Project Management Best Practices: Brock Boddie/General Assembly


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You've managed an interactive project or two before, but it could have gone better — want to find out where you might improve? This class is designed to give an overview of the best practices for project management. From developing a solid project foundation to improving communication and collaboration within your team, this class will provide a clearer idea of where you should focus your energy as a project manager.

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Project Management Best Practices: Brock Boddie/General Assembly

  2. 2. GET THE FULL EXPERIENCE: LEARN WHAT YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT Unlimited access to all upcoming live streams On-demand streaming classes taught by top practitioners A growing video library, updated weekly Get access for only $25 USD/month. No risk—you can cancel at any time! START 14-DAY FREE TRIAL
  3. 3. AGENDA ‣ Who I am ‣ Basic project management ‣ Tactics ‣ Project strategies ‣ Personal strategies 2
  5. 5. INTRODUCTION I’M BROCK. ‣ I work for Huge as a Program Director, working on clients like Four Seasons ‣ 11 years managing interactive projects, large and small. ‣ Can code HTML/CSS and enough JavaScript and PHP to be a nuisance. ‣ Majored in Philosophy & Psychology and Masters in International Relations. 4
  7. 7. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES BASICS: 1.Scope 2.People 3.Timeline 4.Budget 6
  8. 8. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 7 WHAT ARE WE DOING? Scope is the circumscription of all that you are doing in all its glorious detail. For example: ‣ More scope almost always means more time. ‣ More scope also almost always means more budget. ‣ More scope may also mean that you need more resources.
  9. 9. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES BASICS: 1.Scope 2.People 3.Timeline 4.Budget 8
  10. 10. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES IF ONLY THIS PERSON WERE ON MY TEAM… You’ve got to have the right people in place to get the job done. Forcing someone to do something they don’t do isn’t a recipe for success and can impact your project negatively. For example: ‣ More people almost always means more budget. ‣ More people can mean that you can handle more scope. ‣ More people can mean less time – but… 9
  11. 11. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES One woman can have a baby in nine months, but nine women cannot have a baby in one month. 10
  12. 12. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Some things just take time. 11
  13. 13. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES BASICS: 1.Scope 2.People 3.Timeline 4.Budget 12
  14. 14. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES DONE YET? Time is related to scope, budget and resources in some pretty key ways: ‣ More time almost always means more budget. ‣ Larger scope almost always means more time. ‣ More resources can mean less time (see previous slide). 13
  15. 15. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES BASICS: 1.Scope 2.People 3.Timeline 4.Budget 14
  16. 16. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 15 SCHMUDGET. Your budget is obviously the anticipated price of the scope that you have committed to. Budget relates to the other areas in these high level ways: ‣ More time almost always means more budget. ‣ Larger scope almost always means more time. ‣ More resources can mean more budget — but with some work it’s a trade-off between time, resource price, and budget.
  18. 18. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Starting a project. 17
  19. 19. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 18 KNOW YOUR BUSINESS’ STRATEGY. If they’ll tell you, that is. How does your business view this SOW/account: ‣ Are we trying to develop a long term relationship? ‣ How much margin are we willing to give up to make the client happy? ‣ Do we just want to finish out this project?
  20. 20. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES KNOW YOUR SCOPE. Know what you’re on the hook for and what you’re not: ‣ What you said you’d do. ‣ What they agreed they’d do. ‣ Your documented assumptions. ‣ What its weaknesses are that work for you. ‣ What its weaknesses are that work against you. 19
  21. 21. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES CREATE A SCHEDULE. ‣ Make it specific. Very specific. 20
  22. 22. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 21 HAVE A PROJECT PLAN IN MIND. ANNOTATIONS Visual Design Development Quality Assurance REMEDIATION Review Wireframing UAT Launch Kickoff Requirements Gathering/ Discovery SPECIFICATIONS
  23. 23. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Operating a project. 22
  24. 24. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 23 ADAPT TO YOUR CLIENT’S PROCESS. They probably have a way of doing things and they’re not looking for you to change it — yet. ‣ Research: Figure out what they do and why they do it. ‣ Reduce friction: Adapt your process to accommodate if you can. ‣ Evolve: Keep them aware of inefficiencies that you believe they could change easily. ‣ Don’t tell them about everything they do wrong. It burns good will you’ll need when something is really messed up.
  25. 25. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES MAINTAIN YOUR SCHEDULE. You’re not organized enough to keep track of everything. Use your schedule to: ‣ Track expected resource utilization. ‣ Measure deviations from the original scope. ‣ Focus on tasks that are relevant today, this week, or this month. ‣ Illustrating the down-stream impacts of deviations from the plan. 24
  26. 26. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 25 COUNT THE HOURS. An essential task for projects with development; you’ve only budgeted so many hours or days to complete the scope. Keep track of how they’ll be consumed. ‣ How many hours of development and QA resources do you have? ‣ How many hours will each of your features take to build and test? ‣ How accurate are your estimates?
