CEO at Econsultancy
04 July 2002 17:53pm
Anyone got any views on where (web) project management is likely to go? More virtual project teams? Online collaborative tools used more for distributed teams? Increased standardisation of methods and processes (if so which? RAD, DSDM, PRINCE2, RUP?)
Any thoughts most welcome (to help with a conference speach I'm giving later in the year).
Project Manager at Invisible Site
09 July 2002 12:54pm
As a practicing web project manager myself working on commercial e-business projects, I have learnt a number of lessons over the past number of years and these lessons are influencing my outlook on the future:
1) Processes are important, but good people are even more important. This means a great team with a weak process will generally outperform a weak team with a strong process.
Instead of choosing one single methodology to run the shop, PMs should be conversant in a wide number of methodologies and pick, choose, and modify the best methodology for the job at hand. I don't one single methodology will ever work for all the possible types of projects. Every project is different and so are management, development, and cultural styles. I think it's a matter of what's best for the job at hand. We have to all become better students of project best practices and processes. That means constantly devouring pages of project development case studies...
2) Good communication is more important that rigid processes and bureaucracy. That means we need project leadership (vision, motivation, guidance and coaching) more than project management (book-keeping, performance metrics, bug statistics) Communication will become more important than ever before. PMs will need better training in organizational dynamics, psychology and coaching skills.
3) Documentation is important, but it's deadly to spend too much time polishing up your detailed and well-formatted documentation and not spending enough time working on the actual product. Take a hint from Cockburn's "Agile Software Development" and produce documentation that is just sufficient for the job, but nothing more. Better thin wads of ugly document that gets the job done, then reams of beautifully-formatted documents that take more time to produce than the project itself. (I believe there was already a thread on this in this forum)
Hope this helps.
On 17:53:27 4 July 2002 Ashley wrote:
>Anyone got any views on where (web) project management is
>likely to go? More virtual project teams? Online
>collaborative tools used more for distributed teams?
>Increased standardisation of methods and processes (if so
>which? RAD, DSDM, PRINCE2, RUP?)
>Any thoughts most welcome (to help with a conference
>speach I'm giving later in the year).
10 July 2002 09:12am
I'd like to add in a point that I forgot.
The main thing that *will not* change in the future of web project management is that it's still about delivering projects on time and on target. It's not about whether XP, RAD, RUP is better then spiral or waterfall. It's about what will help you deliver faster, cheaper and better.
But despite all the advances in project management techniques, one thing has not changed. You can have your projects fast, cheap or good, but you still can't have all three together.
Director at Feels like mine
29 July 2002 13:36pm
I'd like to take the time to add my agreement and comments to Geoff’s points. Quite awhile back we took on the Prince2 methodology in order to add a far more formal structure to the way we ran site builds. Whilst this has indeed proved useful in standardising the process and techniques already being utilised, it should be emphasised that a methodology such as P2 should be adapted to fit not just your own company, but also each individual build. A 'pick and choose' attitude is required, up to a point at least. After all, the rigid structure of something like P2 was created (and evolved in) industries where there has been far more time to standardise timescales / pricing etc and where things aren't changing every five minutes as they do in our fast moving industry.
Geoff makes a good point on documentation. I have already seen the danger of pm's rigidly following all P2 doc 'rules' and basically overloading those involved with reports and so on. Important information and responsibilities can and will be missed if a member of the team (internal, client and third party) cannot be bothered wading through mountains of paper. So communication is definitely the key as Geoff says.
It appeared to me that during our recent troubled times there has been a panic to 'do things properly' - i.e. in the same fashion as other existing industries. This was not a bad idea at all but again we have to remember that things are slightly different for us. A good example of this is that it is of vital importance for a producer / pm to understand all aspects of the build, from business through to technology. By this I mean that tracking plans / budgets and so on should not be an end to a web producers responsibilities.
A return to the 'jack of all trades' approach? Sort of. I used to have a major role and responsibility in all things at my company but it became obvious that this could not continue; hardcore development requires brilliant developers; new business needs a different set of skills. But I personally still need to have enough knowledge to understand what these seemingly disparate groups need to achieve and how they'll go about it. Simply becoming an 'implementer' of a rigid project methodology will not be beneficial in the long run.
