All posts by Tim McGeary

New Project Request Process

Last week, I presented our New Project Request Process at First Wednesday.  This request process is to help the Digital Strategies & Technology (DST) Leadership Team more effectively evaluate and prioritize projects that require ITS resources.  Over the summer, we developed and tested a two-stage workflow aimed to lower the barrier for library staff to submit project ideas and streamline the prioritization of projects into our three new project management streams: Library Systems, led by Karen Newbery; Web Experience, led by Tom Crichlow, and Application Development, led by Cory Lown, or into the existing Operations stream, led by John Pormann.

You can view the presentation here.  (My presentation begins at 35:45, but you should definitely watch Karen present on the Updated Request App and her trip to DKU.)

The quick summary notes of our process is this:

  • Project Summary is a short, one page summary of your project idea that includes 4 major elements:
    • Summary
    • Project Rationale
    • Goals
    • Stakeholders
  • The DST Leadership will evaluate Project Summaries within one month of submission and accept it, decline it, or request more information.
  • Accepted Project Summaries will be assigned a Project Lead, who will guide the Project Sponsor in writing the Project Charter.
  • Project Charter is an in-depth project plan that includes these elements:
    • Project Details:
      • Requirements – list of the high-level project requirements
      • Scope Statement – narrative description of the project scope
      • Deliverables – A deliverable is a unique and verifiable product, result or capability to perform a service that must be produced to complete a process, phase or project.
      • Estimated Schedule – focus on schedule and timeline, not specific dates
      • Completion Criteria – what must occur before project is considered complete
      • Goals – specific measurable objectives the project must achieve for completion
      • Dependencies – any outside factors, including people, data, and systems
      • Collaboration and communication strategy – frequency of meetings, project management tools used, plan to provide communication to those outside the project
    • Risks to Scope, Budget, Resources, Schedule, Technologies
    • Stakeholders – people outside of ITS (List of names and contact information)
    • Project Team – roles needed for team (Specific team members will be assigned, if project is approved and scheduled)
    • Budget – especially important for grant-based projects
  • The DST Leadership will review Project Charters within one month of submission.  Accepted project charters will be prioritized based on one or more of the following:
    • Portfolio Management review of resources by the Director, ITS
    • EG input for projects involving two or more divisions, or that impact campus users, or that impact a majority of DUL staff
    • Input of corresponding AUL, if competing projects require same team members of an previously approved project in queue
    • Input from DUL department or existing committee with governance oversight of a particular area, such as WebX or Digital Preservation and Production Program

We believe this process will enable us to plan projects more effectively with project sponsors and utilize the Libraries’ resources more efficiently.  We also believe this will improve communication with stakeholders and provide EG with better information to make priority decisions for projects that have benefit or impact to our staff and users.

You can download the Project Summary and Charter template here.  You can submit your Project Summary to dst-lt@win.duke.edu.

 

“We have so much time and so little to do. Strike that; reverse it.”

We are an ambitious organization, and that is a wonderful trait which directs our motivations and intentions towards good service to our users and community.  But what happens when we realize that we have so much to accomplish in a short period of time?  It can either cripple us or make us excited and frantic, like Willa Wonka’s reaction when he reveals to Charlie that he has won the contest.   Within the Libraries, there are so many great ideas and valuable projects worth doing that it creates competition for the time and people available.

Image for multitasking

In the summer and early fall of 2017, the ITS leadership team developed a roadmap document for valuable projects we believed were established priorities for the Libraries requiring ITS resources.  The visualization was intended to be an indication of just how much was in the queue rather than a timeline of scheduling and completing projects.  Moreover, the visualization indicates how much operations and maintenance consume the capacity to do new projects, eventually and completely overwhelming opportunity for new projects.  It served its purpose of showing how even a subset of projects can look daunting, but it also only reveals a glimpse of the preparation, effort, and actual work it takes to manage multiple projects in a portfolio.  It also lacks information about the projects that are not in the roadmap or what the process should be to shift priorities when a new initiative is created, how to react to unexpected opportunities for funding, or a when a grant proposal is awarded.  Most importantly, it lacks the detail about the people involved in the projects, the most important part of project management.

ITS major projects 3+ year roadmap
ITS major projects 3+ year roadmap

The realignment of the Libraries announced this spring gave me the opportunity to reconsider staff strengths and roles in the face of the priorities already documented, and specifically I wanted to consider a new way of managing the streams of projects within the portfolio being created.  Project management, regardless of the methodology, creates a culture, and, at its best, creates an inclusive, open, collaborative, and cooperative culture.  My ultimate goal for the new Digital Strategies and Technology division is to create opportunity for that culture to develop throughout the Libraries, led by the example of DST.

Digital Strategies and Technology organizational chart
Digital Strategies and Technology organizational chart

At its foundation, it is important to establish that no one department owns any project completely.  Leadership may come from one department, while project staff will come from another, and stakeholders may come from one or more other departments throughout the Libraries.  Starting off with three streams of project leadership, Library Systems (Karen Newbery), Web Experience (Tom Crichlow), and Application Development (Cory Lown), provides the Libraries new pathways to envisage how ideas can become successful and completed projects.  We hope creating these three streams will ease the engagement for stakeholders with project leaders, as well as create a reasonable pipeline and queue for evaluating and prioritizing prospective projects and ideas.

image for team work

Project leadership requires executive support and broad awareness of the strategic priorities across the Libraries.  The new position of Director of ITS will oversee the portfolio of projects from ensuring that project timelines are properly defined, ITS staff are assigned to the right projects based on their strengths and capacity, expectation management with project stakeholders, as well as advocating for resources, changes to priority, and on going and consistent communication.  Because the project leaders do not have their own teams, ITS and DUL staff will have the opportunity to work with different leaders for various projects.  Balancing a limited number of project team staff across three (or more) parallel projects will require detailed planning, agility, and effective communication that we are searching for in the new Director of ITS.

Beyond the organizational changes, the Digital Strategies and Technology Leadership Team has begun to develop definitions and guidelines to help new projects start off strong.  Over the next couple of months, we will publish a wiki that documents what we believe are critical elements for the strong foundation of projects.  There will be definitions of projects roles, setting expectations from the start of roles and responsibilities, a template for a project charter that the project sponsor, project leader, stakeholders, and team can use to set the initial agreement for the project, and a guide for setting timelines and sprint planning so that project team members can manage their time within the project and with respect to other projects or priorities.

We look forward to sharing these ideas soon and continuing the conversations about the best ways to fulfill our ambitions and strategic directions together.