April 9-12, 2008
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Interactions: Description

Agile Methods for Project Management   go to paper

David Ellis, Think Design, Inc., USA
Michael Jenkins, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA
Willy Lee, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, USA
Rob Stein, Indianapolis Museum of Art, USA

Effective project management is crucial to the success of almost any project. This management can be difficult when faced with an ambitious project on a tight schedule where project partners are scattered across many miles. Museums face these challenges every day as they coordinate and plan new exhibitions, website content and educational programming. Managing the unknowns of project and budgets is a reality for most museum professionals, but delivering results that are on time and meet expectations is often a difficult task.

Other communities share our difficulties with project management. In seeking to mitigate these difficulties, the software development community has worked to create project management methods that seek to quantify the risks and scheduling difficulties inherent in any project. In this paper, we will share how the application of Agile methods for project management have impacted the creation, collaboration and development of tools in support of the steve research project, a collaboration to research the role and usefulness of social tagging as it applies to museum collections. We will go on to describe the features and benefits of agile project management and explain why they might be useful for a broad range of collaborative projects conducted by the museum community.

The agile methods we adopted center around a base unit of work called a "story." A story is a short description of any task explained in such a way that all team members can understand its meaning. Software developers expand stories into a set of technical requirements needed to accomplish the work while the client can be assured that they understand what the software will do when complete.

Agile development consists of short iterative cycles, no longer than two weeks. Our team worked together to estimate effort for each cycle by assigning point values to each story. Meeting on weekly phone calls, the team was able to move quickly through stories, and became better at estimating the time required to complete tasks by understanding the time implications of point estimates.

Agile methods lead to a better group understanding of project effort by voting on story point values. This voting forced communication about what it will take to accomplish any particular story. Short cycles reinforced the accuracy of point estimates and encouraged trust between team members. Short work cycles also allowed us to quickly adapt to changing requirements and circumstances. Quality of work was insured through formal checks and balances, User Acceptance Testing and Team Retrospectives evaluating past experience.

Agile development methods have proven to be a valuable tool in the software profession for many years. The experience of the steve research project seems to indicate that these methods can also be very useful in transforming the way that museum professionals can work together across disciplines and on a wide variety of projects.

Mini-Workshop: Agile Methods in Project Development [Mini-Workshop]

Keywords: project management, development, collaboration, open source, software, software development, methods