Project Management and Multimedia Design and Production
This chapter was designed to bring knowledge and experience to the field of Multimedia
development. In particular, the intent of the chapter is to explore, bring to the surface,
and explain some of the current issues pertaining to Multimedia development and Project
The key issues of this chapter are as follows:An introduction to the the field of
- Project management and multimedia design
- The human component;
- Chaos theory in project management;
- Managing Multimedia Design Projects
- Key Activities of a Multimedia Project Manager;
- Key players in Multimedia Development;
- Pitfalls and areas of caution;
- Additional Project management issues to consider.
An Introduction To Project Management
Project management is a concept that most people know something about. Without
realizing it, we are all project managers in everyday life. Any task or job that we
undertake as human beings requires at least some project management, otherwise it would
not get done. In basic terms, we assess what needs to be accomplished and what steps need
to be taken. Next we choose the tools for the job, and assess the time needed to complete
Surveying the Project Management landscape, one discovers that there are similarities
in all project management models. A generic model can be assembled and a basic model can
be used for any and all project management tasks. This Chapter will briefly discuss that
generic models components, later; they will be refined to deal with multimedia
issues. The basic project management model has four phases of implementation; they are the
conceptualization phase, the planning phase, the execution phase, and the termination
phase. Each phase has a number of components or tasks associated with it. Each of these
tasks must be addressed sequentially in order for the model to function effectively.
In the conceptualization phase, which is the first phase, the first task is to identify
need, that is to establish that the project is required and what the final requirement is.
The second task is to establish feasibility, or can the project attain its goal without
too much time, effort and financial outlay. Next the project manager must identify the
alternatives, and weigh the costs associated with each against their effectiveness. A
proposal must be prepared to inform the client of the projects parameters and
limitations, and then a basic budget and schedule can be prepared. The final task in the
conceptualization phase is to identify the project team, selecting the most effective
people for the job.
The planning phase will require a higher level of effort. A schedule must be
implemented to begin the planning phase. After the schedule is implemented, the project
team begins conducting studies and analyses. This will establish the framework of the
project, and supply information. Once the research has been assembled, a system can be
designed. From there, the project team begins to build and test prototypes of the project.
Once the results of these tests have been analyzed, approval for production is obtained,
and one final model is chosen.
We are now at the peak of our level of effort, the execution phase begins. Materials
necessary for implementation must be procured, and the relevant tools must be developed
and tested. Support requirements must be developed, and the system must be produced. Once
the results of the system implementation have been verified, and modified as necessary, we
enter the termination phase.
The termination phase begins with the training of functional personnel, the ones who
will maintain the system after it is in place. Once the maintenance personnel are in
place, they will be transferred relevant materials, and subsequently, responsibility for
the system performance. At this point all relevant resources will be released, and project
team members will be reassigned. The project has now become a self-sustaining system.
shows the four phases of the generic project management model. Phases 1 and 4,
conceptualization and termination, are the least labor intensive while phases 2 and 3,
planning and execution, require the most effort.
Project Management models help to organize our thoughts and schedule necessary events
to make projects run more smoothly. If you think about it, these models are fairly common
sense rules organized and clarified to facilitate our thought processes.
As was said before, Project Management is a vital part of every day life, if you take
these everyday occurrences of Project Management and extrapolate on them, this, as well as
many other generic models begin to materialize. It sounds like an important term, and it
is, its just that we all are project managers everyday.
The Human Component
The human component in the design and production of multimedia materials is a large and
therefore an important component. These type of projects very labour intensive, requiring
the efforts of large numbers of knowledgeable, skilled, artistic, imaginative and creative
people. Because of this, the importance of the human component is inordinately large in
the project management process and, as such, it plays a significant part in the successful
completion of any multimedia design and production project. The quality of the finished
product depends on the best management of the human component.
The following is an outline of the important concepts involving the management of the
human component in multimedia design and production projects.
Nature of projects from the human perspective:
- Each project is unique.
- End result often can not be determined at the beginning.
- Constant uncertainty.
- Temporary organizations.
- Diverse personnel.
- Direct control lacking.
- Human relations skills important.
- People interface problems develop.
- Cooperation necessary.
- Task oriented.
- Personnel often change.
