Plan and Manage Projects
The scale and complexity of your project determines the degree of formal project planning and management necessary. The point of formalizing the plans is to ensure that all relevant concerns are addressed explicitly sooner rather than later in the process. It is exactly the issues that are "glossed over" or seemingly "self-evident" which inevitably cause major problems later in the development cycle.
Our objective is to maximize resources devoted to actual production and to limit administrative overhead to the minimum required for smooth completion of your project and coordination of our overall work flow. Any request that can be completed by us in a matter of hours will probably not require any kind of documentation at all. A request that takes less than about a week of our development time probably doesn't warrant any administrative overhead beyond an informal proposal. Any project larger than that or involving two or more developers collaborating requires a project overview document. All projects require a concluding report of a size and complexity appopriate to the project.
HCMC process for Planning and Managing a Project
All types of proposals and projects are subject to the same application procedures, planning guidelines and technical standards.
- Discuss Informal Project Concept
- Write Project Proposal
- Write Project Plan or other documents if necessary
- Write Report on Conclusion of Project
If you have an idea for a project that might involve computing, audio or video components, the first step is to let us know informally. Please contact our Head of Research and Development, who will set up a time for you to meet with one of the Research and Development staff. The purpose of this meeting is to discover the scale and nature of your proposed project, and to determine what to do next.
For very small jobs (e.g. requiring only a few hours of our time), we may be able to schedule some time there and then.
For larger jobs, we'll complete with you a two or three page project proposal. For jobs requiring up to a week or two of our development time, the HCMC staff will review the proposal.
For larger (more than a week or two) or more complex (e.g. requiring coordination of more than one developer or contractor) proposals, the project proposal, will be taken by the head of R&D to the Digital Humanities committee for discussion. Larger projects may subsequently require a more detailed project plan.
All projects require a project conclusion sheet, which formally confirms that active development of the project is completed and may include lessons learned or other notes useful to people maintaining the work or developers of similar projects.
For those requests that are outside our mandate, we'll help you get in contact with others better placed to help you.
You're welcome to view the list of technical considerations favouring our involvement in a proposed project.
Project Proposal (also known as Charter or Overview)
Assuming you've presented your project concept informally to HCMC and we've indicated it's the kind of project we can consider, the next step in the process is to create a short project proposal - typically a couple of pages long. This document can serve a number of purposes:
- Constitutes a letter of understanding between you and the HCMC
- Provides a level of detail appropriate for many grant applications
- Becomes an executive summary of the project for other reporting purposes
- Guides the creation of the more detailed project plan for those projects requiring that additional level of detail.
You and an HCMC staff member will jointly produce the project overview document. Expect to spend an hour or so with us to complete the form. If you're writing a grant proposal, you'll likely already have much of the information you need. The purpose of the project overview document is to formally document initial estimates of:
- a brief overview of the objective(s) and nature of the project
- the scope of the project (amount and type of work)
- estimate of time
- risks or constraints affecting the project
- type(s) of product(s) to be produced (website, program etc.)
- technology requirements, specifically what resources are to be provided by you and what resources are to be provided by HCMC
- who is participating and in what roles, specifically what labour you are providing or hiring and what labour is expected from HCMC
- estimate of costs, sources of money and any money transfers to HCMC
- technical benefits to others: transferability, extensibility, reusability of processes, technologies, code or content
The project proposal page includes a text-based form which you can copy and paste into your word processor or text editor and then submit as an attachment to an email, and an online form which you can complete in your browser and submit to us.
Review of Project Proposal
The HCMC (for smaller, simpler proposals) or Digital Humanities Committee (for larger, more complex proposals) will review the proposal and arrive at one of the following positions:
- Conditional approval (approval to plan or implement conditional on obtaining and considering further information)
- Rejection (project does not meet evaluation criteria)
The factors used by the HCMC or Digital Humanities Committee in deciding which projects proceed and when they proceed include:
- further the research and teaching priorities of the faculty
- incorporate current thought and practices
- balance pure research and productive development
- justify allocation of resources against scope and likely lifespan of product
- balance service provided to all the departments and individuals we support
- allow developers to work on a range of projects and technologies
- maximize synergies arising from work done for various projects
- optimize extensibility, reusability of code for one project with respect to another
- optimize use of other resources provided by project (equipment, staff etc.)
