Code4Lib Pre-Conference: Fail4lib

Being a smaller session, there was a lot of tangents and what not, so apologies if the notes seem a little disorganized.

Slides

How do you measure “value” or success of projects in library setting where ROI is not measure in the amount of money?

Some Flavours of Failure

  • technical failure
  • failure to effectively address a real user need
  • overinvestment
  • outreach/promotion failure
  • design/UX failure
  • project team communication failure
  • failure to start
  • launch failure
  • no usage
  • missed opportunities (risk-averse failure)

Most of these issues boil down to a break down of communications of some sort.

What does a Project Manager Do?

Sometimes the problem is not knowing what a project manager does. The person who comes up with the idea thinks they run the project; think that they know everything to make the decisions. Or, they become the one dictating all the requirements.

A lot of the issues are political. No way to move it over to having systems oversight.

Making the Distinction?

Project manager is in charge of day to day operations. Project lead is thinking about high level requirement, more strategically, and becomes liaison between systems and the rest of the library. (e.g. public services project, would have public services librarian) Decisions are made collaboratively.

Once it settles in, make an oversight team for maintenance purposes.

The Culture of Process

Product is the reflection of the process? But, want to see evidence of process. Without ‘evidence’ of the process, what about accountability and transparency? The evidence can also be a good reference so that you don’t have to explain.

Get people to meet to discuss what they’re going to do. Can cut down a lot in the amount of time spend doing things that aren’t needed, and waiting for dependencies.

Staff frequently also think they know what users want better than users.

Project FUBAR Lightning Talk

Slides

Major Projects

  • Islandora + digital repository initiative on campus
  • Sierra – ILS
  • EZProxy

Timeline

  • Islandora: lots of delays in development
  • ILS: had to go beta early

Option for Failure?

  • mission critical projects, must be salvaged
  • how to deal with other people’s projects failure – vendors didn’t deliver
  • plan for the worst before the worst happens

How to Successfully Survive a Mandated Project

  • practice good communication
  • know the political ramifications of your actions to yourself and the chain of command
  • work to manage expectations
  • be prepared to clean up any messes and make any changes
  • Souce: Ellern, Jill. “How to Successfully Survive a Mandated Project,” Computers in Libraries 31, no. 9 (Nov 2011): 16-20.

The Right Approach

Baby Porcupine

This is a reference to the Dilbert comic called “The Right Approach”, which a porcupine says that “we must stick them with quills – it’s the only way!”, because the ‘correct’ approach in any situation is the only approach you know.

While the project I worked on wasn’t quite like this, it was more the ‘the status quo’ is the best approach.

Project Failures

Slides

Seagull failure

  • “seagull manager flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything then flies off again leaving a big mess behind” -urbandictionary

Examples – Fail Projects

Never went live

  • statistics dashboard for collections and services
  • web app to add photo information to specific photo collection

Fail by Bloat

  • Instruction workshop scheduler – supports weird business rules

Managing Risk

  • building diverse teams
  • expecting dead ends
  • having fall-back plans
  • learn to say ‘no’ (preventing project creep), list features and possibly impact and complexity
  • fault-tolerant schedules
  • establishing flexible goals at the start
  • communicate
  • making sure it fits in the strategic plan (helps with funding)
  • prototype/drafting to make sure it’s feasible
  • make product resilient, assuming someone will try to break it
  • launch checklist by VCU

It’s All About Communications

Need to communicate with the staff. Present and allow feedback. Need to give people an outlet to provide feedback and response to feedback. You don’t need to implement most of it.

Don’t assume that the person is ignorant, dumb, or just out to get you. You’re not always right, and sometimes ideas are tossed in just to make people think.

When a Project has Failed

Do a post-project review and go over the failure points. Post-mortem meetings can be very cathartic (even if it ends up being a rant).

Learn from your mistakes. You should always do this even if the project didn’t actually fail.

Cold

Now it’s back to braving the cold at the end of the pre-conference day.

kitty in snow

Published by

Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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