Introduction to project management

In July 2012, I attended a DMU in-house training workshop titled “Introduction to Project Management”. The workshop set out to define the important features to think about when planning and scheduling projects (whether in a research, commercial or strategic content), including stages/life cycle of a project. The training asked attendees to think about and share their experiences of project management, in the hope to highlight good practices/techniques to adopt. The session also presented a number of useful tools to potentially use when planning a project (network diagrams, Gantt charts, Prince2). The workshop concluded by outlining why some projects fail and provided examples of how to overcome project “drift” or fatigue.

As a I member of the DMU Library’s Content Delivery Team, I am often involved in group project work. For example, this may be part of a group testing changes to library eResources authentication or implementing technical changes to a library system (e.g. link resolver software).  For the past four years, I have also organised the DMU Library’s eResources Roadshow. In preparation for 2012’s library roadshow, I was keen to start to apply some of the learning I had gained from the DMU project management workshop.

For the 2012 roadshow, a small working group has been formed to discuss and oversee the planning and organisation for the event. At the time of writing this blog, the working group met for the first time in late July 2012. I am the unofficial ‘chair’ of the working group, and the group comprises representatives from different library teams (Learning & Research Services, Customer Services and Content Management, Planning & Innovation).

For the working group’s initial meeting, I prepared some material in the hope to provide a starting point for group discussion and to stimulate useful and effective conversation. I wrote a brief report outlining the successes and failures of the 2011 roadshow. The report also contained some initial observations and recommendations the group might want to explore for the 2012 event. I also thought I would try my hand at some direct project management and attempt to draw up a draft “roadshow network diagram”. This diagram was based on a model highlighted at the DMU project management training session.

The network diagram was a rough sketch (pen and paper!) displaying important components involved in planning for the roadshow. The different actions were set against a timeline at the foot of the page (each project should have a start and end date!). The diagram seemed to be well received by the other members of the working group – it gave a visual overview of the work and organisation involved for the roadshow and displayed some critical milestones that needed to be considered. It also providing a ‘starting point’ for the group’s early discussions, breaking down the initial groundwork into four separate stages – location, exhibitors, promotion/publicity and event feedback.

The group’s first meeting was a useful exercise in setting out a plan of actions for the library roadshow. I also felt it was a valuable opportunity to try and apply some of the learning I had received from the in-house training session. Not all of the issues discussed at the training workshop were relevant, but I think that is all part of the process of applying what you learn – rooting out those themes/mechanisms important and useful to your own work and thinking about how best to adopt them.

The roadshow planning continues and the group will be meeting again in the next few weeks. I can already see that the project model the working group has undertaken is operating more efficiently and effectively than in previous years, and I am confident that the library roadshow can be developed and improved even further so another successful event can be held later in 2012.

About Mitchell Dunkley

I work in the Content Delivery Team at De Montfort University Library. I manage DMU Library's e-resources portfolio and I am involved in library systems admin, collating resource usage statistics and troubleshooting. All comments are my own.
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