Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Project Management is Dead"

A recent podcast by E-Commerce Times’ Dana Gardner about technology projects got my attention. In it, Ron Schmelzer, of the advisory and analysis firm ZapThink, says: “We think that the whole idea of project management is just an increasing fallacy in IT anyway. There is no such thing now.” He’s not the first to suggest that project management is dead (Summers 2008; de Baar 2007), and he won't be the last.

When you say “project management” some will immediately envision Gantt charts and Microsoft Project. Others will envision planning that requires a static environment as your project unfolds, communicating that assumes that your team is in one geographic location, or the luxuries of dedicated staff and a dedicated project manager. In the Gardner podcast, Schmelzer specifically mentions the interconnections between different IT projects as the reality that makes project management harder and harder to practice.

Project management can include all of the formal tools and old realities of organizations, but is not entirely defined by them. To reject them is not the same as rejecting project management. Project management uses many different tools—formal and informal—to execute a project “through its lifecycle, including defining the project, collaborating with stakeholders and team members, facilitating meetings, managing the timeline and deadlines, and overseeing all aspects of communication among the technical team and within the organization” (Fagan & Keach 2009, 8). We all pick and choose among the tools available to us to fit our environment and our project.

The environment in which I work—an academic library—has never had dedicated managers or staff for a particular project. The projects typically do not exist separate from the other projects and day-to-day tasks. Our team members are increasingly working in different buildings and from home. And change is happening faster and faster. And yet, we still have meetings, timelines, and communication needs connected to our projects.

When you “do project management by the book,” you probably aren’t going to skip the Gantt chart. When you “do project management” in a lean and experimental fashion—picking and choosing what works best for you, your project, and your environment—project management doesn’t die. It adapts.


de Baar, Bas. (2007) Project Management Is Dead.
http://blog.softwareprojects.org/project-management-is-dead-66.html

Fagan, Jody and Jennifer Keach (2009) Web Project Management for Academic Libraries. Oxford: Chandos.

Gardner, Dana. (2009) SOA and the Pragmatic Enterprise. http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/SOA-and-the-Pragmatic-Enterprise-68819.html

Summers, John (2008) Technical Software Project Management is Dead. http://geekswithblogs.net/goinawry/archive/2008/07/13/technical-software-project-management-is-dead.aspx

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Book Available by Late December

We got an update from Chandos Publishing yesterday. We are now expecting our book, Web Project Management for Academic Libraries, to ship in late December.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pandemic Proofing Your Project

With the H1N1 flu pandemic and vaccines still in the headlines, your mind might be on your workplace plan for keeping operations afloat even with high employee absenteeism. Whether your library calls it a continuity of operations plan (COOP), a business continuity plan (BCP), or just simply a pandemic plan, the plan usually lists critical services that should continue even if widespread illness keeps the employees at home—keeping the library doors open, staffing the circulation desk, ensuring access to electronic resources , emptying the book drop, and more.


A smart project manager working during the flu season can also minimize disruptions caused by illnesses by regularly and conscientiously documenting the project. Documentation serves to answer questions before they are even asked and provide the needed information for others to step in and help.


  • Perhaps you, the project manager, are out sick for two weeks while the programming and design work is well under way. Armed with a feature list, your team members are prepared for questions from stakeholders about why a particular feature is not planned for the end product. The project team along with the project sponsor may have already ruled that feature out.

  • Suppose your designer is coughing up a storm after completing the main page for a web application. With design specifications that explicitly state the locations and file names of style sheets, included files, web templates, and graphics, a backup designer or programmer can step in to complete additional pages required to return search results and provide error messages—effectively allowing the programming to continue.

  • Your programmer begins to run a fever soon after completing a web application that is now ready for testing. During the testing, another team member notes that some of the actions don’t seem logical. If the programmer kept the technical specifications up to date, anyone on the team can review the specifications to identify the expected behavior. If the programmer commented their code, another programmer may be able to step in to identify a bug.

  • After a first round of testing, the programmer and designer have fixed all the bugs and are ready for a second round. Problem is, the tester is out sick and a room full of volunteers are at the ready. A detailed testing script along with a bug tracking system used during the first round will provide a roadmap to trouble spots.

