Nothing epitomizes the revolutionary nature of the modern startup more than KickStarter, a place where people can go to raise money not from banks, not from IPOs, but from the general public, simply by asking them to put enough faith into a project to donate
toward its creation. Crowdfunding is a game-changer for business and opens up experimental possibilities that many not have been on the table just years ago, but if the project isn’t managed properly,
it’s also doomed from the start.
Crowdfunding puts experimental project managers in an interesting position. It’s well known in modern management circles that creative projects are disastrous when they are “over-planned.” Projections and up-front design end up failing us, leading to wasted
resources. At the same time, it’s difficult or impossible to get public buy-in without specific promises and concrete goals. How can project management offer security without falling victim to big design up front?
1. Define Priorities
The ultimate reason for the failure of up-front design in creative products is the inability to deal with change. Unexpected costs, changing environments, new technologies, and internal or external politics end up foiling the original plan.
Rather than making a series of promises about exactly what the end result will be, smart project management starts with a list of goals, and then prioritizes them.
The core promise of any crowdfunding project must be a minimum viable product. You must be sure that this product can be built to completion well within the limits of your crowdfunding campaign, and that everything else is a bonus.
Building on top of the promise of a minimum viable product, you can set secondary and tertiary goals that will enhance your project’s unique selling proposition. These goals are not guaranteed and will take second priority.
The reason for this is simple: if you start with the promise of a
minimum viable product, and you add functionality where possible, you will dramatically reduce your risks for failure.
Once you have defined your priorities, you can organize them into short iterations of two to four weeks. The iterations start with your primary goals, then move on to secondary and tertiary goals. The reason for this is that initial iterations may fail or present
learning opportunities. You must be open to adapting and rescheduling iterations for this reason.
Simple project management software like WorkZone is advised. Complicated, in-depth plans tend to be circumvented by reality, and are difficult for teams to follow effectively.
Use a tool that allows for task-dependencies, since rescheduling is common. You don’t want to have to deal with clunky software that makes it difficult to adapt to changing plans.
One of the purposes of this iterative process is the opportunity for testing. Up-front designs make testing difficult or impossible, while an iterative approach allows you to perform tests as you go.
It is a very good idea to involve the stakeholders (crowdfunders) in this process. Let your backers use and interact with the product during its various stages and offer their feedback. If possible, get some user testing involved so that you can learn not just
form what they say, but how they actually use the product.
Remember, crowdfunding may be different from approaching traditional investors, but that doesn’t mean you can solve everything with a sleek marketing campaign. Crowdfunders are smart, and they still expect concrete promises and a solid game plan. And, of course,
if the project fails, you won’t have much luck getting additional funding.
Approach crowdfunding with smart project management skills, on the other hand, and you just might achieve something that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.