From the Inside Flap
Like many of our fellow Web project managers, we came to the role, or rather the role came to us, suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly. Without really knowing it, we had been preparing for the role through our individual professional experiences for some time. We were familiar enough with the project lifecycle to be able to distinguish one end of a project from the other, but the more refined aspects of project management were as yet unknown when we assumed our new responsibilities. It was time to discover just what project managers actually are and what they actually do.
The search for knowledge began with Yahoo! At the time, our search turned up only a small handful of Web sites devoted to project management but nothing Web-specific. We did discover the Project Management Body of Knowledge® (PMBOK®) from the Project Management Institute (PMI). PMBOK, and other project management books, taught us basic, traditional project management processes and methods that had been used in other industries for years. We felt reassured with this newfound knowledge but at the same time a little uneasy because we still could find nothing specific on Web project management. "That's all right," we thought. "A project's a project--right?"As we set out to mimic our colleagues in the more mature branches of software project management, a dark, uneasy feeling entered the pits of our stomachs at the kickoff meeting of every new project. Somehow, in spite of everything we had recently read about process and methodology, we knew we were going to end up doing the one thing we felt sure would betray the very premise of project management: wing it.The disconnect between the correct process and what happens in real life has been a source of growing unease among Web project managers. For a time, many people explained away the problem by pointing to the inexperience of the industry. It was assumed that, once traditional software development processes and best practices were understood by immature Web professionals, the chaos would subside. Well, not quite. As we gained more experience, project by project, we discovered that the harder we tried to adhere to the use of traditional project management methods, the more frustrated we became, and the more chaotic the atmosphere seemed.How do you hit a hard-and-fast completion date when the specifications for the project are changed and expanded daily by the very person who is mandating the completion date? In your project plan, how do you account for the time your star developer spends getting in the mood to work by shooting minibasketball free throws for a couple of hours, followed by a donut run, and then a few quick games of UNO with the graphic designer? This was our reality. Knowing when or how to implement overengineered or seemingly inapplicable project management techniques like "force field analysis" or "interrelationship digraphs"caused us to second guess our approach to the "science" of project management. We needed techniques and processes we could implement NOW that would garner us the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.Because of the continued rapid growth of the Web, the constant changes to the technologies that support it, and the frenzied, media-driven expectations and mythologies that surround it, developing Web sites using only traditional project management methodologies adopted from other industries just was not enough to get the job done. Many traditional methodologies rely on the existence of a fixed scope and clear, measurable objectives. Web site design and development, however, is not like building a rocket or releasing an off-the-shelf software product. Web teams must collaborate in a continually unfolding creative process, which is often more of an art than a science. Traditional methods will get you part way there. Basic process building blocks can be used with great success and should be. In this book, we demonstrate some of the basic methods as they relate to Web development. But we also demonstrate where traditional methods fail and discuss how the ability to improvise and think on your feet will serve you far better than a painstakingly constructed work breakdown structure or GANTT chart.It all boils down to this: There is no accepted, proven, documented, or foolproof process for developing Web sites or Web applications. You use what works, and what works you glean from experience. We certainly don't think we have a patentable method, but we do have a lot of experience; and we know what has worked for us and our peers in the industry.Our ApproachIn writing this book, the goal was to spare the new project manager the pain of learning project management theories, processes, and terminology that would cause only confusion and frustration when they were applied to the Web development arena. We wanted to chronicle our experience and describe the methods and processes that have worked by showing them at work in real-world situations.From the moment we embarked on this project, we decided that the best approach to recounting experiences was to be as lighthearted as possible without undermining the point of the lessons. We are the first to admit that project management for the Web, or any industry for that matter, is a pretty dry topic. We hope that a little humor mixed into the content will keep the material engaging. One thing we've learned from our experiences as project managers is that you must maintain a sense of humor--without it you will lose the ability to lead effectively, and your life at work will be tedious. By the same token, why should reading a book about your profession be tedious? Simple answer: It shouldn't.The Use of Case Studies and InterviewsWhat's the use of a lot of theoretical mumbo jumbo without some illustrative material to prove or disprove the theory? In our early search for project management knowledge, we read many books that were long on theory but short on examples of real-life application. We wanted to see an example of a "force field analysis" in action. More to the point, we wanted to see an example of a "force field analysis" in action on a Web project in full meltdown mode with only two days to go before launch. While working our way through project after project, we discovered traditional methodologies that worked and many that did not. We found other methodologies and techniques that could be tweaked to fit into the Web environment. After a couple of years, it dawned on us that the hundreds of e-mail threads, scope documents, and project plans we had drafted contained our own project management body of knowledge. The basis for this body of knowledge was experience: the real-life projects we had managed.As we interviewed colleagues and peers in the Web development industry for this book, we were provided with more case studies and stories that could be used to illustrate project management methods. We found that the experiences that resonated the most with colleagues were not the huge successes but the dismal failures. To be truly helpful and instructive, we have chosen to publish case studies and interviews that illustrate things that can and often do go wrong during a Web development project. In order to avoid any legal difficulties from sensitive corporations and their attorneys, we have fictionalized the stories recounted here and changed the names to protect the not-so-innocent. But be assured: The stories herein are all based on real-life events; we couldn't have made up some of this stuff if we tried.Who Should Read This BookThis book was written for people who are new to the project manager role in the Web development industry. Real Web Project Management
will provide those of you who come to the role from more specialized expertise, such as programming or design, with an introduction to the world of Web development from a manager's or generalist's perspective. We also hope the book will provide a resource for fresh ideas and inspiration to veteran Web project managers who may recognize themselves in some of the case studies and situations described in the book.Through frontline experience and during the many interviews conducted for this book, it became crystal clear that the role of the project manager in the Web development industry has come to be considered indispensable. This is true for both interactive agencies and internal Web development or IT departments. Web project management has become a crucial success factor for a huge variety of organizations. Having worked with many unfortunate companies that lack solid project management practices, we believe that reading this book will be worth your time. Please enjoy it, and send any feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Back Cover
The process of designing and building today's dynamic Web applications comes with a host of challenges not typically solved by traditional project management methodologies. A wealth of practical resources, Real Web Project Management: Case Studies and Best Practices from the Trenches is a book of solutions for designing, managing, and delivering virtually any type of Web-based project under even the most challenging of conditions.
Based on solutions implemented from actual, real-world scenarios, this practical book offers a complete road map for navigating every facet of a contemporary Web project. Filled with tips and techniques, it provides practices to implement and pitfalls to avoid to ensure success. Beginning by outlining the responsibilities of the project manager, this complete and comprehensive guide then covers team assembly and communication, project definition, change management, planning strategies, and workflow before moving on to the design, build, and delivery stages. The book's accessible format also provides immediate hands-on solutions for project managers seeking a quick answer to a particular problem.
Issues covered include:
- The Web project manager--definitions and responsibilities
- The project team--assembling and tips for effective collaborative communication
- The project--defining and planning, plus managing change in any type of environment
- The Workflow--processes and analysis
- The design and build phases--managing and quality control
- The delivery of a completed project
This book is packaged with a value-added CD-ROM, which includes complete project plan templates, model Web sites, project checklists, consulting contracts, software vendor reviews, and more. Additional resources and templates are available on the book's accompanying Web site at http://www.realwebprojects.com.
All of this makes Real Web Project Management an essential reference for the working project manager, or for those new to the field. It is the most comprehensive resource available for planning, managing, and executing successful Web-based applications.
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