Most of these scenarios rely on someone else with the time to contribute to your project. This might not be the case—especially when employees who are able to come to work are providing peer coverage on routine tasks for those who are out sick. So, finally, when the existing staff just can’t complete the tasks on schedule, your documented schedule of tasks and dependencies will help you renegotiate the scope, the schedule, and/or the resources that you have available to you.


If you would like to learn more about these types of project documentation (and more), check out our book Web Project Management for Academic Libraries. We are eagerly awaiting the printing and expect it to be available in November 2009. You can

pre-order through Amazon now.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

IT Project Manager Listed 5th in CNNMoney.com's Top Jobs

CNNMoney.com just published their 2009 list of top jobs, dominated by technology and health careers at the top of the list. If you are interested in managing web projects in academic libraries, you will be interested to see that College Professor lands at #3 and Information Technology Project Manager is right there at #5.

Academic libraries, particularly for librarians with faculty status, offer some of the same benefits described in CNNMoney.com's brief description of teaching in higher education: scheduling freedom, generous vacation time, free access to facilities like gyms, and (sometimes) reduced tuition for yourself and family. If you are a librarian with faculty status, your pay can also be similar to the professors who teach in classrooms, although you frequently work 12 months out of the year.

Managing web projects within those academic libraries matches well with CNNMoney.com's description of IT project management. You keep projects on track, you work closely with others--often in meetings--and you hold yourself to deadlines much of the time. CNNMoney.com's description suggests that five to seven years of technology and computer-related experience as the entry level, with a PM certificate and MBA to advance your career. For academic libraries, the single biggest career booster is to have a graduate degree in library science.

In Web Project Management for Academic Libraries, you'll find an entire chapter defining the role of web project manager, making the case for why academic libraries need them, and presenting qualifications and traits important for the job. The book will be released in about 4 weeks, and you can pre-order through Amazon now!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Soft Skills Cancelled

We are sorry to report that our preconference seminar "The "Soft Skills" for Academic Library Web Project Managers" was cancelled on Oct 5, 2009. We hope to offer this session at another conference soon!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Panelists for ASIS&T Seminar

We are happy to welcome three panelists who will join us for The "Soft Skills" for Academic Library Web Project Managers, a full day seminar at ASIS&T in November.

Erin Rushton (Binghamton University), Candice Kail (Columbia University), and Camilla Fulton (University of Illinois Urbana Champaign) will be sharing their insights and experiences related to authority and responsibility when working on web projects within academic libraries.

Haven't signed up yet? There's still time! Visit our wiki page about the seminar for more details on the rest of the program as well as registration links.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The "Soft Skills" for Academic Library Web Project Managers

Please join us at a full day seminar about the "soft skills" for web project managers!

Here are the specifics:
The "Soft Skills" for Academic Library Web Project Managers
Full Day Seminar, Friday, Nov. 6, 2009, 9:00am - 5:00pm
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

This is an ASIS&T preconference seminar. Get an early bird discount by registering before September 25!

If you've managed a web project before, you know that the "soft skills" are actually quite hard. This workshop is focused on communication, teamwork, and usability for web managers, programmers, technical staff and anyone who may be called upon to manage a web project within the library environment. Jody Condit Fagan and Jennifer A. Keach offer practical guidance based on managing web projects within academic libraries of all sizes. Their book, Web Project Management for Academic Libraries, will be published by Chandos Press in October 2009.

The session will include discussion of the concepts, hands-on activities, and a panel of those who communicate about web projects every day to share insights they've gained from their environments.

In this workshop, you will learn:

  • how to lead a project team,
  • how to design an organizational communication plan,
  • how to involve administrators and others in leadership,
  • how to get constructive input from colleagues,
  • how to evaluate the success of your project management skills,
  • and more!

Participants will have ample opportunity to learn from others facing similar real-life challenges and successes during the session. Whether you have been given an ad hoc assignment or you manage many web projects each year, this project will help you complete your project with everyone on board.

We are excited to be offering this seminar. Please join us!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

CIL 2009 Presentation Materials Posted

Jennifer and Jody presented "Web Project Management for Academic Libraries" as a postconference workshop at CIL 2009! Find our complete workshop slides with comments, as well as handouts, at http://sites.google.com/site/pm4web/Home/cil2009!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Welcome to Web Project Management for Academic Libraries Updates

We will be posting updates to this blog! Subscribe to this blog's feed to receive:
  • updates about the publication of our book
  • updates about workshops and events by us on this topic
  • updates on related projects.