DLF Project Managers Toolkit
This toolkit is a collaborative project, based on contributions by members of the Digital Library Federation's Project Managers Group (DLF PMG). First initiated by Jennifer Vinopal at New York University in February 2013, the toolkit has grown and evolved over the years as a living document to share experiences and link out to resources.
- What? A crowdsourced collection of information, tips, techniques, and tools for project managers working in digital libraries. Please contribute and share your knowledge.
- Why? Whether we realize it or not, librarians and library staff are managing projects all the time. These may be informal or formal projects, or we might not think of them as projects at all. Just the same, we could all stand to take a more organized and structured approach to planning and accomplishing our project work. Much of the project management literature and training frequently emphasizes a corporate perspective, which may not always be applicable to a library setting.
- Who? Anyone who wants to contribute. Feel free to post anonymously if you prefer, or sign the contributors list at the end of the document.
- How? Be generous with your knowledge and be respectful of what others have written. Share your experience and help others to learn from both your successes and failures.
To contribute, simply login then select the Edit tab. If you are a first time contributor, select ‘create account’ at the top right of the page. Then send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org to get access to edit pages, add links or share documentation.
Project Management Basics
Review a few Project Management Basics which are basic building blocks for the other sections of the toolkit.
Project Proposal Process
The Project Proposal Process initiates the project and is critical to planning.
Project Charters & Memorandum of Understandings
The goal of a Project Charter is to document agreement between all parties (sponsor, stakeholder, staff) about the goals, scope, and deliverables of the project. Ideally, the document defines time, scope and cost.
It is useful to use this time to answer questions about cost/benefit and the extent to which people can actually reasonably contribute to the project. The Project Management Group recommends discussing the following questions at this stage:
Why? What are the objectives of the project? What are the expected benefits of the project? Scope? What is the scope of the project? (specifically, what's not in scope...) How will we know the the project is done? Who are the stakeholders? Who is the end user audience?Who? Who is going to work on the project? Who is managing the project? Who is/are the sponsors of the project? How much time can participants reasonably spend on the project
After the answers to these questions have been decided upon, the Project Charter itself should be drafted. The following is the basic format of a Project Charter:
Project name Description (high-level statement of your project goal) Success criteria (how will we know when the project is done?) – SMART goals Requirements (deliverables, options, & out of scope) Project team (including roles) Milestones/Schedule (high-level + proposed dates)
Drafting the charter is an iterative process:
Write a draft Share it with project team Share it with stakeholders Rewrite Repeat until consensus
A Memorandum of Understanding can be used to build out a project charter and be used to manage expectations, project planning and increase transparency, communication and understanding. The University of Texas Arlington hosts a Memorandum of Understanding Collection which was developed by a group of librarians for library specific projects and includes a workbook and templates.
Project Plans flesh out more details of a project, such as scope; individual stakeholders; milestones and tasks, and roles and responsibilities within; and a timeline. It answers the same questions as a project charter, but often in more detail.
Project Scheduling captures the work that needs to be performed. It may also visualize the steps in the project. This section compares two methods: gantt charts versus kanban.
A workflow is a sequence of steps toward the completion of a defined task used to manage repetitive processes. Workflow modelling helps participants and stakeholders understand the sequence of steps and their roles in the process. It can also help identify patterns, gaps, and bottlenecks to enhance efficiency and improve team dynamics.
Included are Examples of workflows contributed by different institutions and references.
Project Templates are useful for expressing information in a systematic manner, streamlining processes and saving time and energy. Templates can provide clearer communication and consistency across project. Included are templates provided by different institutions.
A project retrospective is held at the end of a development sprint as part of the agile process. It can also be held by project teams not following the agile methodology. It is a meeting where the entire team and all stakeholders attend to provide feedback on what went well and what didn’t go as well during that period of time. Feedback is given on sticky notes in the form of Happy / Sad / Angry or Start / Stop / Continue - as examples, and clustered to identify themes. The themes are used to improve the work process going forward to the next cycle or phase of the project. A summary of feedback is seen in this chart.
For a wide variety of reasons, you may need to stop investing time and resources in a project before completion. In these cases, it is important to consider how to document the project close-out and communicate to the team and stakeholders.
