Skip to main content

Cognition

Project Management

Cats, dogs, deliverables, phases: how we herd them into a nice, “delivered on time” line.

We’ve written 18 blog posts about Project Management. View all topics »

  1. Taking the Local

    A prospective client recently raised the (periodic) concern that our team wasn’t in close proximity to their headquarters. My reply was thorough: “We have two locations ourselves; successfully working remotely is in our DNA.” “We have a track record of working with clients all over North America and abroad, and a laundry list of client testimonials and references.” “Even when we work with a client in Philadelphia or Austin (where we’re based), those projects behave the same way as when we work with a client in South Dakota. Our process is location-agnostic.” Etc. etc. etc.

    The client seemed to appreciate my response, but in the end, they chose a local firm instead. I missed my opportunity to win that particular project, but the next time our proximity to clients comes into question, I’ll have a different response. My answer should have been simple, concise.

  2. ’Tis but thy name that is my (fr)enemy

    “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet; / So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d” (Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, 2.2).

    In the world of project management, naming conventions are often the source of miscommunication. You have to call your work something, but if you assume everyone interprets a name the way you intended, you’re likely to stub your toe during the course of the project. As managers, minimizing risk and setting expectations is an everyday task, yet something as simple as a name or label can fly under our radar. We live and breathe our work, and we are passionate about it. It’s a good practice to never assume labels are understood out of the gate. Here’s a few tactics to help you make naming conventions work for you.

  3. Fear and Fruitful Projects

    Off the top of my head, I can tell you that I’m afraid of flying, public speaking, and savory foods that contain hidden fruit. I’m also afraid of starting a new project. But, I dive into new projects just like I risk biting into mango every time I go for the summer roll, because I know that fear of the unknown isn’t a bad thing.

    Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown, but as a society, we don’t really like to talk about it. Not many people will openly admit they’re afraid, because, well, it’s uncomfortable. Admitting your fears makes you vulnerable. It also makes you human. When it comes to the world of digital projects, admitting fear is sometimes likened to admitting defeat. It’s not. It’s a normal reaction to the various unknowns that exist at the start of a project.

  4. War on Spec

    Some agencies adhere to the mantra “you get the clients you deserve.” If that’s the case, clients also get the results they deserve—especially when they hire based on spec. This past year, I watched two projects implode after they landed with other agencies who provided spec work in the sales process. I’m not typically a sore loser, but if you hire a partner based off of spec work, you’re digging your own grave.

  5. Keep Calm and Carry On

    You know the poster: the one that was really amazingly-inspiring for a few minutes in 2000 until it was killed by hundreds of parodies. I’ll admit it. I loved it when I first saw it. Still do.

  6. Invisible or Inspired?

    While the rest of our coworkers are creating design and code, we PMs focus on the intangibles. Deadlines, documentation, resourcing—it’s not exactly sexy. When a website launches, the first reactions you hear aren’t “Amazing site—must have had a great PM.” PMs are often the last to get the glory and the first ones to get knocked down when something goes wrong. It can be easy to feel like Mr. Cellophane if you don’t have the right perspective.

  7. Defeating Busy

    We’re all busy at work. It’s a “good thing,” right? Well, it is, unless your to-do list is a mile long, you’re always stressed out, and you don’t know where to start. You see, there is an art to being busy, and it’s not easy to master. You have to stick to your obligations, do a good job, and enjoy yourself while working. Oh, and you totally need to protect your time off.

  8. Streamlining Internal Communications

    Three and a half years ago, I left the world of traditional print marketing and entered the world of the Interwebs. My old company said “No!” to video chatting or instant messaging in the office and worried more about proper email subject line etiquette than finding the best ways to communicate with each other. Change was in store as I entered the land of Instant Messaging (IM) and Skype, Basecamp and Campfire, but was it a change for the better or do more lines of communication further complicate things? I found myself being asked a similar question by a couple folks at a Dribbble holiday meet up this past December. I was asked how I manage projects, how we communicate as a team, and more specifically, how I manage communications in a virtual environment.

  9. Buying Wins

    Investing in business development is like investing in anything else; you have a finite amount of resources to invest in a wide variety of options. In retail, the success of an enterprise often hinges entirely upon managing inventory. The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful venture often rests in the balance of ordering enough merchandise to meet demand, while subsequently avoiding over-ordering, and wasting money on overstock. In professional sports, a team’s success often rests in combining value among contracts, as much as in combining the right line up of athletes. In my role, the resource I invest is time. Money too, but man, it’s the time I miss.

