Artisans & Organizers

We have two main client contacts on any project: An “Artisan“ responsible for leading the design or development work, and an “Organizer” who is in charge of the project logistics. We have found that most top-level creatives are not necessarily passionate about the logistics of running a project, while the best logistics people aren’t necessarily able to execute our work. We split responsibility for projects between these two roles so that each person can lean into their strengths. Even though on some projects, a given individual can handle both, it helps to have redundancy and knowledge sharing among multiple people.

The Organizer is more of the traditional Project Manager or “Producer” role, while the Artisan might be compared to a Tech Lead or Creative Director. The Project Management handbook is written primarily for Organizers, though Artisans should also understand our approach at a high level so they know what to expect from the Organizers they are paired with.

When it comes to project organization concerns such as scheduling, the Organizer is like the pilot, and the Artisan is the co-pilot. The Organizer is responsible for getting it done, but may need backup or support from the Artisan. Neither person is truly free of the responsibility, but the Organizer is the one who is accountable for getting it done. The same goes for the Artisan when it comes to creative work. The Artisan is responsible for executing (and/or leading the team to execute) but the Organizer must also keep a watchful eye over what is being created to make sure it matches the spec and that we are on track with our budgets. It’s better for each person to care too much and encroach on the other’s space, rather than each person stepping back and potentially leaving gaps.

On smaller projects, the Artisan will be the sole creative/technical person on the project. If you are an organizer working with a first-time Artisan, ensure that they understand the responsibilities and duties of the role as explained here.

Analogies

  • Restaurants
    • Artisan = Chef
    • Organizer = General Manager
  • Sports
    • Artisan = Team Captain
    • Organizer = Head Coach
  • Film
    • Artisan = Director
    • Organizer = Producer

Comparison

AspectArtisan RoleOrganizer Role
Schedule
Ensure that the schedule matches the work to be done and that no details are missing. Ensure that the Organizer understands how the project is meant to proceed. Raise red flags when something goes awry and work with the Organizer to update the public schedule immediately.
Create and maintain the schedule on a daily basis. Keep the client up to date. React to external or internal changes quickly and update the client.
Staffing
Look for and recommend suitable internal or external staff for the project. Help with project/technical onboarding and manage temporary staff.
Confirm availability of chosen staff. Negotiate pricing for external staff and ensure that it fits into project budget. Coordinate paperwork and HR onboarding for any new people.
Project Quality
Act as the internal expert on the project – what it does, how it works, and why. Understand the role of all technology in the project. Ensure that the project matches all of our quality standards.
Ensure that the project matches the client spec. When budget becomes a concern, negotiate compromises between our standards, the spec, and the client’s desires. Ensure the Artisan knows any external factors which need to be considered
Vision
Determine and maintain a clear vision for the final product. Understand our chosen technical/design approach and why we chose it. Understand the client’s business realities and why we are doing what we are doing.
Understand the methodology we will use to accomplish the Artisan’s vision. Understand every step we need to take and why. When asked "Why are we doing this todo" the organizer must have a clear answer.
Client Communication
Remain in copy on client communication and directly handle all communication that is highly technical or design oriented.
Act as primary contact person for the client. Ensure that all communication is made in a timely fashion and that all questions are answered. Absorb the answers and learn to articulate them even without full technical background.
QA
Triage all incoming QA issues. Analyze them and delegate if necessary. Ensure that all QA issues are solved on time, whatever it takes. Negotiate with the Organizer/QA tester on issues which may need alternative solutions or may need deferment. Help the Organizer articulate QA snags to the client in understandable terms. Add complex notes to the documentation.
Ensure that QA starts on time. Provide the details of QA to the tester (requirements, standards, etc). Verify that bugs are coming in on time and are passed to the Artisan. Ensure that the Artisan is solving QA issues in a timely fashion. Ensure that the documentation remains updated throughout the process (either directly when updates are simple, or by working closely with the Artisan to make sure they update it)

Responsibilities

Shared

  • Ensure the project is to spec
  • Ensure the timeline is met
  • Ensure the budget is maintained

Artisan Duties

  • Perform creative or technical reviews (approving merge requests, etc)
  • Work with the Organizer to maintain the project’s Basecamp todo lists. Frequently, the Artisan is best positioned to fill out the body of a todo with relevant instructions for a different team member, while the Organizer is best at creating all the original todos and making sure they get filled out by the Artisan.
  • Act as the leader for the design/dev staff on the project. Provide the overall direction for the work.
  • Typically, take on the primary design/dev responsibilities (For a large project, the artisan may be more hands-off)
  • Act as the lead presenter for client work, deferring to team members to discuss particular aspects of the work

Organizer Duties

  • Ensure the project is completed to spec, on time, and on budget. Monitor the budget and timeline constantly. Flag and correct deviations from the plan.
  • Act as the lead person for client communication (though the artisan and other team members will typically be involved in client communication as well)
  • Run the opening and closing procedures for the project. Receive new project instructions from Sales via the SOW signed by the client. Conduct internal kickoff calls to ensure that the whole team has read and fully absorbed the SOW and understands the project fully.
  • Schedule internal and client-facing meetings appropriately.
  • Ensure that the Basecamp todos for the project are comprehensive and accurate at any given moment. Frequently, the Organizer will require the Artisan to provide technical or creative details around todos that are assigned to team members other than the artisan. For instance, if we are creating 10 comps, and the Artisan is doing 5, the Artisan should also write descriptions for the tasks in the other 5 comps. The Organizer is responsible for prompting the Artisan to do so at an appropriate time.
  • Ensure that we have the right staff assigned to the project to get it completed correctly. The Artisan may have better perspective on which internal or external people