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Do you know what Project Management is?

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Masternode Owner/Operator
Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with one of the community members and I saw some confusion and misunderstanding about the role of PM in our (and any) project. With this article, I would like to share with you some information about this discipline and my experience with Project Management. I hope it will help you to understand how we (Project Managers) work and what our goals are.

Let's start from official definitions and theory. I know... everyone loves theory. Actually these two definitions are quite good in my opinion:

The PMI (the most famous PM organization) definition of Project Management says: "Project Management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements."

What is a project then? PRINCE2 (another great PM organization) definition says: "A Project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case."

Is everything clear now? :wink: Maybe I'll add something to this "official" part.

First of all - people quite often mix the project manager role with the project leader role. These are two different roles and require completely different skills. Simply speaking, project leader is a person, who leads the project, creates vision, defines project direction and keeps people interested and involved. Project manager is a person, who coordinates the project activities and makes sure everything is well organized and delivered on time, within the scope and budget. It is possible to be a PM and a leader at the same time but it is not required to be both in order to be successful.

However, the activities of PMs vary widely from project to project and institution to institution. Because PMs implement projects within the existing organization constructs, project management will look different based on people’s skills, the maturity of the IT processes, and the organizational understanding of project management. Tricky.

It is also really important to understand that project managers always work within the same constraints: time, cost, scope, quality, risk and people. This creates limitations but no matter what happens, project needs to be delivered within these constraints. Personally, I consider PM a supporting function, who makes whatever necessary to deliver the project.

So how it looks in case of Dash? Let me give you some examples of my activities and responsibilities as the PM (there are some others, but they are not important in the context of this article):
  • Define project scope with the core team and sponsor
  • Negotiate project scope with vendors
  • Negotiate and/or manage vendor contracts (if applicable)
  • Define project goals, measures, acceptance criteria, risks and mitigation actions
  • Create project schedules and keep them updated
  • Track task status/completion
  • Run interference between project stakeholders
  • Collect/track project deliverables
  • Organize project calls, core team calls and share meeting notes
  • Send out project communications
  • Manage lists of projects
  • Prioritize between projects
  • Report status of the projects to the project stakeholders
  • Create and maintain project documentation
  • Accept/take blame :)

As there are different visions about what project management is, people tend to expect PMs to do almost everything in the project. It is obviously impossible. Here are some other things you should know about project managers:
  • Project managers should not always be subject matter experts (SME). What might be surprising for you is the fact that quite often it is even better to not be an SME - it helps to focus on the goal and not accept lame excuses from the vendor/delivery team ;). There is a simple solution to a situation of PM not being an SME: when you start a project, name the subject matter expert for the project and make him part of your team.
  • Project managers always work based on facts, numbers and measures, never based on emotions, feelings and opinions. This is very important to act like this - project sponsors expect measurable results and hard benefits. Therefore you need to deliver them by putting controls in your project. Emotions, opinions and good intentions are useless when you have to present fact-based report during the steering committee meeting. I have heard many times during my projects that I am soulless, too strict, I have no idea what am I talking about etc. but I have never heard that I haven't delivered defined results at the end. And this is the ultimate goal - to satisfy project sponsor and deliver benefits. Sometimes people think that projects should have different outcomes based on their expectations and assumptions. For a good PM it doesn't matter what is the expectation of the entire world outside of the project. What really matters is what is defined as a project goal in the contract/charter. If you deliver anything else, you fail and lose your job. If you deliver what is defined + anything in advance, you are a hero.
  • Project managers can work with the limited number of people within the limited amount of time. Therefore you need to have clearly defined project structure. In case of Dash, project sponsor is usually the entire community (or rather masternode owners). Obviously I cannot work with the entire community (neither can our vendors) - number of different opinions and expectations would simply make the delivery impossible to define and control. Therefore I work with selected representative(s) of the community (usually core team members), who define goals, agree on measures and KPIs, answer questions etc. The same with the vendor (in case of external projects) - there is no reason to work with the entire vendor team, so I work with the representatives and coordinators on the vendor side. It makes things faster, simpler and more effective.
  • Project managers are not celebrities - they don't have to be popular, they have to be effective.

Shortly speaking - project management is all about communication, collaboration and coordination. It is quite simple, unless you try to be a PM :wink:.

I hope you liked this too long article. Tomorrow or during the weekend, I will try to give you an example of PM work, based on one of our projects. Meantime, I will be happy to answer your questions about PM work (in case you have any).

Best regards!

PS. Apologies for my English. I know it is not perfect :smile:.
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I had a buddy used to say, "I'm not trying to win a popularity contest, I'm trying to run a business".

Just a pat on the back... I think you're doing a fine job.
Noone ever said anything about you not doing your job very well, or that you didn't know how to do it.

Just wish the internet didn't breed flame wars and side choosing. Le sigh.

Keep up the good work bossman. I'll be nice if you do. Sorry if I assisted in making you feel like you needed to justify yourself.
The view from the other side :smile:
  1. When kot first says he's gonna project manage whatever you are working on, the first thing that comes to mind is: who the fuck does this guy thinks he is? go project manage someone else! I'm fine by my own, I don't need help. The last thing I need is someone asking me for reports, I have enough of those.
  2. So you ignore him for a while. And he stays around. Offering his help, but he doesn't insist too much.
  3. Then he makes a couple questions and suggests something useful. You relax a little. Maybe he's not that bad.
  4. The he suggests something else and it makes sense. Again.
  5. Then you realize that by organizing something here and something there, he's making your life easier.
  6. You finally understand that he's not trying to manage you personally like he knew better. He's trying to help you, so you are more consistent and things don't get lost.
  7. You start something new and ask kot to get involved.
I'd say that in a project based in volunteers like this one, project management is important because it puts some discipline in the processes, accelerates deliveries and avoids duplicate work. Most of us are humans and we have lives, so a ping here, an email there and a meeting in a couple of days, help us move things forward. Also, the perspective of someone who is not as involved as you are can be very useful.

However, it is a delicate equilibrium. In a real job you have to put up with whatever you are told or you quit/get fired. Here you can leave because there is new movie you want to see. The minute this stops being fun many of us lose interest, so project management has to be very subtle.

Of course kot will fuck up here and there --we all do-- and I'm sure we will all hate him once in a while, but I think some things are better because of project management.
Thanks for that breakdown. Good project management is absolutely critical. For those of us who are not directly working with you though, it can be difficult to get a good read on the status of projects and what is being done to ensure projects are actually able to meet their goals, or even have goals in the first place. The high-level material that you produce, such as the 2016 roadmap and monthly report, is rather excellent quality. What I am seeing is that the community (including myself) tends to want details at a lower level as well, for example if we are looking back at something like the website re-design project, what the status of said project is, whether there are any benchmark goals and are they getting met, who are the players currently responsible for doing work,...etc. Not just for completed/past projects but also for currently pending ones. That being said, I am sure there is a line somewhere between good transparency and too much information, and it is not always appropriate to make literally everything internal to the project public. But especially in this early stage of DASH's development, I would err on the side of more transparency in order to boost the morale of the community and establish a positive reputation. For example, I would love to get a better idea of what the specific development plans and benchmark goals for some of these upcoming Evolution features look like. Something a lot more than oh this is around how many months we think it will take.
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