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Steven yeah

Project Management

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I have never done any IT project management before. Want to consult you guys on a) is programming expertise critical? b) what are the functions of the project manager? c) what tools (just a name will do, so i have a lead to research on) to use? d) What else do they do when not managing? e) Is IT project Specific management experience critical? The most relevant experience i have is in checking on the renovations of my retail stores, where all i did was to a) give specifics on details (colour, material, size), and b) visit the site every few days to make sure that work is actually progressing. And in between these management tasks i do nothing else related to the project. Am not sure if i want and need to source for a project manager as well, or i should just handle it myself. I really appreciate and am grateful for all your advice.

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Hi there!

Im studying "Project Management For IT" as one of my modules for university.

The main role of the Project Manager as far as the scope of my course is the planning out of the project. This involves breaking the project down into a series of tasks, then allocating resources and scheduling the tasks as efficiently as possible. Then a project report is completed detailing what is to be done, when and why, as well as how much its gonna cost.

We use Microsoft Project Manager for this.

What you need to look into is "Gantt charts" and "Activity On Arrow (AoA)" diagrams. These are done to highlight what is to be done and when. Project Manager will do the gantt charts and Activity On Network, which is a variation of AOAs, and also work out resource usage and project costs etc.

Once the project starts however, I have no idea what the role is! Just keep things on schedule and adjust as necessary i presume :D

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proj-mgmt is a full time job in and of itself.

Every week, 3 things will happen that mean the entire schedule is now wrong.

Every day, perhaps 50% of your staff will stop working on their current task because they're having to wait for something (either someone else who's away, or a vendor not getting back to them, or their computer broke, or ... or ... or ....)

You need to solve as many of these problems as possible, and for the others you need to keep re-writing the schedule to reflect what's actually happening. If you're really good and have a lot of experience and have a good team you can write a schedule and never need to re-write it.

In reality, unless you've a lot of money for staffing and resources and support (IT support etc) then you'll probably need to cut various tasks and re-assign people periodically - always updating the main schedule to reflect this and resolving any new problems thrown up by the schedule.

PS the one thing they never seem to teach people on uni-courses about proj mgmt is that from day one everything about your schedule gets screwed up, and from then on you're having to work your ass off to get it back on track. Everyone seems to come out thining you make a realistic schedule and that *staff will then work to the schedule*. This doesn't happen - a lot of staff don't bother, some don't even READ the damn thing, and others just decide to start ignoring it as soon as they get a little behind.

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A project manager should work to maintain communication within the team(s), between team leaders and himself, himself and upper management etc. It's vital to keep everyone up-to-date on what the others are doing, or you will end up with Joe Blogs waiting on Kim Green to finish the Amalgamation Module before he can start on the Gerbil Resucitation Module. It's also helpful to keep people motivated, by whipcracking or whatever else works.

I think from personal experience, the most useful thing a project manager can do in the games industry is co-ordinate workflow/communication between the art & programming teams. This in itself can potentially be a huge task - each team probably works completely differently, yet in many, many cases the programming team is completely dependent on art assets. Plus like the saying goes, "the best laid battle plans never last past the first shot being fired" (more or less, can't remember the exact quote!). In other words, a project will develop dependencies as it rolls along that you could never have predicted when you first started assigning tasks etc. in MS Project. So you have to be ready and able to deal with all the special cases, extra bits etc.

As for requiring technical knowledge - I don't think it's absolutely necessary, though of course it would help to know a little about what people are doing; any extra knowledge will help you. In the end though, your technical liason should be the lead programmer and/or tech. director - they're the person who's the most qualified to inform you on what can or can't be done, and how long it will take.

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Thanks. That was really useful. Sounds like Project management for IT is pretty much similiar to just General Management, which i have a bit of experience in.

As for requiring technical knowledge - I don't think it's absolutely necessary, though of course it would help to know a little about what people are doing; any extra knowledge will help you.


Thanks. wonderful advice.

