by Kristy Newton (Digital Literacies Coordinator, University of Wollongong Library, firstname.lastname@example.org), and the Library Business Services Team (Aimee Herridge, Cassie Connor, Shaista Poonawalla and Tahlia Kelso) with Ruth Cameron (Coordinator, Digital Library Programs, University of Newcastle Library, email@example.com)
Two members of CAUL’s Digital Dexterity Champions group had a chat about the different project management tools we use in our libraries. You might like to read about what we found:
University of Newcastle Library – the Project Management Toolkit
What is it?
Library staff can use the digital toolkit to learn more about what a project is, how to propose and gain approval for a project, and the library’s project lifecycle (including a current project register). Templates have been created for each phase of the project lifecycle to help staff to manage their projects successfully. There is even a Tools and Training page which links out to further training for staff who want to learn more.
Our Library Business Services team put the toolkit together so that we can standardise the project approval process, ensure that library projects are managed consistently, and follow best practice project management processes. The toolkit aligns with existing University of Newcastle digital resources to ensure a common language and consistent approach.
How long did it take to build?
Approximately one month for the toolkit itself, which will include information and training sessions for library staff in 2023 to build capability and confidence. The toolkit was refreshed in 2022 and flipped into a more interactive SharePoint site with intuitive navigation based on gateways and the project lifecycle. The templates were also updated to align with University of Newcastle brand guidelines, giving them a clean, professional finish.
How did the team decide what to include?
The team benchmarked practices, tools and templates within the University of Newcastle, and researched other universities’ toolkits and project management methodologies (the University of Newcastle is PRINCE2 aligned). They looked at the types of projects usually undertaken by our library staff, and applied what was appropriate for those projects.
Do we track usage? How popular has it been?
The team looks at analytics in SharePoint to measure toolkit and template views. Stakeholder evaluation consultation was undertaken post-implementation, for feedback prior to the toolkit being flipped into the new design. This feedback informed the design and allowed adjustments to be made to the content.
The initial review feedback was positive. Usage was low however due to COVID-19 impacting the number of projects being launched, and we hope to see more engagement following the training sessions in 2023.
Are the documents/templates used in different ways?
Templates are required for project approval and endorsement under the guideline that accompanies the toolkit. Staff are required to use the templates if they have a medium to high level project, to ensure projects are properly scoped and documented for consistency. The documents are designed to be tailored to the size and scope of the project.
Staff can refer to the inbuilt Project Lifecycle page which provides guidance on the different stages (Ideation, Planning, Delivering, Close and Review) of any project, the approval gates, and the relevant templates for each stage. However, the purpose of each template is clear, and they are used mostly for the same purpose in each project, e.g. Project Brief and Closing Report.
University of Wollongong (UOW) Library – Microsoft Planner
What is it?
UOW Library make frequent use of Microsoft Planner. As it integrates so well into Microsoft Teams there are multiple active Planners in our digital environment, with uses ranging from project management, team priorities, strategy, and even resource sharing. Planner can be used to document tasks at a high level, or more granular level. Depending on the preferences of your team/project group you can arrange it by work area, due date, project phase, or topic – the options are virtually endless.
Are the documents/templates used in different ways?
In a team context, Planner can be used to manage team tasks, both strategic and operational. Buckets can be set up for the various focus areas that the team is responsible for, and individual task cards in each bucket document progress against the tasks. A ‘New’ column at the beginning of the board serves as a catchall queue for new items coming to the team, and the task cards are often moved across to a bucket as a team member picks them up. Projects with a separate Planner can be included in the Team Planner as a link, rather than replicating the tasks across multiple Planners.
A resource-based project group uses Planner to arrange resources by topic. This is less a task-based system, and more a categorisation and navigation board.
Project groups use Planner to manage the tasks for the project, with buckets for each of the project phases. There are task cards which function as links to key external reference points such as the vendor knowledge bases, with the rest of the board being populated with a variety of project tasks assigned to relevant staff members, utilising the Checklist function to break each task down into smaller components. The Charts view (which is available in all Planners) is particularly useful in a project as it gives a visual overview of the project milestones that can be extracted for use in reporting.
Tips for getting the most out of Planner
Staff with assigned tasks sprinkled through multiple team and project planners can choose to view a streamlined overview of all the tasks assigned to them by adding the “Tasks by Planner and To-Do” app to their MS Teams sidebar. This app draws in tasks from multiple planners and collates them into a handy task list. From the app view, there are options to filter tasks by options such as ‘Important’ or ‘Assigned to Me’ to drill down to the highest priority tasks.
Prefer to see all the tasks assigned to you across various Planners in a more board-like structure? Use the web view by navigating to displays to see the various project planners you are part of by navigating to the Planner of your choice in the left-hand column. Visually motivated folks will enjoy the ability to add a colourful background to the Planner in web view, too!
Large and complex Planners can get overwhelming and details can be easily missed. Use the Filters on the top right-hand side to drill down and see only those tasks which are high priority, due soon, or assigned to a particular staff member.
Rather than adding multiple cards for smaller steps of a task, use the Checklist within a card to track the more granular aspects like emailing a certain stakeholder, finding an image to use, setting a meeting etc. This allows you and your team to see how the task is progressing and keeps the board a little cleaner.
So … what do I choose?
This will really depend on the nature of your project, and how your team prefers to work. And these two different examples of project management tools are just the tip of the iceberg! Sit down with your project team and talk about what will work best, for the project and for the people involved. Remember, too, that one function of these tools is to keep management updated with what you’re doing, so choose something which is easily shareable or copied for a presentation or meeting.