Project manager newbie. Sort of.
February 5, 2007 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Becoming a Project Manager for web team. Need help.

I've worked with this group in various ways for years. Some of us are new, some have worked in the (small, education-focused) organization for years. We've moved from having just one web person (me) to now having a real, official team to address our company's staff requests for our active website.

I've unofficially project managed for a long time, but now it's being made official that I'll be the staffer to take in and process requests for programming, design and content. I'll be the one to meet with staff to get their requests, figure out what they want and then figure out how we'll execute. And then make sure all the projects are bubbling along.

So, now that we're all official and such...

I'm looking for inspiration from successful web teams and web project managers. Where can I find these?

We currently use Bugzilla to handle our projects. It's not really project management software, and I'd like something that meets our needs better. Good places to look?

Any books or good websites out there for inspiration?

posted by lucyleaf to Work & Money (15 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Forget about tools and software.
Listen carefully.
Trust your own opinion.
posted by mitocan at 8:14 AM on February 5, 2007

The rule of kings and project managers isn't by divine right, it's by listening to their constituents and putting in place their desires in a way that keeps everyone happy.

I'm a programmer that develops webapps and manages releases and projects both for my own applications and for an employer's applications.

We use Trac for most things. It's got *just enough* project management tools to get you by without really hindering, and the wiki integration is great to keep track of ideas and discuss their implementation. It's also integrated with Subversion source code versioning, which I highly reccomend even for HTML websites so that you can roll back (or quickly restore!) your website when some hacker pwns you.
posted by SpecialK at 8:47 AM on February 5, 2007

For uncomplicated, very useful project management software: Basecamp.

For inspiration: "Getting Real" and the Signal vs. Noise blog.

All of these were created by 37signals, a tiny little web development company that has put out some really excellent products and ideas. I'm pretty new to project management myself, and I've been reading lots of books and articles and blogs. Their advice/approach has been the most useful to me.

not a shill, just an enthusiast ...
posted by ourobouros at 9:18 AM on February 5, 2007

Dreaming In Code reminds you that even monkeys with typewriters will occasionally be able to slam out better code than your team, and not to panic when that's the case.

Though a bit specific, my answer to this question pointed out that Mantis Bug Tracker is a powerful piece of software that can be used to facilitate and track feature requests, and helpful for assigning and tracking new work, even though it's not a full project management tool and is more bug management. (Though less bug-management, or rather, less limited than Bugzilla in that scope.)

Software by Rob is a good blog to read. And I'm reading the book The Art of Project Management.

By the way, Safari might be worth the subscription fee for you—a ton of books, all printable, all available and for one monthly fee.
posted by disillusioned at 9:30 AM on February 5, 2007

I think it's a lot less about software, and a lot more about the working practices that software helps you implement -- i.e. Subversion allows you to have version control in place for your code, Knowledge Tree allows you to have document management, and Enterprise Architect allows you to do a lot of the Prince II diagramming that's useful for specifications, test plans, etc.

Of all of that, I would look at Prince II the most - it's a project management methodology that's quite big, but can be trimmed down to meet the needs of smaller teams too.
posted by ukdanae at 9:31 AM on February 5, 2007

Peopleware is amazing--understand what motivates and de-motivates your team.

Learn as much as you can--generally--about the type of work your team does. You should understand enough about HTML, design, scripting, etc. to be able to tell when someone is telling you honestly why something can't be done and when they are being less than honest.

Find ways to educate the non-web team portions of the company about things like usability and user experience -- this will (hopefully) fend off projects that make your team grit their teeth and mutter.

Get your team involved in scoping and estimating time and cost for each project. Having a voice matters to people who do the production work.

Most of all, listen, be patient and good luck!
posted by gsh at 9:52 AM on February 5, 2007

Make sure you define projects' scopes. Avoid scope creep.

Analyze and understand the problems you're solving, and make sure your solutions actually correspond to the problems. You or someone else technical should be expert in the users' problem domain. Users often request a specific solution that makes perfect sense in the narrow context of a specific problem, but can often be improved on by collaborating with them and coming up with a different solution that both solves the problem and improves the process in other ways.

Think about and design for usability, accessibility, appearance from the beginning. Plan for QA from the beginning. Lots of organizations talk about how important these things are and then don't dedicate time or resources to them and are shocked, shocked that the end result shows this.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:19 AM on February 5, 2007

Kelly Goto's Web Redesign 2.0: Workflow that Works is a good overview of project-managing web sites (not just redesigns); the companion site has some useful downloads.

Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability is great.

Jakob Nielsen's Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity is good but may be a little dated. Prioritizing Web Usability is more recent (I haven't read it). His Alertbox column has some good usability information.

ActiveCollab is an open source ripoff of homage to alternative to Basecamp.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:15 PM on February 5, 2007

Read Deathmarch and if you like it read Mythical Man Month by Brooks. You or your developers can thank me later...
posted by oh pollo! at 12:44 PM on February 5, 2007

i recommend activecollab over basecamp. basecamp works on the assumption that you don't mind another company (37signals) having access to your confidential project plans and communications.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 1:30 PM on February 5, 2007

Google's spreadsheets aren't super-fancy, but if you need to have multiple people on a spreadsheet -- especially in multiple locations, or laptop workers -- it's pretty nice. Everyone needs a g-mail address, which is a pain, but better than the alternative.

As much as we work from wherever, we really found that it's important to actually *meet* from time to time.
posted by mimi at 2:10 PM on February 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Designing The Obvious has some good suggestions how to avoid feature / scope creep and remain focused on the important parts of a web app without dictating one particular agile method. It's more UI biased than tech biased but as your users will interact with the UI more than your programmers will with the underlying tech (hopefully!) then this approach makes sense.
posted by gi_wrighty at 2:23 PM on February 5, 2007

Obviously Getting Things Done by David Allen is the bible of productivity and time management. Definetly check that out.
posted by TravisJeffery at 4:05 PM on February 5, 2007

Response by poster: Every single answer has been helpful. Thanks all!
posted by lucyleaf at 6:15 PM on February 5, 2007

The Art of Project Management is by far the best book on Project Management I have ever read. It isn't full of frameworks and models. It's full of real-world strategies and tactics for managing technology, people, and politics.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:18 AM on February 6, 2007

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