Project Management Experience

The Early Years

In 1980, I managed my first Information Technology (IT) development project. Like many of my colleagues, I used the informal project management (PM) tools and techniques that I had learned from my predecessors. While these informal PM tools and techniques were an improvement over complete chaos, they left me hungry for a more robust approach.

In the years that followed, I became a student of formal project management tools and techniques. I read quite a few books on formal PM and attended a number of workshops. It wasn't long before my PM approach included charters (in the form of statements of work), a formal scope expression (in the form of a WBS), a formal change control process (in the form of change orders), a formal issue resolution process (in the form of an issue log), formal schedules (with buffers), formal budgets (with contingencies), and formal performance analytics (in the form of Earned Value Management). My colleagues and I adopted these practices, made them the standard for our consulting firm, and planted the seeds of these formal PM practices at each client site that we visited. More important, these formal PM techniques served me well as I was promoted to general manager of a series of consulting and training businesses.

PMP, PMI and the PMBOK

I started my semantic data consulting practice in 2002, and formal PM practices were an important part of each client engagement that I managed. A few years later, I found myself teaching quite a few project management training courses to information technology practitioners. Many of my students were interested in obtaining their Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from Project Management Institute (PMI). So, I earned my PMP certification in 2005 and aligned my project management curriculum with the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) promoted by PMI. Thus began my current project management point of view that includes the vigorous promotion of PMI terms, concepts, tools and techniques tempered in their application by my years of practical experience as both a project manager and general manager.

Project Management Beyond IT

More recently, I have been managing projects and teaching PM students that have both IT and non-IT focuses. In 2008, I began teaching Project Management at the School of Information Sciences (iSchool) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My iSchool students bring a wide range of backgrounds and interests to project management. Most have already managed some projects using informal approaches. Many are looking forward to managing IT-related projects to build digital libraries and research data repositories. Others are looking forward to managing non-IT-related projects as diverse as creating youth reading programs, building library makerspaces, and constructing new library buildings.

During this same period, I have taught an increasing number of project management classes to students from industry and government whose responsibilities lie outside of IT. These groups have been as diverse as a group of logistics management consultants for a major U.S. retailer, several individual academic research managers, and a group of academic librarians from Africa.

Regardless of their background, I always have the same primary goals for those students that I train, coach, and mentor:

  • Help them to recognize that many of them are already managing projects (albeit informally).
  • Assure that they understand the terminology, tools, and techniques of formal project management.
  • Encourage them to think concretely about which formal tools and techniques they will adopt next.
  • Help them see that formal PM tools and techniques need to be tailored and adapted for each new project.

Project Management for Research, Research Data, and Research Computing

Starting in 2009, I spent nearly 3 years serving as the Assistant Director of the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS). During my tenure at CIRSS, I served as the project coordinator for 4 research and educational development projects. These projects included a large data curation research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), an open standards development project for digital document annotation funded by the Adrew W. Mellon Foundation, and 2 data curation educational program development projects funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). I also had the opportunity to gather requirements for, purchase, and implement a new research computing platform for the center.