Do have a bit of fear that i'll get overwhelmed by the complexity of issues that will araise mid production.

In marketing and retailing, well, there is no right and wrong, and a lot of judgement is based on feel and MY own taste. Did a small scale property development project sometime back (got a project manager for that) and observed the manager's interactions between the different parties/contractors, and i know that it is something that i'll definately not be able to handle without a specialised degree and experience in that field, because of the sheer technical complexity.

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The project manager (often referred to as the Producer in the games industry) is responsible for the day to day running of the project. On any reasonable sized project this would be a full time job.

It can include any/all of the following
- Working with the designer and team leads to turn the design into a task list.
- Working with the team leads to turn the task list into a schedule.
- Assigning tasks to members of the team.
- Reviewing tasks completed by the team (or not as the case may be) and updating the schedule as appropriate.
- Managing design changes as required during development.
- Looking out for potential problems and solving them in advance so they don't slow the teams work flow
- Managing the flow of information between all parties (team, senior management, marketing/pr).
- Ensuring other departments have all the necessary materials/info to do their jobs effectively
- General "maintenance". Ensuring equipment is kept working, software is ordered, demos are sent out, ordering pizzas. Basically any housekeeping tasks needed to keep the development process well oiled.

A producer isn't a programmer, an artist or a designer. Having experience of those roles may help but isn't essential. What is essential is understanding what makes a good game.

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There is a significant caveat to taking the line that a project manager doesn't require experience and knowledge of the type of project he is managing -- if he/she doesn't, then they had better have the support of people who do and they had better be prepared to be humble and ask for advice.

In terms of deciding what you need in your manager, you need to take a serious look at the team they will be managing and the nature of the project they will be working on and the project context. If the team has good experienced members who will take the major planning, risk assessment and task arbitration workload off the back of the "manager" and there are a lot of people outside of the project that need to be communicated with (stakeholders, external suppliers etc.), then hiring Mr Generic Presentation-Giver as your manager might just work out. If your team isn't that experienced, or doesn't have the time to deal with the planning or simply isn't prepared to take that responsibility on, then you need to get someone who knows how to run a software project.

I've seen a lot of generic Project Managers and people whose only qualification seemed to be the gift of the gab stride confidently into software dev projects and proceed to make a complete mess of them from top to bottom. A good producer or manager is worth his weight in gold, a bad one will doom the entire endeavour -- making bad choices, demoralising good developers by not taking advice (or just as likely, listening to the bad developers who share their gift for talking a good game), missing the risks and dependencies etc, etc.

TBH, given that in order to trust a manager who has no software development knowledge you have to have a team that can take every part of his job that requires the specialist knowledge off his hands, I consider giving such a person the role of managing said team to be not just risky, but pretty unfair on the most part. If you need a PR guy, get a PR guy for the PR. If you need a money guy, get a money guy to assist with the money. The biggest part of the job is running a software development team, so get a software developer.

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A project managers job is to manage the project, not to write code, do art, compose music, animate or any other of the development tasks. To expect a project manager to have meaningful current experience in all those fields (or even one) would be asking way too much. The flip side of the coin is that there are an equally large number of great programmers and artists who can't man manage.

A project manager needs to be a good mananger and that doesn't require that you can program. It requires that you be able to build a good relationship with the members of the team whose job it is to program. If the programmers on the team can't do their job then no amount of former programming skill on the part of the PM will save the project. What will save the project is their ability to manage. To identify the problem and go find new staff to replace those who can't or wont do the job.

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I didn't say get a programmer. I said get a software developer. This is as opposed to a project manager who has no knowledge of developing software. This is no different to the fact that a project manager with no knowledge of construction is a poor choice for a construction project.

The fact that it's highly likely that a project manager with the sort of knowledge of process and risk and utilisation of resource required will have been a programmer at some point is an unfortunate correlation for someone without such skills, but it wasn't my position that they would have to have been a programmer.

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