True Life: I’m a PMP
Posted by: Regina Bensten, Senior Project Manager May 22, 2013
Project plans, team meetings, client calls, budgets, scope creep, LOE, FFP, SOW, QA… OMG?!? These terms sum up a typical day in the life of a project manager. We’re tasked with keeping projects moving within scope, budget, and a strict timeline, while ensuring that we’re meeting the clients’ needs and our own strategic and creative goals for the project. As they say, “PMP’n ain’t easy,” and we are always looking for ways to improve the process.The Project Management (PM) team recently presented during a Rock Creek Academy about a few ideas and theories we learned while studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. We focused on topics and practices we thought our colleagues could incorporate into their own day-to-day workflow. For today’s post, we thought we would pass along some PM best practices from the presentation. MANAGING CONFLICT Conflict is an inevitable consequence of interactions within any organization, but it can be beneficial as it pushes us to work more collaboratively and strategically. It should be no surprise that the three most common sources of conflict on a project are schedules, project priorities, and resources. With pressing deadlines and ever-changing priorities, it’s no wonder these concerns are a source of contention. As a PM, it’s important to identify the root cause of the conflict and resolve it as quickly as possible. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) a.k.a. the “PM Bible”, identifies 6 approaches to conflict: Confronting, Compromising, Withdrawal, Smoothing, Collaborating and Forcing. A project management best practice is to always confront the situation head on and get to the root of the problem. This approach allows you to find the optimal solution, as opposed to reaching a decision that brings some degree of satisfaction to both parties, but may not ultimately solve the problem at hand. MANAGING RISK What is risk? The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines risk as any uncertain event that can have an impact on the success of a project, such as schedule slippage due to a change in requirements. At the start of any project we try to determine what risk factors are present, how likely they are to occur, what the impact would be, when they could take place, and how frequently. To ensure you’ve captured all risks, it’s often helpful to brainstorm with the collective team.
Once you’ve identified the risks (both positive and negative), it’s helpful to create a risk register outlining the list of risks, any potential responses, and the root cause of the risk. When possible, share this with both your internal team and the client as a way to proactively manage issues that could arise. And of course to close the loop, as a best practice share any lessons learned to inform other teams and mitigate risk on future projects. Until next time…
There is a lot to consider when managing a project and we’ll be back to share more project management best practices. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you! Comment below or tweet at us!
Improving Process - Reviews From the Field
Posted by: Virginia Moore, Senior Strategist May 14, 2013
These days, I spend less time perfecting my work, and more time improving my process. At least thinking about how to improve it…and sharing those ideas with my colleagues.Here at Rock Creek, we are starting to work on company-wide workflow enhancements, and it seems like we’re in good company judging from the abundance of process-related events and articles in the communications industry. At a recent Refresh DC event, sponsored by iStrategyLabs, Creative Director Zach Goodwin gave a great presentation on process, planning, and persuasion. He acknowledged that imperfect information and crazy deadlines will always be constraints. But, he also shed light on the important, if few, opportunities we have as creatives to steer projects in the right direction. Goodwin advocated for “disappointing clients early” and acknowledging when a design is “75% there.” As a whole, Goodwin’s talk centered on building greater transparency and credibility into the process. Back in February, another Refresh DC event focused on the processes underpinning USA Today’s revamped digital experience. Composed of in-house talent as well as external consultants, the USA Today team was tasked with executing a new brand and advertising strategy, while harmonizing multiple web properties. The success of their process involved strategists, designers, and developers working side-by-side (literally). This approach allowed the team to work together effectively and produce better products in less time. In a thoughtful article, WSOL’s Creative Director Dennis Kardys, offered some insights into his firm’s adjustment from a waterfall to a more flexible workflow. While Kardy delves into the nuts and bolts of workflows (complete with Gantt charts), what he really emphasizes is effective expectations-setting, internal collaboration, and testing — all of which are echoed in the above talks. We hope to share our process evolution in future posts, and invite you to share yours with us — whether it’s your personal experience or a good video or article. Download Zach Goodwin’s Refresh DC presentation.
