art historian, environmentalist, educator

A (Re)Introduction to Project Management

This week’s unit was looking at Project Management for DH. The work of DH in itself by its very nature is collaborative, and hence project management skills are an invaluable asset when you are tasked to work on a project with a deliverable, different authors, stakholders, and a budget.

Our readings for the week emphasized the collaboratory nature of DH; Griffin’s article, and to a lesser extent, Tabak’s, emphasized this issue and how different styles of project management help to tease out multiple layers of a given project and the associated specialists who lead them. Griffin got a little heady and philosophical when they started discussing the new materialities that present themselves as a result of working online, and the whole idea of “non-human agency,” questioning if the project itself has its own agency.

Having spent seven years working for the Federal government as an environmental protection specialist, I served most often in the role of project manager, where I would help organize a team (within our agency or of sub contractors) to complete an environmental assessment of some kind. Environmental assessments, under the directiong of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), must take into account the environmental impacts of Federal projects for various regulated resources (e.g., air quality, water quality, endangered species, cultural resources, etc). Each area is typically addressed by a subject matter expert, and all of the data must be compiled and presented in a single document for public comment. This means there are lots of stakeholders involved, and since NEPA is a public process, stakeholder management is a key element. In my time at the USDOT, we managed our projects using Microsoft Project. While a bit clunky at first, I soon grew comfortable with the different charts and linkages that could be created and connected to a project. And, since most of our work was jointly managed by different Federal agencies, exteriorly directed scope creep became all too common. And I learned to re-baseline my projects thusly.

Given my experience, I was familiar with the concepts presented in Dr. Otis’ lecture. I had not been formally introduced to Basecamp or Trello before, and this module presented a great introduction to these applications. I wish this module had been a mandatory lesson much earlier in the semester as I feel it will be quite valuable to our group project, and I had been too intimidated to try much with Basecamp before. After adding our project, the in-app wizard made the process extremely easy and I now see the utility in the tool (though I still don’t like the visual layout of the main page and find something non-intuitive about it). Trello, by comparison, was quite similar but I would argue even less intuitive (though perhaps more visually interesting) in their project main page. But it had its own strengths in the color-coded card system that could be employed for better management. Both of these applications seemed great for collaborative research projects, but for larger budgeted projects with more team members, I like the traditional methods that Project presents in terms of the Gantt chart and planning out person hours.

Website screen shot of the USDOT's Volpe Center A.T.M.P. program
The ATMP program, for which I wrote the implementation plan and worked heavily on during my Federal tenure.

References

Gabrielle Griffin and Matt Steven Hayler, “Collaboration in Digital Humanities Research – Persisting Silences,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 12, no 1 (2018).

Edin Tabak, “A Hybrid Model for Managing DH Projects,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 11, no 1 (2017).

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