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Wanna Be a Project Manager?

Page 5 — Effective Project Management

The qualities of a good project manager can be described nicely by adapting Larry Wall's Three Great Virtues of a Programmer: Laziness, Impatience and Hubris. My version goes like this:

Laziness: The desire to put great effort into reducing overall energy expenditure such as late nights and weekends in the office. It drives you to create a labor-saving process that other people will find useful, and document what you developed so youíre not answering so many questions. Hence, the first great virtue of a project manager. (And hence, this article.)

Impatience: The anger you feel when the process isn't working properly. This makes you create a process that doesn't just react to your needs, but actually anticipates them. Or at least pretends to. Hence, the second great virtue of a project manager.

Hubris: Excessive pride, the sort of thing Zeus zaps you for. Also the reason you write (and maintain) a process that other people won't say bad things about. Hence, the third great virtue of a project manager.

Depending on the size and budget of your Web project you could be working with millions of dollars and dozens of people around the world, or you could be building a five-page site about your dog Sparky. I just finished a job where the client was located in Switzerland and Italy, the design team was in San Francisco, user interface was in New York, business affairs in Atlanta, and engineering in India.

However small or big the site is, you still need to start a project with some kind of a process, whether itís the one I'm going to describe below or one of your own.

Once you have an acceptable process framework, document it and lead the entire staff through a training session. Be certain everyone understands it and agrees with it. Once you have a structure, it can be can improved and used over again and again. The staff will get used to it and find it becomes second nature. They'll wonder how they managed without it.

Be consistent. If it's going to help, everyone needs to follow it even if you think you can get by without it -- just this once. The process is a tool that keeps the work predicable and easier to manage.

Have a checklist

For your own sanity, put together a checklist of everything that must be completed to launch the site. Pass it by others in your team in case you forget something. It's a good place to list things like 'Check that group server permissions are set up correctly' or 'Arrange for approvals and reviews of UI and design.' You can even assign dates to create a schedule for yourself.

I'm going to take you through the four basic stages of development for a Web project. You need to understand what happens during each stage in each department. Only then can you schedule and hire properly. This takes practice, but soon it will become second nature.

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