Many SEKE modules will be based around the concept of an external collaborator providing a project for a single student, or team of students to work from. It can often be daunting for a first time SEKE participant to understand how to unpack the project they have been given and decide on the steps to achieve this.
Most projects are complex in some way, and the best approach to get started is to work with flipcharts, online mind maps, flow diagrams. You are unlikely to be successful in immediately going to the keyboard to type up a plan. Work in rough, draw sketches, and have lines linking ideas and potential activities together so that you begin to see how it all might fit together.
Analyse your brief
You are likely to be provided with a project description or project brief at the start of your SEKE activity.
Create a clear set of objectives
Having analysed the brief, the next step is to create a clear set of objectives for your project.
SMART is a useful method commonly used in projects.
Use the navigation arrows under the slider below to progress through each slide.
Discuss your SMART objectives with your client and/or tutor to get feedback, but prepare to be challenged. You may be asked to explain the decisions you have made - don’t be disheartened by this and always explain why you have decided on something clearly and confidently.
When working with clients, determining these SMART objectives can take a lot of effort. Often, clients don’t know what you are capable of, or how long a task will take. Clients might not be clear at project start exactly what they want from you. So, a top tip is to start somewhere and refine the objectives through discussion with the client and tutor.
Decide key milestones and tasks
Once you have set your objectives, you will need to decide the key milestones and tasks.
Milestones are specific dates and enable you to judge your progress toward your objective. They help break the project into manageable chunks. Tasks are the activities you need to do to reach those milestones.
Below are an example set of milestones: the project in question is to research a set of software packages and then make recommendations on which should be adopted:
This simple example gives you an idea of how a project can be laid out using milestones.
If your project has a team aspect to it, then you will need to assign different team members to different tasks. A good technique is to have one person as the “lead” for a specific task, and one or more to help support.
Assigning roles in your project will enable a clear division of work and responsibility, and help individual members to play to their own strengths.
Asking scoping questions will help you to clarify what you will be doing, to put some boundaries on the project, and to decide what approach you will adopt. Sometimes, the client may be very clear what they want you to do, but you have to decide how to do it.
Key questions to ask yourselves before you proceed:
- What is the key information we need to gain, and how will we do this?
- Which people do we need to talk to or read about their work? e.g. university staff, faculty librarian, journal and trade articles/magazines, customers, staff in the client organisation?
- When do we need to do what tasks? What is the best sequence? Are some tasks dependent on others?
- How will we know if we have been successful? Can we ask the client to clarify this? it might be that success is more about discovering things, and opening up viewpoints that the client had not considered.
- Refining the project aim. OK, so it might be already very clear and fixed, but are your enquiries indicating that the aim might need to be adjusted?
Setting objectives at the start of a SEKE activity or project is really important as it will enable you to plan, develop a strategy and ultimately deliver a great project.
Note that there are various different approaches to managing a project, and these are summarised in the tool called Project Management Approaches.
Whichever approach you take, the steps we have provided above are a sound starting point for getting started with a project.