Monday, June 16, 2008

Wonder Twin Power Activate: Part 1

OK, they are not twins (nor triplets), but I want to celebrate the power of teams in making great content work. This all may be very obvious for most online content developers, but we often forget, especially in the blogging world, that great content is not created by the lone genius. However, for the "public purpose media" world there are so few large organizations working on building interactive public purpose content that it is largely left up to the lone guns sorted about the Internet.

This is one part of my team at One Economy, namely the three project managers who shepard content from idea to actuality. They are Ada Kardos, Bob Hollister and Tom Quick in order. They have the splendid role of taking the crazy ideas from our CEO, me, our partners, our Producers and pulling them into workable functional specification document and then stewarding the work as it passes to programmers, designers, through usability testing and then out into the world. And then they do it all over again with functional updates forever more.

In One Economy's evolution the use of Project Managers is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the full team only being on-board in the last six months. Before that it was just Tom Quick and our now Director of Technology, Clark Ritchie. However, this direction has made all of the difference. Under the direction of Richard Tammar, our Director of Web Development, we have been moving aggressively from building projects to building platforms, which in the end has fundamentally improved our productivity, sustaining cost structures and flexibility.

For those readers that are professional web developers or media types this is all old hat, but, again for those organizations that are struggling with how to use media for community development let me clearly state that you should consider using a project manager for anything beyond putting up a simple page of content. Any moving parts? = Project Manager

The 10 Characteristics of Great Project Managers
  1. Detail Oriented - the more anal the better as web development dies on the unanticipated details.
  2. Organized/Logical - you may be detailed oriented, but if you do not take those details and organize them into a logical framework then forget about it...
  3. Clear - they draw out from you all of the scenarios that users will engage with the site and then for good measure come up with a few more that you did not consider.
  4. Reformed Programmers - a good project manager is at least an OK programmer, they need to understand the capabilities of the language and mechanics.
  5. Communicators - the central function of a project manager is to be a connector and communicator and make sure that designers, producers and programmers are moving towards the same goal.
  6. Good Sense of Humor - a dry sense of humor is the best as it is amazing the amount of changes, details, personalities that come cascading down on a project.
  7. Knowing the 20% - my rule-of-thumb, taught by my CEO, is that most project sponsors come with wanting, demanding for about 20% of a project and the rest they don't really care about or is seemingly 'behind the scenes', which can be maddening as that stuff really, really matters and the visionary principle does not have a clue on the core infrastructure. (I am describing me by the way.)
  8. Mean Bastards Underneath - OK, it seems like a Project Manager is a really nice person, but underneath it they have to MAKE people get the job done at a high quality. That can be by wearing someone down or getting on the phone and sticking it to them to "get it done right this time!"
  9. Dates Mean Dates - see above, but apply it to production dates. These really matter and if your project manager does not understand that then they are not a project manager.
  10. Innovative Long-term Vision - from my personal experience, the best project manager is all above, but they are always thinking about making things better for the launch and for long-term sustainability of the work. They need to know the likely movements of technology and help us stay ahead.
I only wish that you could have Project Managers as good as ours...and no, you can't steal them.

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