  10. Q&A: Design Through the Lens of a Project Manager

    Hello. Thanks for coming back to part two of the conversation between Brett Harned and me. Please help yourself to some tea, a pastry, and a comfortable chair. Brett and I have worked together for nearly 5 years, so we thought it would be interesting to discuss the collaboration between our two disciplines that occurs somewhat invisibly. Working with a project manager allows designers to focus on being creative and doing good work. I’m loathe to think of going back to working without one.

    I hope you enjoy the second part of the conversation. We’d both love to hear how your process has changed working in collaboration with other disciplines in your organization.

  11. Q&A: Project Management Through the Lens of a Designer

    As a project manager, I’m constantly wondering how I can better support my team. I’ve always been a believer in the fact that project managers must have the ability to build relationships to understand how their team members work. It’s never as easy as “hand over the wireframe to the designer and make it pretty.” If you’re a project manager and you think that way, you’ve got a lot to learn. I urge you to sit down with your coworkers and chat about what works for them. That’s exactly what I’ve done for my article this week: a chat with Kevin Sharon, a Happy Cog Creative Director, to view project management through the eyes of a designer.

  12. Follow That Requirement

    If you’ve taken part in any sort of web project, you have hopefully defined, referenced, and/or tested a requirement. You’ve also felt the impact of requirements gathering on your work. A good requirement can make your job easier by taking the mystery out of what is needed. A bad requirement can lead to more work, or even wasted effort. I explored how to mine for detailed requirements in Questioning (the) Authority. In the year since I wrote that article, I’ve wrestled with how to manage the natural evolution of business requirements to functional requirements as you progress through a project. How do you create traceable requirements?

  13. Save Ferris!

    I’m not gonna lie. On a bad day, I can be a bit like Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

    Note: If you were born after 1986 or just don’t like movies and don’t get the reference, Cameron is like Eeyore. If you don’t get that reference, there is no helping you.

  14. Illustration by Yesenia Perez-Cruz

    What’s the ROI on Cool?

    Industry creative folks I’m friends with personally and respect professionally have uttered the following to me on multiple occasions:

    “I want to make cool shit.”

    I’ll be honest, I just don’t get it. To be fair, it’s safe to say I don’t get “cool” in general. I routinely dress like I’m headed to a corporate team-building ropes course, and I’m still waiting for Firefly to be picked up for season 2. So maybe it’s no surprise that the quest for cool escapes me. I don’t get the allure of making something cool for the sake of it being cool. Further, I don’t understand how you sell that to clients, or more importantly, why they would pay for it.

  15. My Paperless Trail

    In a previous Cognition post, I shared my experiences of working remotely over the last 5 years. In the last section of that post, I made a quick reference to DEVONthink Pro Office, which I described as a “powerful database tool” that “allows you to easily store, tag, classify, and search for documents.” That is still true and, just as I mentioned in the post, I use DEVONthink Pro Office to store all of my documents, notes, URLs, and other files. As a follow-up, I want to share some more details on how I use DEVONthink Pro Office to organize some of my Happy Cog project documents.

  16. (Someday You’ll Find It) The Client Connection

    Every successful project needs an Awesome Blossom moment: when your relationship with a client enables the project to transcend deadlines and goals to more acutely capture the spirit of creating something great.

    It all starts with finding the humanity in the project and sharing a sense of excitement with your client team members. As they have chosen your company to help build their web experience, the client has placed a great amount of trust in you. Your job, over the length of the engagement, is to solidify: a sound strategy based on the goals of the project; a transparent, trusted, and respectful working relationship with your client contacts; an agile, yet progressive, project process; and an open line of communication that can extend beyond the project.

  17. Suit Illo by Yesenia Perez-Cruz

    The Cult of Personalities

    In a service industry like ours, we work with a lot of people. Certain people bring out the best in us; others, not so much. Consider your last difficult workplace exchange. How would that encounter have been different if you had a better sense of your own personality? What if you understood the person you shared the encounter with better?

  18. Questioning (the) Authority

    The success of any project hinges upon your ability to extract information from people. I’m not talking about summary-level information, I’m talking about the microscopic stuff. It’s harder than you might think.

    The reason for this may be best identified by a Hungarian–British polymath named Michael Polanyi who wrote a book called “The Tacit Dimension” in 1967. It is an overview of something he called “tacit knowledge,” which is the belief that creative acts (especially acts of discovery) are charged with strong personal feelings and commitments.