Needing a project management silver bullet
November 16, 2009 12:29 PM   Subscribe

I need recommendations on a solution that will solve the project review and approval workflow at my ad agency.

The current review and approval workflow in my agency is . . . well, it needs to be improved. Work is getting emailed around the agency for review. Emails are getting lost. People don't know their next actions. Getting approvals is like pulling teeth. We're going mad.

There have been numerous askmes posted on the topic of project management. The usual suspects always come up. I'm overwhelmed by the number of options and the various features.

What follows are the requirements for the solution. Actually, if the solution did only these items it be even better. The solution must:
- be easy for everyone (eg, non-technical account folks to geeky web developers) to understand and utilize. I don't want anyone telling me "they don't get it".
- allow designers to present and version work (eg, banner ads, web site concepts, links to development pages, pdfs, etc.) for review to both internal folks and outside clients
- give the option to show/hide work based on user type (ie, if you are a client, you shouldn't be able to see the early rounds of a web design, but if you are a creative director you should be able to have access to all rounds)
- important: include an clear place for feedback and approvals by multiple parties
- allow the project manager to assign and manage tasks (or cite bugs), flag contingencies, present milestones

If there's no single solution then maybe it will require a combination of solutions. Or maybe it means developing a custom solution. All ideas are welcomed.
posted by quadog to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
This sounds like a process issue, and not a technology issue. A technology issue is unlikely to solve it. I'd try to design the right process first, and find the technology later. If people don't know their next actions, and if getting approvals is like pulling teeth, then I don't think the best software program in the world will solve it.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:29 PM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I may get some flack for this, but I recommend SharePoint for problems like this. All of the 'plumbing' for the type of processes you describe are built in - versioning, lists, document management, image libraries, workflow and notifications.

The tool is entirely web based so, and it's fairly easy to click your way through the application. Granted it works much better with IE, but Mac and FF users are able to get to 95% of the functionality.

The work involved in SharePoint is tailoring the application to meet your needs specifically. Essentially, once installed SharePoint is a blank canvas with very little structure. You'll need to hire/contract someone to build the site(s) to make it work just so.

As is the case w/most COTS products, the first 80% of your needs can probably be addressed relatively easily but getting the last 20% nailed down will require the most work.

There are some things to keep in mind regardless of the technology you choose. First, if you're willing to modify your existing processes implementing a solution will be easier. Also, it will be helpful to have a very clear idea of what the ultimate goal is, and to spend some time chunking out the big goal into smaller components that can be turned around quickly.

On preview, I don't disagree with what jenkinsEar says -- but the two normally work in tandem. That is to say, your ideal process as drawn up on a whiteboard may be difficult to implement with any technology that is out there. Obviously it's important to know the goals of the process, but be ready to change individual steps so that the chosen technology helps you achieve them easily (read: cheaper and faster).

Also, I would strongly recommend against trying to build something from scratch. Building from scratch is very likely to lead you down a long expensive rabbit hole.
posted by askmehow at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2009


Having done this for a medium sized corporation for a process involving a a couple dozen teams and departments and hundreds of users, I have to agree with alot of what askmehow has to say.

First, if you're willing to modify your existing processes implementing a solution will be easier. Also, it will be helpful to have a very clear idea of what the ultimate goal is, and to spend some time chunking out the big goal into smaller components that can be turned around quickly.

On preview, I don't disagree with what jenkinsEar says -- but the two normally work in tandem. That is to say, your ideal process as drawn up on a whiteboard may be difficult to implement with any technology that is out there. Obviously it's important to know the goals of the process, but be ready to change individual steps so that the chosen technology helps you achieve them easily (read: cheaper and faster).


It sounds like you've got a good start on some of the requirements from a people-centered point of view - do you have actual workflows drawn up as well, with decision pionts marked out? This will help in building the logic of the workflow of the software and ultimately your solution.
posted by tilde at 1:51 PM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a process issue

Very perceptive. I intentionally left this side of the equation out to help narrow comments in the post. I think the process side is fixable, but I'd like to be able to pare it with an optimal technology to make sure it's supported. A project management solution that has a ton of features may not get folks any closer to the 'must haves' I've listed above. Process will lead the discussion but technology needs to be available and accessible to pull it off.
posted by quadog at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2009


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