Aspiration and Idealware hosted the first-ever Nonprofit Technology Project Management event in New York in January 2008.
Managing Nonprofit Technology Projects examined the tools and best practices that help nonprofits deliver successful technology solutions - whether websites, packaged software implementations, or custom applications.
Interactive sessions and demos allowed a diverse group of participants to compare processes, tools, successes, and lessons learned. Topics discussed included team collaboration, project planning, software selection, migration, and project rollout, and map out the software tools – from project management packages to collaborative communication to issue tracking and more – that support successful technology projects.
Feel free to join the MNTP discussion list, which we're using to continue the dialog.
What were the Goals?
MNTP had three primary goals:
- To strengthen the community of practice among those who identify themselves as nonprofit technology project managers
- To enhance the knowledge and capacity of technology project managers within a rich, sharing environment
- To map out the range of tools and best practices being employed in nonprofit technology project management
Participants exchanged project management tools and techniques that they could immediately apply to the management of any project, and discussed project management processes – from project initiation to project planning, project execution, monitoring and control, to project closure – in the context of stories and experiences. We inventoried resources and best practices for nonprofit IT project management, ranging from templates to trainings, and showed useful software packages as they are used in actual nonprofits.
Significant time was spent discussing appropriate practices and processes for defining requirements in nonprofit software projects to inform the "build, buy, or rent" decisions that vex nonprofit technology managers on a regular basis.
Who Was There?
MNTP was focused on growing the community of nonprofit technology project managers by providing support to those currently practicing as project managers, recruiting and offering support to those new to (or bewildered by) this craft, and creating a space for the "accidental project managers" to share their stories, discover their allies, and grow into more "intentional" project managers. A significant part of the event was built around mentoring relationships; experienced individuals with knowledge and stories to share will collaborate with participants who wanted to learn more.
Participants were encouraged to bring real-world projects to MNTP. We did some real-time project management, coaching, and assessment, and tried to measure our progress by the end of MNTP and beyond.
What Was On the Agenda?
The agenda was designed specifically to ensure participants interacted with and learned from each other, while also providing a solid grounding in essential topics. The following workshops were included in the proceedings:
- Nonprofit Technology Project Management 101: For those who self-identify as new to the discipline, this session will provide an overview of nonprofit technology project management. Essential topics, truths, and tools will be presented, with the second half of the session employing a question-driven format.
- Anatomy of a Well-Managed Technology Project: Drawing from case studies good, bad and ugly, this session will focus on key aspects of successful project management. The primary take-away will be guidelines on how project managers can maintain control of their projects.
- Designing and Redesigning Web Sites: Any nonprofit that has published a web site understands the frustrating nature of the process. This session will consider how best to take on the task of casting organizational identity on the web while also serving target audiences and delivering value to web visitors accordingly.
- What Should a Web Site Cost? One of the most vexing questions in any project is “what are appropriate costs for technology and labor?” This session will utilize anecdotal data and participant input to explore costing for different types of web sites, from simple “brochure-ware” sites to custom, database-backed applications and points in between.
- Mapping Communication Tools to Tasks: There are a range of ways to collaborate with partners and stakeholders in any project. But which tools work best for which types of collaboration? This session will sort out appropriate times to employ email, instant messaging and chat, wikis, phone calls, file sharing, forums and other tools.
- Using Wikis for Effective Collaboration: Over the past several years, wikis have demonstrated their value as a key tool in certain project management processes. This session will map out best practices and techniques for successfully utilizing wiki technology for project collaboration. Also discussed will be when not to use wikis, and when more structured information sharing tools are advisable.
- Selecting and Recommending Tools – The Idealware Process: Laura Quinn will describe the Idealware methodology for gathering collective software knowledge in specific software categories, as well as their approach to assessing tools and evaluating appropriate uses. Case studies will detail past tool reports, and participants will work through key steps in the Idealware process in a software category decided by the group in the session.
- Managing Nonprofit Software Development Projects: While a best practice for nonprofits technologists is to try and utilize existing tools and services, there are invariably times when the appropriate tools and applications don't exist. But software development is not a core competency of most nonprofits, and too often nonprofit software development efforts spiral out of control or end in less-than-complete realization of vision. This session will explore how best to get from concept to running code with out losing focus on mission.
- Managing Consultants and Dealing with Vendors: This peer sharing workshop will invite participants to compare their processes and tactics for managing critical project relationships that fall outside of organizational boundaries.
- Horrific Tales of Miserable Project Management Failure: Nothing is more instructive than the mistakes of others. Participants will be invited to swap stories and cautionary tales of the many speed bumps, pot holes, and multi-vehicles pile-ups on the road to project management success.
- A Whirlwind Discussion of Project Management Software Utilities: This fast-paced session will allow participants to share the various project management utilities available, including time tracking, task management, source code control, and more.
- Software Share: Basecamp, MS Project, DreamTeam and more – Nonprofit practitioners will provide a variety of 10-15 minute software demos to allow participants to see the packages in real-life situations and compare the strengths and weaknesses.
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