- provide opportunities for students to participate in research and development
The scale and scope of the project plan will vary with the specific circumstances of the project. For small projects, the project proposal document may act as the project plan as well. The role of this document is to act as the common reference for all participants (and external interested parties such as colleagues, auditors or grant committees). The level of detail has to be such that all participants can see what needs to be done, who is doing it, and what counts as successful completion of each component and ultimately of the whole project. If you are writing a grant proposal, then much of the information needed will be in that proposal.
Each project has different requirements for additional planning documentation. You (the researcher) will work in collaboration with one of the HCMC developers on any planning documents needed in addition to the project proposal, whether it be a full project plan or more details on one element of the project proposal (e.g. schedule for research assistants).
At any time, the HCMC is involved in a number of projects. Therefore, we have to consider not only a given specific proposal, but the overall work flow of our office. For example, to solve a problem in your project, we may need to write some code, but we may wish to ensure that such code is written in a way that it is easily reused or repurposed for another project.
Topics covered in a typical Project Plan
- The project has clear objectives, research questions to be answered, or deliverables required.
- The objectives are worthwhile, realistic and practical.
- The project arises out of a specific, substantial research, teaching or administrative need in the Humanities faculty.
- Scope and Benefits:
- The project has specific benefits for one or more audiences (area of content research, area of technological research, HCMC staff professional development, administrative)
- The project extends current technologies, practices and expertise of HCMC staff or warrants learning new technologies or practices.
- A list of any features which are not part of the project but which might be mistakenly believed to be part of the project
- Participants and commitment:
- The project plan lists the various tasks that are required to complete the project, and what individual or kind of person will be doing each task.
- The project plan states the intellectual property, distribution and commercialization rights, obligations and constraints for all interested parties.
- The project plan specifies clearly any required reporting of information amongst participants or for an outside audience: what exactly needs to be reported, by whom, to whom, when and for what purpose.
- The proposing instructor or researcher is prepared to commit an amount of his/her time appropriate to completing the task, where "appropriate" is determined in collaboration with the HCMC, based on the project plan.
- The proposing instructor or researcher is willing and able to learn or improve skills he/she will need in order to carry out project work, or manage the work of subordinates, as described in the project plan.
- The project plan states the hardware, software, networking and other technologies anticipated for developing, implementing and maintaining the project.
- Wherever possible, the project uses existing hardware, software and infrastructure within the university. Where this is not possible, the technology required for the project is available and affordable to buy, implement and maintain.
- Wherever possible, the project uses current, non-proprietary, standards-compliant technologies (for development environments, data encoding, data storage, data retrieval, presentation to users, etc.). Where this is not possible, the plan provides justifications for the use of proprietary, non-standard or otherwise limiting technologies.
- Costs, Funding and Resources:
- The project plan specifies clearly the sources for any funding required. If funding is not assured, then the plan includes a reasoned estimate of the chances of acquiring that funding and descriptions of what to do if the funding is not obtained.
- The project plan specifies how funds or other resources are to be allocated, including estimates of costs of HCMC staff time and of transfers of money from the project to the HCMC to cover staff time or towards the maintenance of the shared research computers.
- The project plan states clearly any reporting, spending or other requirements or constraints imposed by funding or other external agencies, such as contractors, UVic Purchasing or UVic Aaccounting.
- Deliverables and Milestones:
- The project plan contains a sound timeline with achievement milestones, and procedures for reporting on progress and dealing with failure to meet milestones.
- The project has a clearly-defined end point, at which it can be designated "finished" and removed from the HCMC task list.
- There are definite plans for the long-term housing and maintenance of the project materials (by someone specific, using specific resources) after the project is finished.
- The project can be realistically expected to reach its end within two years. If the project length is longer than this, it should be refactored into smaller subprojects, each of which can be finished in reasonable time-periods, and will be worth doing in themselves even if the long-term objectives are abandoned.
- Constraints and Risks:
- A list of all factors which may be reasonably expected to affect the project and which have not already been covered.
- Criteria for Cessation of Project:
- There are clear criteria under which a project can be said to have failed or simply faded away, such as: failure to obtain funding, failure to obtain suitable data, lack of faculty member involvement, insufficient or incompetent work produced by non-HCMC project members. All parties understand that when these circumstances arise, the HCMC will stop work on the project, after which restarting it becomes a case of a new project, to be evaluated from scratch again.
At the end of the project, you and the HCMC staff member you've been working with will prepare a performance summary for the project with particular emphasis on information that will be helpful to people creating a similar project in the future.