@wstites is dead right on tech directors being project managers

For a while after I graduate college and would get together with my friends from college I would ask…

What are you doing now?

They would answer with something like the following…

I’m a project manager for an insurance company where I manage…

I had a hard time figuring out what it was they actually did.  But now, as we are trying to do more and more at our school, I find that I am coming to understand the thing that had once confused me. My role as Director of Technology has less to do with actually “doing” things; instead, I am called to manage all of the pieces involved in getting things done.  Unfortunately, the shift means I am no longer able to be as hands-on as I once was.

I recently saw a cartoon from ProjectCartoon.com that really put things into perspective for me and gave me a good understanding of what all of this meant.

The series of cartoons outline the step taken in managing a project and what everyone hears throughout the process… it’s like the old telephone game you used to play as a kid where you said one thing to someone and they said it to the next person and by the end the message has changed significantly (and often hilariously).

The ideas, the thoughts and most importantly the EXPECTATIONS change by the time you reach the end.

This point – that of managing expectations – is now the key to my job.

As I move from step to step in my projects, having conversations and meetings, I have found that keeping expectations in line and realistic is crucial to the outcomes of the projects.  And I’m not saying this expectation management is easy.

What is said and mentioned in passing or during a casual conversation can turn into a deliverable and when the developer(s) or project engineers aren’t aware of that deliverable, problems ensue.

Most challenging is that no one is really at fault.  Much like in the telephone game, each person believes that he/she heard and/or said the right thing, so how could he/she be wrong?

If you write things down, whether that be in a functional specification or something in an email just be sure t0 get it documented.  This will be you best course of action if you have any questions or problem.  It won’t get the job done any sooner, but it will give you something to reference down the line.

There are a number of good project management pieces of software out there to help you manage all of this.  I have used both 5pmWeb and BaseCamp and while these will both help you keep track of projects and manage them as well, they are only as good as the pieces that go into them.

In the end this job which once seemed very vague to me is now becoming clearer.  As I come to grips with the fact that I can’t be as hands-on as I once was and actually need to manage the resources involved in any given project, I have also realized that it’s more about getting the job done well than being the one actually doing it.  it’s the management of these projects that means to most and making sure that all of the people involve, from those doing the work to those the work is for clearly understand what is needed and required throughout.

A great read on the skillset that modern technology directors need to master to be successful. It's one of the most challenging and most important parts of our roles.

arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (EdTechTalk.com/21cl), a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.