Consultant at Freelance
31 July 2002 13:03pm
on the subject of virtual teams, like many others trying to cut costs over the last 12 months we trialed using an Delhi based development company but (like many others I have since spoken to) the time difference and lack of a real world realtionship makes the remote management of the project difficult (to say the least) and your reaction times much slower than your average new media client has come to expect.
I am inclined to agree that the "jack of all trades" is becoming a more desirable background for project managers, who can see the big picture and commercial rationale behind a project and not simply see a nicely colored gantt chart :-)
However, recent experiences as a freelancer with a number of agencies has been worrying, the producer role has often been axed and project management transfered to trad. account handlers with little technology understanding and often from ad backgrounds. Result: over budget and overstylised , many of my designer colleagues now despair but are unlikely to rock the boat as indispensible staff are few and far between. There seems to be a trend in agency land right now of starting from scratch in building their interactive depts., lack of PM means lack of profitability , so hopefully experience will win out !
31 July 2002 13:47pm
Your final paragraph has spurred me to post as it is a sentiment I've come across quite a bit of late. [for the record I'm very much pro 'producer' versus the dumbed down 'project manager' but more on that another time]
I'm wondering, has the new media industry not taken a couple of steps back over the last 6 months or so?
Not in all areas granted, and certainly not at all firms because there are some very good companies out there. There are also a lot of very experienced and talented people freelancing having lost their jobs in the dotcom bust.
However, a lot of people I've talked to seem to be despairing at the low levels of quality and experience they are encountering, citing things that are reminiscent of where I thought we were a few years ago.
I have to say the biggest culprits seem to be the advertising and, to a lesser degree, marketing and DM, agencies. I've always liked to have a go at the ad agencies' total lack of understanding of digital channels but have they really *still* not learned?
I fear that as specialist new media agencies have gone bust, and clients have perhaps retreated in fear and suspicion to their old ad agencies, it is these ad agencies who are now doing a lot of digital work. But in so many cases they really aren't up to it. It will be a great shame if clients get disappointed again as a result and blame the medium.
Don't get me wrong, ad agencies largely do what they do very well, and I'm a great believer in integrating channels and marketing communications, but you do need specialist skills, knowledge and experience to do digital well.
We should all be sharing knowledge and expertise and we should all recognise what we are good at and respect others for what they are good at. Agencies, freelancers and clients must work together to get the best overall result. If I've learned anything about web project management it is that you need a) good communication b) generalists and specialists from disparate disciplines working together and c) you must iterate all time - there are no 'answers', you are always striving to improve as you learn more.
This site was started with the vision of sharing e-business information and advice so that people could learn to use the digital channels' incredible potential for creating business value. It is not only for new media specialists but also for generalists, or others looking to learn more about digital channels. So I'm not criticising ad agencies and others for being ad agencies, or whatever they are, but I am disappointed when I see unnecessary lack of progress which can only reflect badly on the medium.
01 August 2002 17:14pm
In my agency days we went through a lot of agonising over 'producer' versus 'project manager'. Most people would much rather be called 'producer' as they felt that 'project manager' was essentially someone who only managed time, cost and quality in a gantt-chart like way. This usually equated to fire-fighting and ass-kicking all day long. 'Producer' on the other hand had connotations of creativity, vision and leadership.
I have to say I certainly never wanted to be thought of as a 'project manager', particularly because I came from a background as a TV 'producer'. You don't really get TV 'project managers' do you? Most people are impressed by 'TV producer' even though they're not really sure what one does. They're not so impressed, I suspect, by 'web project manager'. And vanity is, of course, an important motivator!
I do think that 'producer' is better for web work as it does mix marketing and IT to such a degree. You do require generalist and specialist skills and you must be able to work both with, and understand, 'back end' IT types and creative/commercial types. I also think that you have to have vision and leadership skills to actually *make* a web project happen successfully. Producing web projects has been described as more like being an orchestra conductor than a traditional project manager. It is certainly not the same as factory-line style project management.
