Strategists & Project Managers

All Cantilever projects (both internal and client-facing) have a designated Strategist and Project Manager. The Strategist is the “Directly Responsible Individual” of the project. The buck stops with them, and therefore, they have control over how they want to do things. Often, a strategist will be in a leadership role, but anyone at the company can be a strategist, even an outside consultant. The PM is not responsible for setting the vision for the project, but is responsible for ensuring that the team works according to our methodology. The PM keeps everyone playing by the same rules.

Solving Problems

When it comes to client work, the problem we solve best is that their website is not delivering the results they need. Sub-versions of that problem are things like:

  • Our website is broken
  • We want a new feature to accomplish a specific goal
  • Our website has a bug

The Strategist’s job is to make sure this problem is crystal clear, and that the context and reason is also clear. They determine the goals of the project and are responsible for taking the problem to the team to solve. They can bring their own ideas too, but it is not their job to solve the problem (designing the website, creating the spreadsheet, writing the code, etc).

The Strategist hands off clarified problems to the team, usually in the form of Asana todos. A given project may contain one overall problem, or many smaller ones. On a large project, the “problems” are usually just pieces of work that we commonly need to do. On an ongoing website support project, the problems will be individual things that need addressing. The solution might be to write new code, use a plugin, or a third-party service. The strategist doesn’t decide that, the team does.

The PM is in the middle of it all, monitoring this process, and ensuring that it is progressing properly. The PM makes sure that we are meeting our commitments, and takes care of all the logistics required to run the project successfully. The PM should be intimately aware of all the developments taking place on their projects and regularly reports back to the client and strategist.

Duties

Strategist

  • Handles new requests for work from clients
  • Clarifies the problem, determines the constraints, and sets the vision for the project or task
    • What are we trying to solve here (not necessarily what you asked us for...)?
    • Why is this important?
    • When does this need to be solved by?
    • How much are you willing to invest?
    • Which approvals should be necessary before this work can be considered complete?
  • Hands off problems to the team. Ensures that all tasks which reach the team are clarified and actionable.
  • Finalizes project schedules in concert with the team and PM and negotiates with the client
  • Reviews the solutions the team comes up with and validates that the problem has been solved
  • In an ongoing project, manages the backlog and determines when backlog items should be prioritized.
  • In client-facing projects, Becomes a partner with the client and has a keen understanding of their business realities and how we could solve them.

Project Manager

  • Sets up all the project systems (Harvest, Asana, etc)
  • Translates the schedule into the systems
  • Coordinates fitting the project schedule into the Company-wide sprint calendar
  • Tracks how we are doing and alerts the strategist if things are going wrong
  • Sets up all internal and external meetings, using their judgment to decide on an appropriate cadence for the project
  • Runs the meetings, setting the agenda, taking notes, and following up with the recording.
  • For client projects, creates Master Services Agreements/ Scopes of Work (MSAs/SOWs) according to the vision determined by the Strategist and the team and agreed by the client
  • For client projects, Creates and monitors invoices
  • Handles logistical needs during the project, such as system access, licenses, software, travel, etc.
  • Logs action items as tasks and asks for clarification from the strategist when necessary
  • Handles basic problems instead of the strategist when possible, saving time.

Team (Designers, Devs, etc)

  • Takes responsibility for working on clarified tasks according to individual skillset, availability, preference, etc.
  • Works with the Strategist to ensure shared understanding of the problem to be be solved
  • Communicates with the client or internal stakeholders to work through questions and present completed work for discussion/review
  • Requests approvals from peers, QA, clients, etc based on the approval requirements specified by the strategist