Stop, Drop and Code: The RCSM Coders’ Playlist
Posted by: Andrea Paton-Ash, Digital Marketing Strategist May 09, 2013
What does every coder have in common? A good set of headphones. No one is more conscious of the office distractions than Rock Creek’s coders. Concentration is key when rattling through lines and lines of code.For the second installment of the Rock Creek playlist series, I asked our tech team and coders to compile a list of songs that help them crank out functional, complex websites at work. Here’s what they had to say:
John: “It’s almost too crazy for coding, but when you are in the middle of a caffeinated sprint Pharaohs is a good track to have on. “
Michelle: “Here is a list of some of our recently-played in-office (over loudspeakers) albums. We tend to listen to full albums on Rdio.”
Steve: “The music’s high bpm keeps me in the groove as I watch hex values and type styles transform the site, letting the design emerge.”For the web-based experience, you can find this playlist on SoundCloud along with some other Rock Creek work-inspired playlists! Stay tuned for more! What kind of music do you listen to when you’re coding? Tell us in the comments below or tweet at us!
The Power of Analytics
Posted by: Alex Parent, Digital Marketing Strategist May 06, 2013
No matter what industry you are in, you’ll probably agree: companies are increasingly challenged to do more with less. This, unfortunately, is easier said than done. But what if I told you that there was a tool with the power to identify cost saving measures, improve efficiencies, and develop new strategies? You might ask, “What is this magical tool that he speaks of?” Well, folks, I’m talking about website analytics.At the core of any successful company is an understanding of your clients’ needs, as well as an appreciation of why you are best equipped to fulfill those needs. Today, a company’s website is not only a client’s first touch point – from providing contact information, to explaining your company values, to converting visitors – but it is also a tool which can offer valuable insights into your clients’ needs. What are your clients looking for? How do they navigate through your website to find the information or product that they are searching for? Are these offerings readily available to them? The answers lie in the analytics. Companies that properly leverage web analytics enjoy many benefits, but certainly some hold greater weight than others. At the very least, use your chosen analytics platform to get a better handle on these three focus areas:
- Take the guesswork out of the equation – Using data from analytics programs means that you don’t have to base business decisions on anecdotal evidence. Web analytics give you the cold hard facts on how and why clients are using your website… and you can’t argue with the facts! You can, however, use them to streamline or enhance your offerings.
- Improve your online presence – Your website is an important extension of your brand. If visitors have difficultly using your website to find what they’re looking for, chances are they won’t be visiting your website again anytime in the near future. This reflects poorly on your brand and can severely impact business performance…and nobody wants that. Instead, brands should leverage web analytics to build brand affinity.
- Manage resources and provide value – An effective website requires time and resources, both which are scarce commodities. By using an analytics platform, however, you can provide physical evidence of actual return on your investment, as well as anticipated ROI. This can also help ensure that future investments and resources are effectively allocated between various business initiatives, whether that be a campaign to promote online purchases, or a push to promote a new service.
Earth Day 2013: Rock Creek in Rock Creek
Posted by: Mariya Ho, Marketing Strategist Apr 22, 2013
It’s a cool and sunny Saturday morning and Rock Creek-ers are slowly starting to gather in a Chevy Chase area of Rock Creek Park. Bright yellow and blue bags in hand, they wander through the woods and near the river to pick up trash and debris that pollutes the park.
In honor of Earth Day, we participated in the Rock Creek Conservancy’s 5th Annual Rock Creek Extreme Clean Up, a volunteer effort to make a difference and help restore Rock Creek to health, along with the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Our cleanup was one of over 50 locations along the 33-mile stretch of Rock Creek.
After several hours of picking up trash, we reconvened to discuss our adventures and to tally up results.
We collected six bags of trash and six bags of recycling, and found some interesting “treasures” along the way. Animal skulls, a Samurai Lego man, rusty car parts and colorful glass bottles were among the top finds.
A few snakes decided to make an appearance at the cleanup, but were quick to dive back into the creek after witnessing the alarmed reactions of the cleanup crew.
Rock Creek-ers enjoyed a beautiful Saturday morning spending time with coworkers while helping clean up a piece of Rock Creek Park.
Rock Creek will be participating in several other community service activities in the following months. Stay tuned for the next event, and let us know what your organization did to celebrate Earth Day!
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