Author: Nancy Lyons & Meghan Wilker
Publisher: New Riders
Audience: Anyone concerned with managing a web-related project
Reviewer: Kay Ewbank
This look at developing interactive applications such as websites, apps and kiosks, is from a project manager’s viewpoint.
The authors, who call themselves "the geek girls" and have a good track record, aim to show what it takes to be a good project manager. That remit could be a disaster, but Lyons and Wilker actually talk a reasonable amount of sense and have written a very readable book.
It’s probably not going to be a tremendous help to you as a developer, but this is a book that it might be worth giving to your project manager as an anonymous present.
The refreshing thing about the authors is the fact that on the whole they give practical advice and attempt to make people understand that what matters is what is actually produced in terms of the facilities in the software. If you’ve ever sat and ground your teeth with frustration while some trendy soul has given a presentation of the concept, you’ll appreciate the down-to-earth viewpoint. For example, in the introduction the authors point out that the biggest ‘wow’ should come when the project is successfully delivered; not from the big show you do at the project meeting.
Don’t you wish your “creative team” understood even that simple fact?
The book is split into two parts. The first half outlines what makes a successful project manager; the second uses the ideas from the first half in an example project. Some of the chapter titles sound worryingly woolly - Emotional Intelligence, for example - and I’m not convinced you can teach people to understand how others are feeling, or recognize non-verbal cues. It’s still interesting reading, though.
The second half of the book is the practical part, with chapters on project prep, definition, production, staging, launch and closure. There’s definitely material that is worth reading even if you’re not convinced about the touchy-feely stuff, and some of the advice is very specific. For instance, if you’re launching a site do it on a Wednesday after lunch. The reasoning is that people are catching up from the weekend on Monday and Tuesday, getting ready for the weekend on Thursday and Friday, and early afternoon on a Wednesday is the time they’re least likely to be preoccupied with other problems. It makes sense.
There are plenty of topics that could be useful to developers as well as project managers, such as managing client expectations and scope creep.
Overall, the book is readable and fun. There’s plenty of practical advice, both technical and people-related, and this is a book I’d recommend you read, take away the useful parts, and then leave on your manager’s desk. Who knows - they might even become a less irritating.