in Books, Reading books in 2013

Interactive Project Management

Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process by Nancy Lyons, Meghan Wilker

interactive-pmThat is a pretty good book. Hands-on, not much non-sense, applicable. You can also get the process presented in the book and 17 cheat sheets – completely for free. Take a look at download them: Interactive Project Management

Interactive projects are chaotic by nature, yet some sense of order must be imposed. The key is a good process, and the key that is a focus on people.

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All this, which may seem labor intensive, actually saves time and energy, and improves quality, success rates, and team members’ and clients’ satisfaction.

I remember why I highlighted that bit. In my experience, people in the digital industry don’t like ‘methods’. They like to do the way they do it. Sometimes it works, other times not. Our goal was to make the experience for the customer consistent.

Documents must outline exactly what’s being produced, why it’s being produced, and how its success will be measured—anything short of this and the project will suffer.

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Scope can’t be defined in the proposal

aka. How can you know what the problem is, if you don’t know what the problem is?

They’re experts in their business but don’t always understand the interactive industry or what’s being built.

Also important. They are in their industry often for 20+ years. They know what works, what their customers like, etc. It doesn’t work if they steer the wheel too much and it doesn’t work if you do. Cooperation is the key.

Don’t wait until the end to involve them; your project is better when programmers and creative professionals collaborate.

Should be standard PM 101. Involve your stakeholders early on.

Any content or design that gets in the user’s way is a waste of the client’s money. To meet users’ needs and bring them closer to the information or products they’re looking for, you have to spend time understanding them.

User involvement, usability tests, root cause analysis, etc. I won’t go into detail because I did it before – multiple times.

The team developing your work—whether in-house or an external agency—needs your knowledge and expertise. Don’t expect—or tolerate—an interactive team that disappears for a few months and comes back with something you need. Expect to give lots of input along the way.

aka. iterative development.

Done poorly, project management looks a lot like email shuffling and calendar making.

I have also seen this – it happens quite a lot and worsens the image of PM by a lot – especially if those PM try to push methodologies that the a) not understand and/or b) don’t apply correctly.

A good project manager can do the job with nothing more than a pencil and a piece of paper. Her real tools are her thinking, analyzing, communicating, and motivating.

This is also a perfect cure from ‘softwareism’. Let them do the work they do without tools for a few weeks. Soon they will realize what really matters.

The two most common elements that the project manager will react to are problems (something went wrong!) and new developments (something changed!).

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Sending an email that reads, “See below” isn’t going to bring people and solutions together. Be explicit and give people the information they need up front.

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Business is about relationships.

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this means not making ridiculous rules that make people feel like they’re in grade school.

Especially not with creative or intelligent people. Don’t fuck with them.

In the end, if they’re doing good work and getting it done on time, does it really matter if they came in at 9:00 a.m. or 9:34 a.m.? Probably not.

Us—people are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

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As a project manager, actively manage meetings—the people, the topics, and the energy.

Every meeting has:

a) Participants – not everybody has to be there every time
b) An agenda – including time slots
c) A moderator

I’ll write about an other book about meetings which will cover this in a bit more detail.

Be proactive and frame the discussion so that clients understand exactly what the expectations are (“Yes, we really do need a weekly status meeting” or “No, you can’t email us 14 times a day and expect an immediate response to each one”). Also make the intentions behind the expectations clear (efficiency, cost-effectiveness, sanity); it builds trust with clients. Earn trust and manage expectations all at once? Perfect.

Quality = Expectation – Result. Ideally, you can keep the expectations a bit lower. However, you have to do that constantly otherwise the hedonic treadmill jumps in. Therefore, the best strategy (result and effort) is to keep expectations realistic.

Establishing what is expected of your team keeps everyone feeling like they’re in control of their own work.

Also important and often neglected. Always include a quality measurement to a job.

Many clients feel disempowered when it comes to interactive projects and say things like, “Well, you guys know best!” Remind them that their knowledge of their industry and their business is invaluable and their participation is critical.

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Ask, don’t assume

I’m going to repeat that, over and over again. It applies to all parts of your life, btw.

As the project manager, you should want to support the people around you, and the entire internal team should want to make the clients happier than they ever imagined.

Deming said:

Quality is when the worker is proud of his work

I’m with Deming on it and say that workers want to do good work. However, the environment often doesn’t want to. Support your team members and you will deliver good results.

The most common example of scheduled communication is the status report. Make a schedule for disseminating the status report and stick to it. Also, establish what the report’s content will be and stick to that, too.

See the communication schedule from Alpha Project Managers XXX.

The emails could include what was accomplished the previous week, what is currently being worked on, and what is slated for the following week.

Who gets status emails? Everyone. Yes, everyone. Not just clients and/or decision makers. Everyone should be in the loop and on the same page. Think back to those four attributes we talked about: open, clear, collaborative, and thorough. These group emails will help keep the project working within these lines.

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CREATE A CHANGE LOG.

You don’t need to put every small thing on it but track changes in goals or in the project plan.

We all want to give clients what they want. But here’s the problem: What they want isn’t always what they need.

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Being a good project manager is about giving context, not just to-dos.

Why? Why? Why?

Scope can’t be determined before Research & Planning because neither the client nor the agency truly understands what needs to be built. The findings obtained during planning and research—the scope of the project—are what make a reasonable estimate possible.

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CLIENT: “Here’s what we want…” USER EXPERIENCE ARCHITECT: “Here’s what’s going to be best for the users…” CONTENT STRATEGIST: “Here are the messages and information we have to communicate…” DEVELOPERS: “Here’s the functionality that will create a successful product…” PROJECT MANAGER: “Hey guys, this is due on Friday and we’re trending a little over on budget…”

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Gather your entire team in a room to review the features, the content needs, and the overall volume of work. Use the individual team members’ expertise to create the most accurate estimate of how much time it will take them to complete their own tasks.

Yup, don’t do the estimates yourself. Talk to the experts.

If the client is fixating on details that can be easily changed later, help them focus on what essentials need to be approved for the project to move forward.

A great tip.

The more realistic the stage version is, the better.

I also love this. I often see and have seen dummy content. Then some headline is longer than expected and suddenly the design breaks.

If a meeting is possible, do it. In a meeting, you can control how the stage version is unveiled, and it’s easier to read the clients’ faces for nonverbal reactions. It’s also a much easier way to gather initial feedback and answer any questions. A conference call (or webcast) can be an effective second choice if a meeting isn’t possible. And if you must send the information electronically, include your “presentation” in the body of the email.

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Launch on a Wednesday after lunch

Or even stronger: Never launch on Friday.

How you celebrate is up to you and your team. Have a lunch, buy ice cream sandwiches, go to happy hour, or take a field trip. Whatever it is, it should be fun and carefree (the exact opposite of the launch day atmosphere).

Also often neglected. I think it’s part of the project to do that.

Hold a post-project team meeting

Also very important. Do a post-mortem analysis. What went good / bad? What should be done more often / less often? How could it be prevented? What are the lessions-learned?

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