That said, I think that multi-skilled web 'producers' are most relevant for small-to-medium size projects. They can be account manager, producer and project manager rolled into one - often they do the IA, content, marketing etc. roles too actually. However, for bigger projects it does make sense to have 'project managers' who really do concentrate just on documentation, monitoring costs, resourcing, reporting and that all important ass-kicking.
Some people are very much 'producers' and others like to be 'project managers'....
Head of Protection Products at Citi Bank UK Consumer (Egg.com)
05 August 2002 12:29pm
I’m not sure if it is as simple as Project Manager vs Producer.
Particularly on the agency side, there would be someone to manage the client, probably an Account Manager. When it comes to roles and responsibilities, I would imagine that there is a proportion of producers and a proportion of project managers that are perfectly capable of managing the client. In the same way as some Account Handlers would be equally as comfortable being labelled a Producer or Project Manager and fulfilling the functions more commonly associated with that title.
In essence a title is a title is a title, and frequently means very little. Vanity is vanity, and is important when people want it to be important. However when it comes to getting the job done a skilled / flexible / multi skilled person will be able to fulfil all the roles.
When it comes to the development of a web site, the client, in my opinion is often disorientated by the title of producer and more comfortable with the title of Project Manager. Project Manager is the central point that provides the steer, has the overall view of the project in relation to the clients objectives, and can be the champion of the client as well as the team.
Of course this is dependent on size, the larger the project becomes the need for distinct roles and responsibilities become more apparent, in this case there is still the need for a ‘role’ to have a ‘helicopter view’, and I would say that a person if titled ‘Producer’ would not be perceived to have the gravitas with the client.
In my experience the best ‘teams’ are those that can be almost interchangeable in their roles, and have cultivated a strong cross communication network where producer/project manager/account manager can speak to the team or the client about all matters, but they have decided at the beginning of the project what their specific roles and responsibilities are.
Surely the key to this is flexibility, and understanding a particular individuals strengths and weaknesses, and appreciate that some PM are more than ‘pen pushers’. There is a role to fill, and for the right people the title becomes almost irrelevant.
Prince 2 is just common sense anyway!
On 17:14:43 1 August 2002 Ashley wrote:
>In my agency days we went through a lot of agonising over
>'producer' versus 'project manager'. Most people would
>much rather be called 'producer' as they felt that
>'project manager' was essentially someone who only managed
>time, cost and quality in a gantt-chart like way. This
>usually equated to fire-fighting and ass-kicking all day
>long. 'Producer' on the other hand had connotations of
>creativity, vision and leadership.
>I have to say I certainly never wanted to be thought of as
>a 'project manager', particularly because I came from a
>background as a TV 'producer'. You don't really get TV
>'project managers' do you? Most people are impressed by
>'TV producer' even though they're not really sure what one
>does. They're not so impressed, I suspect, by 'web project
>manager'. And vanity is, of course, an important
>I do think that 'producer' is better for web work as it
>does mix marketing and IT to such a degree. You do require
>generalist and specialist skills and you must be able to
>work both with, and understand, 'back end' IT types and
>creative/commercial types. I also think that you have to
>have vision and leadership skills to actually *make* a web
>project happen successfully. Producing web projects has
>been described as more like being an orchestra conductor
>than a traditional project manager. It is certainly not
>the same as factory-line style project management.
>That said, I think that multi-skilled web 'producers' are
>most relevant for small-to-medium size projects. They can
>be account manager, producer and project manager rolled
>into one - often they do the IA, content, marketing etc.
>roles too actually. However, for bigger projects it does
>make sense to have 'project managers' who really do
>concentrate just on documentation, monitoring costs,
>resourcing, reporting and that all important ass-kicking.
>Some people are very much 'producers' and others like to
>be 'project managers'....
05 August 2002 12:34pm
For Prince2, write Common Sense.
Prince 2, in my opinion, is overated and used by some to scare the unwary
05 August 2002 15:55pm
All good points Charlie. In particular, I think you are right that clients feel less comfortable with 'producer' than 'project manager' - the latter somehow sounds like its hard work worth paying for whilst the former sounds a little 'airs and graces' / Oscar winning performance-esque...
As you say, titles don't ultimately matter, a good team with people who communicate well is by far the most important thing.
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