AoDL: Digital project management

The other week I spoke at an Art of Digital London event at The Photographers’ Gallery. The topic was digital project management – not a sexy subject, and not one that usually gets discussed much. There was a good turnout though, so well done to the folks behind AoDL for going for it.

First up, Jane Audas spoke about her role as a digital project manager for hire, while Caper‘s Katy Beale and Rachel Coldicutt discussed their Happenstance project. I’d encourage you to check out Claire Ross’s notes for more detail.

Notes from my talk are below (the slides were nothing special so I’m not posting them) but first it’s worth flagging something up. Plenty of people had good thing to say about the talks and commented that they complemented each other nicely. A few others pointed out that we were all external consultants and agencies and it’d have been good to have heard from someone on the inside (so to speak).

I’d agree with that. Tijana Tasich talk a few months back about the new Tate website was good, so more of that perspective would be very welcome. I was actually trying to coerce some clients into coming and talking but to no avail. Maybe another time.

My notes

I started off talking by giving a bit of context to what we do at Made Media and roughly how many projects we’re working on at the moment. In short, digital projects for lots of big arts organisations. If you’re reading this you probably know that already but, if not, please do check the About page.

How we select clients and projects

Pitching for work is expensive (time is money), so choosing your battles is important. We’ve got a reasonably good success rate – partly because we’re great (modesty ftw), but also because we don’t chase all the work that there is out there.

Before accepting an invitation to tender for a new piece of work it’s worth asking yourself a few questions:

  • Do we have enough resource available?
  • Can we meet the spec?
  • Is the budget going to be enough?
  • What are the chances of ongoing work?
  • What are our chances of winning?

I considered adding ‘is this client likely to make our lives a living hell?’ to the list but eventually decided against.

How we manage our projects

I bit the bullet and talked a little about project methodologies. Not that I’m any sort of purist, but I mentioned waterfall, scrum and kanban and made the point that these will each be suitable for different projects (or even different phases of the same project). These things are meant to be useful tools – not rods for your back.

As for software and such, on a daily basis we tend to use:

  • Basecamp for client comms, project milestones time tracking
  • Email for more sensitive client comms
  • Google Docs for internal scheduling
  • Google Calendars (shared internally) to flag up meetings, big deadlines and internal stuff
  • iChat / Google Chat for day-to-day internal mutterings
  • / Google Hangouts for the same over video

I said a little about meetings too. I’m all for cutting back on time-sucking meetings but there’s also value in a project team keeping in regular contact. Regular meetings can also be a good way to deal with lots of smaller issues all at once, rather than having them clutter up the rest of your working week.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.