Referencing earlier posts in this series (the Museum Digital Project Consultant series), museum digital projects are projects that contain at least one digital element.
Digital elements can be digitization, working with digital files, cataloging in a CMS, and publishing digital content online.
The purpose for these projects can be a mixture of preservation and access, and even if there are some non-digital tasks to the project, the overall project is considered a digital project. The composition of museum digital projects can vary greatly. With this variability in mind, this series highlights several digital project types where working with a museum consultant can be beneficial. Each post in this series will describe the project type and activities involved, and will outline how a consultant can help support the museum staff. This series will review the following project types:
- Assessing digital collections and making recommendations;
- Creating a digital project framework;
- Providing project management for a museum digital project;
- Selecting and implementing a museum Collections Management System (CMS); and
- Delivering digital collections training to museum staff.
This post will outline where a consultant can help with the project management of a museum digital project.
When to Consider a Consultant
Consultants are experts in specific areas of museum work. This means that in addition to possessing knowledge and experience in specific areas of work, they also have a wealth of experience working with different sizes and types of museums. Your museum should consider working with a consultant if any of the following are true:
- The expertise needed isn’t presently available on staff.
- The staff don’t have enough time (capacity) to take on the specific activity or project.
- The project has never been done before.
- The project is highly specialized or contains areas of work that are highly specialized and need outside expertise.
Digital Project Consultant Service: Project Management
Consultants experienced in museum digital projects are also typically experienced in the project management aspects of running a digital project. Having an expert on board to focus on project management can be immensely helpful. Unless the museum is resourced enough to keep a project manager on staff, it’s more likely your museum will need to consider bringing in a consultant.
Examples of Where a Consultant Can be Helpful
A project management consultant can lead and support all aspects of project management, including:
- Utilizing a project management platform to run the project tasks and deliverables.
- Breaking out activities, tasks, and subtasks with staff assignments to each.
- Creating, tracking, and centrally storing all project instructions and documentation.
- Establishing estimated timelines and tracking actual time.
- Making adjustments to the project activities and tasks as challenges and opportunities arise.
- Running regularly scheduled check-in meetings to discuss project blockers, ascertain project status, and track project progress.
- Tracking tasks and people to ensure everything is running on smoothly.
- Addressing any issues that arise by reallocating resources and/or adjusting the project timeline and/or deliverables.
- Providing regular updates to project stakeholders.
When museum project staff heavily involved in the project work, it can be difficult for them to also perform project management duties. To do both requires a duality of modes that aren’t easy to flip back and forth between successfully. There’s also the consideration that even if a museum staff member is capable of performing both project work and project management duties, they may not have the capacity to do so—as in, they don’t have enough time and focus to devote to both.
A project manager is a great investment for a museum to make regardless of the project type, because they can help streamline project work and keep it on track. Bringing a project manager on board will also unburden staff from project administration tasks which will allow them to turn their full time and talents to the project work itself. Given the across-the-board improvements in project productivity, I highly recommend you consider where and how you can bring in a project manager to assist in all museum projects.
Rachael Cristine Woody
If you’d like to learn more about this topic, register here for Rachael’s webinar, “How to Work with a Consultant on Museum Digital Projects” on September 28, 2022. Ms. Woody advises on museum strategies, digital museums, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, she is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog and an always popular presenter.
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