Saturday, 28 May 2011

Working together – the client/developer relationship

The key word here is relationship. We know that interactive project management is a collaboration between client and developer. Each needs to know their specific role and responsibilities within the project for the project process to flow. The 'relationship' element in the partnership has to be managed sensitively especially in interactive projects because the risks of misunderstanding between client and developer increase over and above other types of project. It's that cross-functional communication again - potentially causing gaps - let alone the changes/slippage syndrome.

The people that have bridged the relationship gap in iMedia projects have had various job titles depending on the background culture of the company. So we can have Account Managers, Project Managers/Team Leaders, and Client or Customer Relationship Managers. The Account Managers come from the Agency type of culture and has been deemed more on the creative side; the Project Manager/Team Leader is from a newer breed of iMedia companies and emerges from the software side; the Client/Customer Relationship Managers hail from the business and management side.

The Account Managers have traditionally had a more hands-on and personal relationship with the clients whereas the client/customer relationship managers are linked with the use of software packages that track and flag information about the clients that action responses from the managers. The Project Managers are in the middle of this. Whatever the role is called, it is a difficult one. A successful relationship manager has great people skills, keen business skills and a strong sense of commitment to finish a project that is successfully perceived from all sides. Hard, yes.

It was difficult to try to define this relationship role. There are some definitions of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and so by inference what a CRM role is: see Verbatims - and is there parity across all the definitions?

Then there is an Account Relationship Manager's job description sample at Great Sample Resume

Andrew Sobel has defined 15 common pitfalls to Client Management in his Client Loyalty newsletter (PDF). Take a look and assess if you fall into any.

Finally - just because I'm a stirrer - have a look at the salary scale for Client Relationship Managers at, SalesTarget.

These don't answer all the questions raised by the various people in iMedia projects who fulfil the 'relationship management' role, but it starts the conversation!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Copyright back on the political agenda

I have written in the past about some of the currently contentious issues in intellectual property, such as orphan works and the use of metadata to preserve a creator's moral rights.

Recently there have been two calls for public input into the copyright process. One was a call for evidence by the Culture select committee, which has been put on hold for the moment, and the other was the Hargreaves Report.

Hargreaves had been touted as the 'Google Report' since it was suggested that one of its issues, changes to our copyright exceptions (called fair dealing) to match the American fair use model, had been somehow suggested to the Prime Minister by Google, by saying that our rights regime prevented the Googles of this world from starting here in the UK. Rory Cellan-Jones at the BBC put that very point to Google's Eric Schmidt, who admitted that getting a business underway in the USA was easier than in Europe but said he was "not aware" of Google saying this was a rights problem.

Elsewhere in Rory's BBC blog, and that of Arts colleague Will Gompertz there were postings on Hargreaves. What I recommend you do is read the comments, for the Battle of Waterloo will these days be won on the playing fields of blog comments. I have chipped in (and bit my tongue on several occasions) but ... within the severe size limits currently imposed by the BBC on such things ... the comments expose a lot of the obsessions and occasional ignorance of what is a very arcane area of law and very difficult for people to understand.

Apart from the fair use and orphan works bits in Hargreaves ... and a welcome call for format shifting and parody exceptions, one theme is of what I might dare call an improvement in fairness and openness in rights dealings. The Intellectual Property Office is urged to give examples of what you can and can't do, which would have some force of law, and the government is encouraged to make it more practical, and cost-effective, for small rights owners who have been infringed to gain redress.

One omission is that moral rights don't get a look-in. There will be areas of the creative industries, including the small corner where I shine my light, that will find that a serious flaw.

Oh, and the report (PDF here) also asks that it doesn't suffer the fate of some previous such reports and that the government acts on its recommendations. It looks as if copyright is back on the agenda.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Cookies ... half-baked or crumbling?

The Information Commissioner's Office has been busy with not one but two brand new documents for us to look over.

The first is a Data Sharing Code of Practice.

Those of us who handle data related to web sites are most likely to be doing this on behalf of a client (which makes us data processors rather than data controllers) although for our internal business purposed we will probably have some data that needs to be carefully handled in a controlling capacity, even if it is only personnel records.

