2018/09 Agile, Waterfall, Adaptive, Pert, Lean … and Cake

I am often asked how I manage my projects, and which method I prefer. I may be an old Waterfaller at heart, but I don’t think there is so much difference between the many methods – and simply making a cake. In the first step, there are some basic questions you need to answer: WHY do you need the cake, WHO will eat the cake, WHAT is the purpose of the cake, HOW does it serve a function, WHEN will it be eaten, and WHERE will it be served? Grab a coffee, get together with your stakeholders and start with the 6Ws.

I am then often asked, what about further steps?  We have the 6Ws and are ready to rock! Well, there are many project management methodologies available.  Some may suit your needs, and some may not. Just like a CMS they are tools to assist you in getting something done – so it’s important to look at what you are doing, your team structure, and your needs before you choose a tool – choose the tool to fit the project. You don’t want to end up with an expensive Forklift when all you really needed was a friend helping you lift something.

Project Management – Getting the Work to Flow

Some project methods you have probably heard of: Agile, Waterfall, Adaptive, PERT, Scrum, Six Sigma, Crystal, Lean … Some are mixed methods, some are easier to grasp than others, some sound like you’ll be sitting down to a computer game.

Not to fixate on the pre-digital years I spent in the kitchen, but I am going to stick with the cake example for a moment.  Why? In the kitchen you learn that cooking is art, but baking is science; and as they also say: Science is magic, that works (Kurt Vonnegut).

So. How do you make a cake?

  1. Decide what cake to make.
  2. Gather your ingredients.
  3. Mix ingredients.
  4. Bake the cake.
  5. Decorate the cake.
  6. Eat the cake.
  7. And? Did people like the cake?

Don’t like cake? Let’s look at how you would (probably) make a website:

  1. Decide the purpose, goals, audience of website.
  2. Gather information on content and functionality.
  3. Layout (Structure) and Assembly (Wireframes).
  4. Code. Test.
  5. Design / CSS. (4 and 5 best go together in a loop. I think most sites are designed in the browser these days.)
  6. Launch. (I also included Testing with Coding … if it isn’t tested then it shouldn’t launch)
  7. Measurement and Maintenance.

Reading this and not planning to make a website or a cake? Here is the Agile Project Management approach – very popular, very useful:

  1. Planning
  2. Requirements analysis
  3. Design
  4. Implementation
  5. Testing
  6. Deployment
  7. (Measurement) I have put this in as Step 7 as it is something I find is missing from the Agile method’s 6 Steps.

You may be thinking, but I’m not designing software or building cars – is there a simple methodology for “just getting stuff done?” OK, let’s look at the process again starting with step one – thinking about what we want to do. This time let’s apply the process to a very common task for most of us – that of updating our websites and social media channels with content.

Write It and They Will Come

The web guru Jakob Nielson said, “If your website doesn’t answer a visitor’s key question, they will leave.”  That is true for anything. A store, a book, a website, a restaurant – people leave if they don’t find what they want.  You must always ask “What are we trying to accomplish?”

The potential to leverage one news story to provide information to multiple users is great.  Ultimately information is a service which is provided by your website, and the reason people come to your site at all.

Let’s take as an example of a news article about a student who recently graduated from County University, and then received a scholarship to State University for her graduate work.

Betty MacKime, a native of Mawovia, earned her MSc. degree at County University in 2017, and is now in the second year of her Ph.D. at State University. There, she focuses on Bioengineering.

While attending City University in her home town for her undergraduate studies, Betty started with Biosciences, but she then developed a keen interest in Engineering. After earning a bachelor’s degree, she looked for an opportunity to combine both passions for her master’s degree. She chose to come here to County University, where she could study Biology and work in Life Science Engineering.

Visitors to the website have questions. Each type of visitor will have different questions.  They have seen the news story. How can the story provide answers to their questions?  We need to tell the stories behind the news. Here are just three of many possible perspectives:

Visitor 1: Potential Female Undergraduate

What is the percentage of female students there? Why did she choose County U? What is the political and cultural situation there? How are women treated? What is the campus like? What are the facilities like? Are they safe?

Visitor 2: Potential Business Partner/Supporter

State U eh? Hmm, who else partners with County U? What collaborations are there? Which sectors of business, research, government? What is are potential career and other connections that alumni and business can make via County U?

Visitor 3: Admissions Counselor from Another School

Should I recommend County U to our students? Who studies, researches, and teaches at County U? Where are they from? Why did they choose County U? Where were they previously? Where are they going? What are their affiliations with other institutions? What other programs are offered?

Let Them Eat Cake

Reviewing what we now understand to be the function and purpose of our website, and our task as a Content Manager, let’s take another look at the cake recipe:

  1. Decide what cake to make.
    Let’s write a news story about a successful graduate from County U. This story will promote our own success, our connections, our biology programs and research, and we would like to attract more female undergraduates interested in life sciences
  2. Gather your ingredients.
    Do we have information that will answer the questions posed by our readers? Have we answered the 6Ws?
  3. Mix ingredients.
    Write the story, linking to information on our website which will allow people to get further information. Is there an opportunity for an adword campaign here perhaps?
  4. Bake the cake.
    Link to the story on relevant social media channels. Link to the story from relevant sections in our website – a study program, admissions, partners, faculty, research…
  5. Decorate the cake.
    Images of Betty, images from State U, videos from other students from Mawovia, are there any multimedia elements from the programs she studied?
  6. Eat the cake.
    Publish and promote. Would State U or Capital U be interested in sharing the story?
  7. And? Did people like the cake?
    Measure analytics across all platforms. Place this story into the loop for similar stories in the future – alumni stories, graduation, admission fairs… How does this story compare with other stories? More traffic? Less? What can we learn from that to improve the next story? How was traffic on related pages? Ask Admission to see if this story had any impact on applications from Mawovia or related countries.

Just a Reminder

Many project management processes were developed for the creation of software, building cars – things most of us will not have the chance nor the need to do. However, tailoring these processes to your own needs is both rewarding and effective way of managing your tasks – whether they be baking a cake or managing your own freelance projects.

Further Reading / Sources

https://blog.azendoo.com/top-project-management-methodologies-and-styles/
https://www.smartsheet.com/sites/default/files/Agile-PM-101-Beginners-Guide-Non-PM-Ebook-download-open.pdf

You might also like my posts on these related subjects:

https://wordpress.warrenlainenaida.net/2016-05-writing-for-the-web/
https://wordpress.warrenlainenaida.net/2015-11-people-visit-your-site-for-90-seconds/