishment once Tradeshow is over is one of the best feelings ever.

The following are some tips on surviving the UOW IT Project subject from the 2014 and 2015 UOW Tradeshow winners for Best Project. Stewart’s team won the 2014 Tradeshow with their personal training app, Bounce. Benjamin’s team won the 2015 Tradeshow with their health data analytics application, Public Health Portal. Benjamin and Stewart are Executives of WITS.

Communication is key

Communicate with your client, communicate with your team, communicate with the University and other stakeholders. These three sets of people all have to be on the same page and strategies must be put in place to ensure they are up to date on your project and expectations. Don’t be afraid to contact any of these stakeholders as they’re generally more than happy to answer any question or concern.

Good communication with your client and your subject coordinator is vital to the success of your project. Try to have weekly (or fortnightly) meetings and continue until the project slows down and gets into the “doing” stage where you roll up your sleeves and buckle down. Even when you don’t have a weekly meeting planned, it’s still a great idea to send a quick heads up of your progress for that week. If possible allow your client access to your project so they can see your progress.

Getting through to your teammates is very important. There are plenty of free resources available to make sure your team is on task and communicating effectively in the appropriate way. An example of some awesome and free solutions would be the following:

Facebook Group: This is a no-brainer as everyone checks Facebook, and it’s a good idea to have a private group setup for any quick announcements/updates/etc that the team needs to know about. It’s also great for posting up quick screenshots of your progress.

Instant Messaging: Instant messaging is a must in modern projects and using something like Telegram or Slack allows for communication instantly. Make sure you have a serious and non serious chat setup so you can separate work from play and not have the serious things missed.

Trello: Trello is great for setting up tasks, assigning them and then organising them so that everyone can see exactly what needs to be done and who is doing it. There are also tools like Ganttify which automatically create gantt charts from the trello cards.

Scoping document and expectations of your team/project

Ensure that your team and the client are on the same page when speaking about the goals and objectives of the scope of the project. Scope Creep is a common occurrence where the client asks for extra features or improvements which aren’t in the plan or out of scope. In the first instance, it’s always important to let the client know that it might not be possible and that the plan would need to be modified to accommodate the change.

It is also good to make sure that your expectations of work match that of the client. Some clients accidently forget that you’re just a team of uni students, as well as the fact you’re not being paid in order to deliver this solution. If anything ever goes out of hand in this context contact your subject coordinator immediately and work with them and your client to resolve the issue.

Set firm team guidelines and hold yourself to them

Firm team guidelines and “lines in the sand” are what keeps the team from descending into chaos. Ensure you have a document laid out which communicates the rules and expectations when it comes to meeting attendance, roles, conflict resolution and appropriate standard of communication within the team. These guidelines of course would be complemented by the university’s guidelines on bullying and harassment and other matters of that nature.

That’s the end of this installment. In our next blog post, we’ll go through some pointers for the big day - Tradeshow. Stay tuned.

Image attribution: on Flickr (