  27. 27. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES TRACK YOUR BUDGET. Calculate the following at least once a week: ‣ Actual hours, cost and billed hours to-date. ‣ Forecasted hours, cost and billed to complete. ‣ Actual+Forecasted hours, cost and billed. 26
  28. 28. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES SEND WEEKLY STATUS REPORTS. It holds everyone accountable. Include: ‣ What you accomplished this week. ‣ What you expect to accomplish next week. ‣ What you missed this week. ‣ What’s at risk. ‣ How you intend to mitigate the risk. If you’re doing things correctly, your client and team will never see anything surprising in this report. 27
  29. 29. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 28 KEEP THE PROJECT ORGANIZED. Imagine a year from now, someone wanted you to find that file that you sent them on that day that was about that thing — how would you find it? ‣ File naming a key. Example: DDMMYY_Deliverable_FileName_Version ‣ Folder Organization. Design it for someone who doesn’t know your project. ‣ Insist that team members abide the conventions.
  30. 30. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Managing your team. 29
  31. 31. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 30 HAVE SHORT, DAILY MEETINGS. We call them “scrums,” but whatever you call them, get together with your team regularly to track progress. ‣ Use your meeting notes, schedule, and actions to track people’s progress and ask: ‣ What are you working on? ‣ What do you need? ‣ Are you getting it? ‣ How can I help you? ‣ Use that meeting only to track progress
  32. 32. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 31 ASK FOR DATES AND DEPENDENCIES. People don’t usually volunteer when something will get done, so you must get them to estimate and commit. Some rebuttals: ‣ “Just give me your best guess — it helps me plan subsequent tasks.” ‣ “Is it because this one task is actually many tasks? Let’s break it down and estimate those tasks.” ‣ “Try working on this problems for an hour or two and giving me an estimate then.”
  33. 33. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 32 TAKE MEETING NOTES AND SEND THEM. You write the history for your project. Some tactics: ‣ After a meeting, always send your notes to the participants, breaking out: ‣ Decisions ‣ Actions — with names and delivery dates ‣ Gives participants and opportunity to correct the record. ‣ Send hot lists.
  34. 34. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES HAVE INTERNAL REVIEWS. OF EVERYTHING. You’re the line between what gets shown to the client and what doesn’t. Ask yourself: ‣ Is the deliverable complete? ‣ Is this the best work your team can do? ‣ What is the client going to pick on? ‣ What will our response be to those issues? ‣ More importantly: am I ready to put my name on this? 33
  35. 35. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES EVALUATE STAFFING. Especially on small projects, every team member is key to your success. you must have the right team members to get the job done. 34
  36. 36. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Managing your client. 35
  37. 37. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 36 REVIEW YOUR PROJECT PLAN. With the client. Sounds crazy. I know. It helps: ‣ Show the client what you’re doing. ‣ Show the client what you need them to do. ‣ Make the schedule be the bad guy instead of you (particularly when they miss dates). ‣ Keep your head up and focus on something other than the immediate term.
  38. 38. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES TALK TO THE CLIENT FREQUENTLY. Maybe or maybe not daily, but at least weekly outside of scheduled reviews. Use the call to: ‣ Talk about your risks and how you hope to mitigate them (perhaps with their help). ‣ As what risks they see. ‣ Manage expectations. ‣ Ask what they need you to do that you’re not. ‣ Build trust. 37
  39. 39. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES COMMUNICATE APPROPRIATELY. Know how your roll affects how your communication will affect the project. This encompasses several things: ‣ Messages that best come from a day-to-day PM: risks, delays, mistakes, status, changes in scope. ‣ Messages that come from someone not day-to-day: changes in scope, resolving contract disputes. 38
  40. 40. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES When it’s bad, talk more often, not less. 39
  41. 41. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Project strategies. 40
  42. 42. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Long term goal. 41
  43. 43. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES FOCUS ON YOUR LONG TERM GOAL. Say you’re trying to launch a site: ‣ Always look through the lens of your goal: ‣ Is this piece of work: Essential? Important? A nice-to-have? None of the above? ‣ Give your work attention in proportion to priority. ‣ See what connects today’s work and your goal. 42
  44. 44. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Remember: If it doesn’t connect to your goal, it gets no attention. 43
  45. 45. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Opportunity cost. 44
  46. 46. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Defined: The cost of an activity in terms of the next-best forgone activity. 45
  47. 47. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 46 PROVE IT. Everyone will always be asking you to do things that you think aren’t going to help your goal. Prove it. Example: Client wants to know why X area of the project has slowed down. At first blush, you know it’s because they were slow in getting your X, Y and Z, but there may be other reasons. You say, “Here’s the high-level answer, but in order to get you a more detailed answer, I’ll have to take my tech lead off of daily development project work for eight hours. That could delay the project by eight hours. I don’t believe there will be a corresponding efficiency reached as a result of getting this answer for you. Do you still want this answered?”
