thatcamp bootcamp Project Management

Session notes

Brought to you by — Tom Scheinfeldt

There’s also a collaborative google doc here.

“Project Management is a low tech business. It’s almost entirely about people.”

10 things project managers are asked to do


1. Picking a project.

Interest is important, but it’s not enough.

Is it fundable?
* Projects don’t happen without funding. Or shouldn’t. Pick projects that are fundable from some identifiable source external or internal.

If it’s not fundable, is there a way to modify to make it fundable?
Audience, time table, technology, etc. –> can these be adjusted to make it more attractive?

Do I have the capacity to do the project?
Money’s not enough.
Expertise, infrastructure, time, etc.

Do I know people who have the capacity? –> collaboration external to home department/institute/etc.

2. Build partnerships.

Content partnerships, expertise partnerships, etc.

“Strong partnerships build trust amongst audiences.”

Reputation ties.

Partners don’t have to be big, but don’t sell yourself short. Shoot big! Go for the person, place, etc. that you would want most.

Be careful in partnerships to manage expectations from the very beginning. Make it clear.

3. Fund projects.

90% of CHNM funding is grant money.

Read the guidelines + Follow the guidelines

No, really. Do those two things. The only secrets.

4. Setting budgets.

What goes into a digital humanities budget?

99% of the budget is about labor. Seriously. The whole budget should be staff time. That’s what they expect to see in budgets.

Ask for the maximum.

What can I promise based on that amount of money?

Under promise. Over deliver.

take something manageable. Make it sound bigger. Over deliver.

5. Staff the project.

Dependent on skills needed to pull of a particular project.

Figure out what you do well, find projects that fit your skills. Most projects aren’t full covered. So, you’ll need to find people.

Look for people who have a proven track record of being able to learn things quickly.
Look for people who have a proven track record of finishing tasks.
Look for people who have an ability to work on a team. Personality absolutely matters.

As a project manager, one of your main jobs is to shield the staff from the headache of project management, shield the staff from your job.

“A quick word about meetings….”

Individual meetings are much more important than whole project meetings.
What are you working on?
What are you working on next?
* Are there obstacles to getting these things done?

Communication with staff, especially when corrective info is need, should be done at a scheduled meeting. A scheduled meeting is more like constructive criticism.

6. Developing a workplan.


OK, so you’ll write work plans for grant proposals. Know that it won’t likely survive.

More important:

Having a couple of key deliverables.

Outline 4 deliverables, then give them 5.

Quick word on PM software — you need a collaborative space. But, start lightweight and get more elaborate only if you need it.

Start, say, with a Google Doc. Go more complex as you need to– basecamp?

7. Manage/report to funders.

Meet your deadlines on reporting. Do it on time.

Reflect early and often on the work. Don’t wait till the end of the project, if that’s when you have to report.

Make notes along the way.

8. Publicize the project.

Need for publicity can’t be overstated.

Think about it. Do it. And not just at project launch, but at every stage of the project cycle. Have a project blog. Write substantive blog posts.

Give conference presentations.

Social media.

engage an audience.

Swag. Why not? T-shirts, stickers. Especially with cafe press. There is buy-in with swag.

9. Sustain the project.

Have it mean something to a community of people.

No easy answer here.

Funders want to see a detailed sustainability plan. You might not have an answer, but thinking about it and having a set of answers is very important. At least they want to see that you’ve been thinking about it.

And again, this is a reason why partnerships are important.

Scale? 5 year business, 10 year business….

Find a partner who is in the 50 year business? Whose job it is to think about the 50 year question.

Remember, you may not own it in 5 years. Build from the beginning that it might not be your own baby forever.

Also, continued funding won’t be to do what you’ve been doing. But, you could get funding to go in a new direction.

Revenue models in keeping with your values.

10. Lead!

That’s your job– you are the leader. Take the lead. Be the leader you need to be.

Cultivate relationships with stake holders. Know your institution’s procedures. Take an interest and leadership role in elements that will affect your ability to problem solve.

Know how to respond to user inquiries. Know when to say yes, when to say know.

Leadership –> that’s your job.

“People will forgive bad decisions, but not indecision.”

The instinct amongst academics is to take time to understand and get to decision. Not the way of project management.

Deliverables… Leadership… the MBA of DH Projects.

as @miriamkp tweeted it: “The best collaborations are about shared doing, not shared decision-making.”

For what it’s worth, this was a great session.


Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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2 comments on “thatcamp bootcamp Project Management
  1. […] my other home ← thatcamp bootcamp Project Management […]

  2. […] the Latin American history classroom. Finally, I posted session notes on CMSs, Intro to Omeka, and Project Management from this year’s THATCamp Prime, as well as a roundup of my experience this […]

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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