Jason Ronallo, Bret Davidson. NCSU Libraries. Sunsetting: Strategies for Portfolio Management and Decommissioning Projects. https://ronallo.com/presentations/sunsetting-dlf/slides-single-page.html Digital Library Federation Forum, Pittsburgh, PA, October 23, 2017. https://sched.co/BzsO
Vinopal, Jennifer. Using Confluence for Project Portfolio Management at New York University. DLF Fall 2008. File:DLF2008Vinopal.pdf
Project Management Software
This section contains a list of tools for project management, with pros and cons for each.
|Name||Uses and Overview||Pro||Con|
|Asana||Asana allows team members to collaborate on projects and track the progress of tasks. It works both for software development projects and other more generic projects.||
|Basecamp||Basecamp allows collaborators to post messages, organize to-do lists and documents, and create group schedules. Related App: goplan||
|Trello||Trello is an application for tracking tasks. It allows you to move individual cards (representing tasks) as they enter different phases. Trello allows you to assign tasks to different collaborators, create due dates, and provide contextual information for the tasks to be completed.
Used by: FSU Libraries
|Google Suite||Google applications (specifically, Google Drive) is a suite of tools for creating documents collaboratively and sharing information. Google Apps include a text, spreadsheet, and slide editor, as well as applications for drawing, organizing calendars, and sharing (but not editing) other types of files.
Used by: FSU Libraries
|Pivotal Tracker||Pivotal Tracker allows users to organize tasks by project and stories while integrating release dates and prioritization into the workflow.||
|Jira||Issue tracking and project tracking software. JIRA allows teams to "create and estimate stories, build a sprint backlog, visualize activity, measure team velocity, and report on progress."||
|Redmine||Redmine allows you to track issues, latest project news, and organize projects by members and contributors. You can associate files with given projects, create Gantt charts and calendars, and create wikis to document projects. Redmine has a demo site that allows you to see how it looks in action.||
|Slack||Slack is a communication app for teams. It integrates with several of the project management tools on this list, and allows team members to communicate more easily and informally than through email.
Used by: FSU Libraries
|Smartsheet||Smartsheet allows a team to collaborate and communicate with a spreadsheet-style interface. It allows for file sharing, alerts and reminders, the creation of Gantt charts, and other features that will help to organize your projects.||
Other general software-independent recommendations for project management
- Wikis for project documents and documentation
- Google Docs or another collaborative document editor for the creation of project charter, meeting notes, etc. with separate document (or folder) for meeting notes
- Planning Poker
- After-Action Reviews or Retrospectives vis tools such as FunRetro or Stormboard
- Scheduling using Doodle or Google Sheets is useful for tracking team members' schedules
Professional development is an ongoing part of a project management career. A successful project manager possesses a blended set of hard and soft skills acquired over time. Training is offered by the Project Management Institute and various local education providers.
Resources and further reading
There are lots of great articles, presentations and grey lit out there on project management and digital libraries. We've created a Zotero Group library at https://www.zotero.org/groups/2205688/dlf_pmg? and encourage you to add more when you read something good.
- Andy Ashton, Brown University
- Carolyn Caizzi, Northwestern University
- Kathleen Cameron
- Jason Casden, North Carolina State University
- Tim Clarke, Muhlenberg College
- Tom Cramer, Stanford University
- Cristela Garcia-Spitz, UC San Diego Library
- Joshua Honn, Northwestern University
- Katherine Kott, Independent Consultant
- Christine Malinowski, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Rafia Mirza, UT Arlington, TX
- Lisa McAulay, UCLA
- Sandra McIntyre, Mountain West Digital Library
- Alan Pike, Emory Center for Digital Scholarship
- Robin C. Pike, University of Maryland
- Christine Quirion, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Sarah Severson, McGill University Library
- Sarah Stanley, Florida State University
- Joan Starr, California Digital Library
- Micah Vandegrift, Florida State University Libraries
- Jennifer Vinopal, New York University
- Cliff Wulfman, Princeton University
- Cynthia York, Johns Hopkins University
|Interested in related resources? Check out DLF's Organizers' Toolkit!|
- Shaw, E., Garcia-Spitz, C., Bragg, M., Hagedorn, K., & Porter, E. (2018). Finding the balance: Modelling successful workflows for digital library collections. Journal of Digital Media Management, 6(3), 295-311. Retrieved from [https://escholarship.org/uc/item/9h17g7fh]