  48. 48. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Process as protection. 47
  49. 49. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 48 NOT A NASTY WORD. ‣ Allows your team to focus on the long term goal, while you get what you need. (e.g., morning scrums) ‣ A good process is practically invisible (i.e., low overhead). ‣ Articulate the physics of your project (e.g., deadlines, the process, how your client works) and make sure those physics stay predictable and constant.
  50. 50. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 49 EXAMPLES. ‣ 15 minute “scrum” with the core team every morning. Ask: ‣ What are you working on? ‣ Do you need help? ‣ Are you on track? ‣ What can I do for you? ‣ Hot lists sent at the beginning of every week detailing who needs to accomplish what and by when. ‣ Have the work in presentation form one full day before meeting with the client. ‣ Develop annotations in conjunction with ID and Design.
  51. 51. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Shelter your team. 50
  52. 52. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 51 LET THEM DO WHAT THEY’RE GOOD AT. ‣ Designers, developers, copywriters — dealing with the process, budget or project politics isn’t their job. ‣ Let your team members focus (e.g., don’t drag them into five meetings in a day, stop by their desk every three hours, et cetera). ‣ Provide your team with the most complete and relevant information so that they can make great decisions, too. Put it together for them as best you can. ‣ Set up consequences for inefficient resources.
  54. 54. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 53 Graham Arader: Strangers don’t give you money, friends do.
  55. 55. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES PUT IN THE EFFORT. Ultimately, project management is about managing people. ‣ No matter what, your project will be easier with friends than with enemies. But the key element is mutual respect. ‣ Confront people on your own team (in a neutral environment) who are abusive or engage in inappropriate behavior. Do not tolerate it. ‣ Always be patient — even if it takes 500 different ways of communicating the same thing. 54
  56. 56. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Personal strategies. 55
  58. 58. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Ownership: If it’s bad, it’s your fault. If it’s amazing, it’s your fault. 57
  59. 59. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES SMALL TIME CEO. ‣ Think of yourself as an actual business owner. ‣ What do you do if this is your money, your time, your scope. ‣ No matter what, the buck has to stop with you. 58
  60. 60. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Demand transparency. 59
  61. 61. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain 60
  62. 62. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES FICTION IS COMPLICATED. But a lot less complicated than reality. In order to actually solve problems, there should only be the known and unknowns. Never misdirection. Insist on it from everyone. 61
  64. 64. your performance, your team members, how does AfterEffects work? how do you put together CSS and HTML to build a page? Does it make sense to build this feature in JavaScript? why does my developer think that this thing that looks like one feature to me is actually three features to her? why does it matter that it’s three features? what does my developer need to develop this feature? what process do my team members find most efficient? why is our development process this way? what does the business need? how does my client’s business actually work? what is the project history? in what ways could my last project could have been more successful? what can I do to make
  66. 66. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 65 MAKE PROJECT DECISIONS. Not arbitrary ones, of course — as quickly as possible. ‣ Collect relevant information, organize it, and make a decision — and be able to justify that decision in facts or grounded suppositions. ‣ Approach decisions from the perspective of whether or not the decisions will have made sense a month from now based on what you knew at the time you made the decision. ‣ Document your big decisions and the process that went into it.
  67. 67. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Remember: Indecision is a decision. 66
  68. 68. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Think solutions. 67
  69. 69. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES When you give someone a problem without a proposed set of solutions, you’re making it their problem. 68
  70. 70. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 69 HOW TO SOLVE IT. In 1945, George Pólya wrote a nice book called “How To Solve It”. It’s about solving math problems, but it can be abstracted from math and be useful for PMs, too. ‣ Understand the problem ‣ Devise a plan ‣ Carry out the plan ‣ Review and Revise the plan
  71. 71. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES Carry water for your team and be the catalyst. 70
  73. 73. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 72 COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY. ‣ Know how and when to communicate: the point of talking, emailing, or presenting is to actually communicate. ‣ Know who you’re talking to and where they’re coming from; anticipate the discourse you’ll have with someone before having it. You may save two people’s time. ‣ Have some communication strategy in mind. ‣ People tend to make better decisions with better information.
  74. 74. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 73 COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY. IN PERSON. INSTANT MESSAGE (PHONE). ‣ Words ‣ Words ‣ Visual Aids ‣ Visual Aids ‣ Voice ‣ (Voice) ‣ Face ‣ Body Language ‣ Shared Physical Experience
  76. 76. PROJECT MANAGEMENT BEST PRACTICES 76 YOUR ATTITUDE MATTERS. If you’re not calm and composed, you’re not going to get calm and composed from your team. The long-term solutions to your problems do not come from your urgency and panic. Your generosity (of time, effort, et cetera) will pay off in a better project.