- Little direct control the personnel.
- No definite project boundaries.
- Loose supervision and control.
- Communications important.
- Keep perceptions of the project congruent amongst members.
- Indirect control.
Characteristics of the human component in multimedia projects includes:
- Large numbers of workers.
- Labour intensive
- Division of labour.
- Independent work.
- Diffuse or loose control.
- Variety of tasks.
- Specific knowledge and skills.
- Artistic and imaginative people.
- Abstract and creative personalities.
Important concepts in people management:
Components of project management leadership:
The project manager manages the human component to ensure:
- The maintenance of project continuity.
- Administration of change.
- Multidisciplinary approach.
- Project coordination and sequencing.
Techniques in people management:
- Involve people in planning.
- Build commitment.
- Build teamwork.
- Participatory decision making.
- Minimize instruction.
- Minimize supervision.
- Establish project team culture or norms.
- Establish objectives.
- Foster cohesiveness.
- Develop solidarity.
- Establish a group mindset.
- Work for the benefit of the whole group.
- Set standards of behaviour.
- Implicit contract between all members of the team.
Participatory planning is good:
- Expands thinking.
- Clarifies purposes.
- Involves everyone.
- Clarifies the image or attributes of the finished project for all.
Attributes of the effective group:
- Everyone agrees on the main objective.
- Members perceive themselves as part of the group.
- Open interaction between members.
- People are willing to embrace change.
Creating a good working and learning environment is important and achieved by:
- Rewarding results not compliance.
- Encouraging initiative
- Emphasizing professionalism.
- Providing opportunities for individual advancement.
- Providing opportunities for individual fulfillment.
Building and maintaining good channels of communications to:
- Access new information.
- Ensure there is little distortion.
- To encourage active listening.
- To assist in the early identification of problems.
- To aid in the solution of problems.
Contrary to popular belief, there are some benefits to poor communications. They are:
- Avoids confrontation.
- Speeds decision-making.
- Minimizes opposition.
- Increases creativity.
- Preserves management mystique.
Chaos Theory In Project Management
This theory involves the management of projects in a non-linear way. This is in keeping
with the new holistic paradigms. There are four elements for managing projects in the
non-linear or chaotic framework.
Initial Area of Order
- This should be as large as possible because everything will tend towards disorder.
- Control by negative feedback is possible to control a small amount of disorder.
- Control by positive feedback is more difficult but can be used to control a larger
amount of disorder.
- People embrace change if they are resilient, proactive and have a positive outlook.
- Results must be rewarded rather than just compliance with decisions.
- Initiative and risk taking must be encouraged as success breeds success.
- Professionalism must be emphasized through offering opportunities for further training.
Channels of Communication
- Important due to the fluid nature of both the organizations and the projects.
- Distortion should be minimized in order to avoid misunderstandings.
- Access by all to new information helps determine choices available and leads to success.
- Active listening by the project manager must be reinforced through such things as hot
- Encourage problem identification and solution at the lowest levels as it limits the size
to which problems might grow and speeds up project completion.
- Dont end the project, allow it to continue to evolve.
- Maintain continuity by keeping some portion of the development team involved on an
ongoing basis in the finished project.
- Administer constant change in order to avoid having to redo the entire project in order
to update it in the future.
For more information, visit the following World Wide Web site:
The Uses of Chaos Theory in Project
Managing Multimedia Design Projects
Producing effective Multimedia is a very challenging task which involves several
people, several steps, a definite financial commitment, and normally a final product or
deliverable. In other words, there are usually several steps and processes, which need to
take place in order to successfully produce multimedia.
This section deals primarily with Project Management Techniques and the techniques are
customized from the generic project management schema and used to design, develop, and
produce multimedia products.
Multimedia Production involves a series of processes and it can be best described as a
team effort. The Project Manager is the catalyst and coordinator of the project, managing
all resources and overseeing the progress of the design and development team. Some of the
key people in multimedia development are the following:
- A project manager
- Subject matter experts
- Contracted or in-house multimedia production expertise
- The instructional designer
- The writer (scripting and editing);
- Coordination of external resources such as on site location, content gathering, filming
on site etc.
- Video and audio technicians
- Advertising, marketing, championing activities.