However, even as data processors we have responsibilities, and you should make sure that the person responsible for your data looks over this code of practice.

In some ways that's the easy one. The other is yet another piece of legislation about cookies.

Just when we thought we'd covered ourselves for using cookies by explaining opt-outs and making sure we really needed to use them, those nice people at the European Commission are tightening the rules and the ICO has provided some guidelines.

Whereas clause 6(2) used to say we needed to advise the user about how we used cookies and told them how to opt out, now the clause says we have to advise the user about how we use cookies and get their consent.

There are exceptions for repeated visits (It looks to me that you only need to ask the first time) and for'strictly necessary' for a service requested by the user, which the ICO suggest is things like shopping carts. A user can also set global consent levels in a browser to signify consent.

Now I know you can set such things in a browser at the moment (no cookies, cookies only from the web site I'm visiting, any cookie) but the web site can't interrogate this. I'm sure the major browser manufacturers will have this sorted in time (sarchasm alert). Would a consent in sign-up terms and conditions be enough? What do you do about systems which already have signed-up users?

Oh ... and we have until May 26th to sort this out.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Responsibility in projects - what it's all about

A project manager is the person that has the responsibility to complete the defined project within the time, budget and resources allocated. Sounds straightforward doesn't it? But we know differently. Andy says the best project manager he ever worked with used to say he was the man who had to say 'no' in the morning when the creative boss came in with new ideas. Many projects (not that one) are poorly defined or even undefined which makes the job well nigh impossible. Often the project manager has to do lots of ground work to contain the area of responsibility by defining the boundaries. We all know about project 'creep' if the boundaries aren't established, and 'creep' spells the downfall of the project – be warned.

How about the people who cause the 'creep'? How do we control them? Can we? It is people who change the boundaries that cause project creep so once the project has been defined it is the people who need to be managed. Not easy. Jamie Flinchbaugh, in his blog 30th April 2011, 10 Management Traps - and How to Avoid Them, puts it nicely when he says, “It is as important to design people out of the process as designing people in to the process.” That's experience talking.

People push boundaries. They will be vocal especially if they are managers in their own right. But expertise in fields often drives people to think they have the right to push the boundaries too. And we know that the mix of expertise in digital projects is greater than many other forms of project. It is this mix of other managers used to having their way, and experts, who believe their greater knowledge in one area gives them the right to be heard and influence the outcome of the project, that contribute to the difficulties of digital project management.

The right to be heard is essential for all. The right to influence the outcome of the project lies in fewer hands - those with the authority to negotiate changes to the project boundaries with the consequences on the time, budget and resources. This is where using a RACI chart in your project can really help. Remember RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. It's a chart that maps the amount of influence any person involved in the project has and determines who you need to listen to and act on the instructions. If you need a refresher on the RACI chart process, look back through our blog and/or see: The Project Notebook 22nd May 2009, Expectations, RACI and Raci-VS.

There may well be very vocal people who don't have the necessary authority to command the influence they want. They may use sheer force of personality - a common approach. But you can have a measure of control if you show that it isn't you they need to influence but X, Y and Z people in their organization who have the authority to make changes to the project and accept the resulting impact on time, cost and quality. This can throw the responsibility back to others and away from you unless the pressure is coming from your own organization! Then the same applies but you will need to handle it and possibly decide whether you take up the baton and ask for changes yourself based on the input. However, this will keep the communication flowing better around and through the people in the project while giving you some protection.

Some project managers have found the definition of Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed confusing. Alternatives have been used instead and may suit you better. Define your own if from your experience the traditional RACI indicators have not worked for you. The principle is good – which people have the power and authority to make changes – usually the sign-off people you've identified as part of the defining process, and which people should be kept informed for different purposes. Some examples of alternative definitions can be seen at the Wikipedia entry.

It's a difficult part of project management but one that can work for you particularly if you have had difficulties with people butting in where they shouldn't. You are not alone in that, we can assure you.