Sound project management is a much undervalued skill. While it will help bring your project in on-time and on-budget – perhaps more importantly it will allow your project to incorporate innovation that helps differentiate you from your competitors. Since most projects demand one to one relationships to ensure the confidence of information and direction - these “Janus” (The Roman God of Gatekeeping) or gatekeepers are crucial to a project’s success.
There are some project management certifications and programs but few are attainable within the media industry especially given the fact that technology, developer skill sets and software toolsets change frequently. So how do we teach or learn sound project management skills in an ever-changing environment. I believe one of the most important ingredients is selecting the right kind of person. If we have very few classically trained project management experts in new media then we have to assume they are being created “on the fly” through the school of hard knocks.
The type of personality required has to have some special traits in my estimation. He or she has to show a real willingness to understand the barriers, influencing factors and the strengths and weaknesses of those involved in the project (a willingness to walk a mile in their shoes). The person must also have a broad affinity for learning technology but not a love of technology since you have to be very broad-minded and objective to mesh or mold the various pieces of a project into one coherent product delivery.
A new media project is a complex process that can involve a number of stakeholders that can range from third party vendors, technology suppliers, steering committees, non-profit organizations, partnerships, senior management and a variety of internal departments. Each may have different roles and stakes in the project and all must be satisfied to some degree with the outcome of the process. The following includes a few tips on effectively a maintaining leadership role in the project while building consensus during the process.
1. Gather information- learn as much as possible about the project and the stakeholders at the outset.
- Request client information: annual reports, newspaper articles, photos, books, newsletters, video, Broadcast news stories, magazine interview, industry reviews , special internal communications, written questionnaire, telephone interviews and employee interviews
2. Develop a clear understanding of execution of the project
- Understand timelines & potential consequences of missing the timelines
- Review skills of key stakeholders and or project team
- ensure a detailed proposal is provided and approved
- Ensure financing is in place
- Document each step and all communications
- Understand your barriers & obstacles: solutions
- Understand all the deliverable requirements, who needs them and why
- Define what mandate or authority you have to manage the project
3. Communication at all levels
- Written documentation at each phase of the project
- Restating client’s agreed terms of business
- 1dentifying changes in process: approval, requirements, personnel, time and materials
- When not to communicate: maintain project focus - politics, personality
4. Provide a client with what they want - not what they ask for
- Understand what is needed and rely on your experience
- Identify problems early and act to provide a solution
- Draw a conclusion: evaluate your work and those on your team
5. Deliver quality & innovation
- No one will reward poor work delivered on-time and on-budget
- Learn from your mistakes
- Improve the methodology
- Fear not when doing right
- Challenge yourself
6. Evaluate your project after completion and leave a legacy
- During the project create a process for tracking the effectiveness of the project
- Archive the project assets for future changes
- Ensure that one key stakeholder remains responsible for the project future success