The Project Manager
The project manager is the person who coordinates the entire development of the
multimedia project and is ultimately the person responsible for quality of the final
product, allocation of funds, and the time management of the project. In order to be a
successful project manager of these "multi-faceted" activities, a clear
understanding of the team's roles and responsibilities are essential. Additionally, a
solid understanding of Project Management Techniques are also critical.
Key Activities of a Multimedia Project Manager
- Coordinates initial start up meetings between all parties;
- Schedules additional meeting throughout the project;
- Clarify, publish, and communicate timelines and milestones (establish deadlines);
- Breakdown the allocation of tasks and ensure all agencies are aware of their schedule
- Monitor the allocation of tasks and the use of resources;
- Monitor progress;
- Manage the allocation of financial resources;
- Ensure quality control throughout the project and sign off the final deliverable;
- Evaluate the process and produce a project completion report; and
- Market the final product; ensure the product reaches the target audience.
Brief Descriptions of the Key Players in Multimedia Development
Subject Matter Experts (SME's):
These people are critical to the validity of the content of the Multimedia. They should
be used to provide content expertise advice toward the development of the product. SME's
have a stake in the project because it will reflect their degree of expertise and
knowledge. SMEs dont always have to be the client, but certainly are involved
in providing the technical expertise to the content.
It is critical that the project manager obtains a valid representative sample of SME's
to use on the project. The quality of the content will only be as good as the SME's
The Project Manager must ensure that the SME's are available, understand their role,
and most importantly be left to provide Subject Matter Expertise only. A wise Project
Manager will keep the SME's involved at this level only, allowing them to focus on
content, rather on the development of the Multimedia Product.
Contract or In-house Multimedia Production Expertise
- This is an interesting area of project management because it will often be a choice and
balancing act between quality, costs, time, and resources. As alluded to earlier, the cost
of developing multimedia is very expensive and can range from of $10,000 to $50,000 per
hour of instruction. Labour from 50 to 100 hours per hour of instruction. All you really
need to know is that producing multimedia is an expensive endevour and you really need to
be prudent with your decisions.
- In-House vs. Contracted Multimedia Development will ultimately be the Project Manager
choice. If you are interested in building in-house expertise, then developing a project
in-house may be the way to go. On the other hand, if you are looking for quality and cost
balance, then contracting out will be an area to investigate.
- Point to consider: Most companies and corporations contract out the multimedia
development. The advantage is you can select and evaluate a production company through the
competitive bidding process, select the best company to do the job, contract, and then
work close and hard with then through the life of the project to maximize the potential
for an excellent final product.
The Instructional Designer
The instructional designer is a very critical key to success for effective multimedia
development. All multimedia geared towards creating a dynamic, effective learning
environment must have legitimate and sound instruction design and strategy built into the
program. The instructional designer or design team can consist of people from either
in-house, contract, or combination of both.
The Instructional Designer is Critical Because:
- Provides the advice on effective and efficient learning strategies
- Can work with the SMEs to breakdown the content and organize it into reasonable
- Can design effective learning strategies and build them into the multimedia project
- Understand how to organize, manage, and deliver information to create an effective
- Develops introductions, main content body, review, application, an motivational segments
of the multimedia project
- Understands the target audience and designs the level of learning appropriate to their
- Understands the key components of effective multimedia development and delivery and
ensures this built into the project.
- Does research without agencies to acquire additional resources and references
- Gives a logical and structured format to the design decision throughout the development
of the project
- Can evaluate the final "pilot" product and make necessary adjustments to
fine-tune the effectiveness of the multimedia.
Pitfalls and Areas of Caution - Lessons from Experience
To be a project manager of a multimedia production is challenging to say the least.
Normally the projects are of significant profile (due to their high costs and relative
newness) and there are many people interested in seeing the final product become a
state-of-the-art success. People will be monitoring your progress and keenly interested in
seeing your final product.
- Area of Caution #1: The quality of the final product is never guaranteed to meet the
"wonderful" expectations everyone had at the conceptualization stage. Keeping
this in mind, technology changes, needs change, delivery platforms change! Keep your
projects small; this increases the chance of success and a useful product. Beware of
technological changes, and strive to ensure you have selected the appropriate equipment to
warrant the success of your project. Dont let your multimedia project become a
dinosaur before it is implemented.
- Area of Caution #2: Really keep on track of all the activities of the project. You
have to understand the roles of the development team and ensure that they are meeting your
deadlines. In order to be on top of the activities, communicate, communicate, and
communicate! The project manager is the catalyst and the communicator. Ensure you keep the
contracted help in the picture, and continually communicate to everyone what is going on
during the development of the project. By effectively communicating the activities of the
project, you increase the potential for success, while at the same time ensuring and
keeping a record of accountability along the way.
- Area of Caution #3: Know when to stop. If the project appears to becoming out of
hand and perhaps behind schedule, or just not coming together, dont hesitate to put
a temporary, or permanent stop to the project. Remember that you are managing the project
and sometimes-tough decisions have to be taken. What you dont want to happen is to
continue, run over cost, or even worse, deliver a totally outdated or ineffective product.
- Area of Caution #4: Ensure that all parities contributing to the product feel a
sense of ownership. Bringing all parties online will significantly increase the potential
for quality produce, which all teams are value and are proud to be part of the
development. Keep people motivated and part of the team.
- Area of Caution #5: Maintain control, you are the project manager, seek advice, use
expertise, but maintain control of all the activities. Use a project management software
package to help you keep on track of all activities.
- Area of Caution #6: Timing. Ensure that your deliverables are timed to meet the
requirements of your client. Delays, or late delivery dates may invalidate your project
despite the quality. Ensure your sponsors benefit from the timely delivery of the product.
This will increase the success of the product and be a significant reward to the
Multimedia Development Team.
- Area of Caution # 7: On project completion, provide written feedback to all out-side
agencies, SMEs, and any other sources you utilized during the production of the
multimedia. Feedback is important and a powerful tool when it comes to making decisions
for any other future project starts.
Remember that Project Management of Multimedia is a relatively new science. The project
management concepts are very similar, but the frequency of people being involved or tasked
to develop multimedia is increasing rapidly. Due the high cost of development, the complex
"learning activity" potential of multimedia, and the strong desire by the
learning and teaching community to use multimedia, the interest in this field is very much
on the increase.
Additional Project Management Issues To Consider
There are three major variables in a multimedia project. They are:
- Funds - Costs vary from $10,000 to $50,000 per run hour.
- Time - Labour varies from 50 to 100 hours per run hour.
- Quality - The easiest of the variables to adjust.
There are several reasons why it is necessary to have a good project manager working on
a multimedia development project. They are:
- Reporting Requirements - Most projects are funded by grants. This is particularly true
of projects in the field of education. Those who provide the grants usually require that
specific and timely reports on the project be submitted.
- Contracts - These projects involve the use of a large quantity of copyrighted
proprietary materials for which permissions must be obtained. Other contracts for such
things as personal services, manufacturing, distribution and royalties must be negotiated.
- Multidisciplinary Nature - Multimedia projects require large and varied production teams
whose coordination and integration require considerable effort.
- Adjustments - Shifting priorities and compromises require that continual adjustments be
made to the planning of projects.
The project management is an often forgotten part of multimedia design and production.
The planning factor include:
- Importance - Project management is critical. The success of the project depends on
proper planning for project management.
- Budget - Project management is often under funded. In educational projects it is often
assumed that the management of the project will be undertaken by the teacher or instructor
at no cost. It has been found that the average cost of the project management portion of
successful multimedia development projects is 15% of the total budget.
- Small Projects - Small projects have been found to require a proportionately larger
project management sector than larger sized projects. More than 15% of the overall budgets
of these projects will have to be expended on management.
For more information, visit the following World Wide Web sites:
Professional Interactive Multimedia: Project Management Issues
Michael Greer's Project
Cleland, D. (1990). Project management: strategic design and implementation. Blue Ridge
Summit,PA. TAB Books.
Graham, R (1989). Project management as if people mattered. Bala Cynwyd, PA. Primavera
Hayes, M. (1989). Project management: from idea to implementation. Los Altos, CA. Kogan
House, R. (1988). The human side of project management. Reading, MA. Addison Wesley.
Martin, P. and Tate, K. (1997). Project management memory jogger. Methuen, MA.
Last Update 31 Mar 97 (RL)