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Author: Mark Romanelli

Mark Romanelli is a full-time lecturer in the Sports, Culture, and Events Management program at the University of Applied Science Kufstein Tirol (FH Kufstien Tirol) in Kufstein, Austria. His curriculum includes courses in Project Management and Strategic Project Development. He is a member of the Project Management Institute and a Certified Associate in Project Management.

Integrating User Stories in Project Planning & Deliverable Development

An important part of managing any project is being able to break the project down into its component parts.  A good project manager and project team need to know and fully understand what a project is intended to do in order to plan and develop the details of the project deliverables.

Project deliverables, according to the PMBOK Guide, are, “Any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability to perform a service that is required to be produced to complete a process, phase, or project.”  (Project Management Institute, 2021).  Simply put, deliverables are what a project creates or produces – the output of a project.  Those deliverables can be tangible, such as physical objects like products, or intangible, such as events or processes.  They define what a project should make or do.  When deliverables are correctly defined, each deliverable should come in two pieces.  One piece is the deliverable itself and another piece is the associated success criteria for that deliverable.  Success criteria can be broadly explained as the criteria used to measure project success (Castro et al., 2019).  Success criteria come in a broad range of formats, with elements and standards able to be applied to different projects as appropriate.  If a project deliverable is successfully completed, success criteria spell out in detail what that success should look like.

There are a number of different practices for addressing this part of project planning.  From informal discussion and consideration to structured, formal brainstorming sessions.  User Stories are one tool that every project manager should have in their toolbox for creating and defining project deliverables.


User Stories

A user story is a short statement in the everyday language or business language of the end user of a project’s output that captures, summarizes, and articulates what a user does or needs to do with that output.  It states what the user of the project output wants that project output to be able to do or what they want to be able to do with it.  User stories describe the features of a projects output from the point of view of an end user.

User stories have their background in agile practices in software development.  In this context, user stories are written to describe the features to be included in a software or technology project.  Assembled together, the list of user stories makes up the product backlog, or list of features to be built into and included in the project.  Based on order of priority, those features are pulled from the product backlog for inclusion in a sprint cycle.

As agile practices have since expanded well beyond the software and general technology sector and into use in all types of projects, so have user stories.  They have since become a useful feature in describing the output and elements of various types of projects.

User stories are written in a standardized format.  They clearly define the end user in mind (the who), the feature to be described and included (the what), and how the user will use that feature of the product (the why).  The format for user stories is, “As a   (user role)  , I want a   (product feature)  ,  so that I can   (benefit / use description)   .


The “Who” element describes the role of the user.  It asks and answers the question, “who will use the output and receive value from a particular output feature?”.



The “What” element describes the product feature itself.  This is the deliverable item of the aforementioned output.  In agile teams, this would describe one unit of delivery.  It is a single, individual feature of a projects output.



The “Why” clearly describes how the user defined in the “who” part of the story intends to use the feature.  What will they do with the feature and how does it bring value to the output of the project?

Examples of user stories include:

  • As a listener, I need a tuning button, so I can find my favorite radio station.
  • As a theater visitor, I need a ticket, so I can attend the performance.
  • As a convention delegate, I need a schedule of events, so I can plan my day at the convention.

Several slight variations on the format exist, but the general point is always the same – identifying the user, describing the output feature, and detailing its use or function. The elements can be broken down and considered in those three parts.


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Story Cards – simplified approach

Story cards are the tools used to create, arrange, and organize user stories.  Each story card is a user story as a self-contained description of a project feature, with additional accompanying elements included along with it to help further define the details of that feature.  User stories are traditionally written on physical, individual cards in order to establish the details of each user story and to facilitate the reprioritization and rearrangement of the stories for inclusion in the project.  In contemporary practice, story cards can be created and arranged in digital form, using various project management, storyboarding, or digital whiteboard software and applications.  Any format works, as long as it can be viewed, shared, discussed, and changed by the project team members.

Just as user stories themselves have some slight variations in structure depending on the specific methodology followed, so do story cards.  At a basic level, a user story card should include a title, a value statement, basic requirements, size estimation, and acceptance criteria.



The title of the story card is exactly what it sounds like.  It is a shortened or abbreviated name of the story.  It should be sufficiently expressive to describe the feature it defines.  Titles help to organize the stories for arrangement and prioritization.


Value Statement

The value statement is the heart of the story card, presenting the user story itself in the format previously set out.  It describes the user role, the feature to be included, and the benefit or use of that feature to the end user.


Basic Requirements

The basic requirements section is a flexible element of the story card and can be used to further define some of the essentials or expectations of the feature or its development.  This can include anything from aspects of functionality to resources or constraints in producing the feature.  The Basic Requirements element can be included or omitted at the discretion of the project manager or as the feature itself necessitates.


Size Estimation

In agile methodologies, the size estimation is typically done using an estimation point system.  In other practical usage, a time estimation is useful to include and sufficient to further define the story.  This is done by estimating, in time or work units, how long the feature will take to complete as described.


Acceptance Criteria

Acceptance criteria describe the basic benchmark that has to be met in order to consider the story complete.  It is a description of a successfully completed and functional feature.  Acceptance criteria can be written by asking and answering the question, “If this feature is successfully included, what does that success look like?”



In agile methodologies such as Scrum, the collection of story cards makes up the Product Backlog, or list of features to be selected for inclusion and built into the project during an iterative sprint cycle.  For more traditional methodologies, user stories and story cards can serve a number of roles.  They can help to describe and define features of a projects output from an important point of view – that of the end user.  In project brainstorming sessions, this approach helps project team members to take on that role in considering features.  Once those features are defined, they can be added to the deliverables list for the project, either as final deliverables or for inclusion in an iterative development cycle.  Finally, they can be used to supplement a traditional Work Breakdown Structure.  In this way, the story cards can create additional WBS tasks and activities for inclusion in the project schedule.


Any way they are applied, user stories and story cards are a useful tool for project managers to have in project planning and development.  They provide a structured way to consider project features, activities, and stakeholder groups.




Castro, M., Bahli, B., Farias Filho, J., & Barcaui, A. (2019). A Contemporary Vision of Project Success Criteria. Brazilian Journal of Operations and Production Management, 16(1), 66-77. doi:10.14488/BJOPM.2019.v16.n1.a6
Kissflow Project. (2021, November 23). How to Identify and Manage Project Stakeholders? Kissflow Project. Retrieved May 31, 2022, from
Project Management Institute. (2021, March 21). PMBOK Guide, 7th Edition.
San Cristóbal, J. F. (2018). An analysis of the mainproject organizational structures: Advantages, disadvantages, and factors affecting their selection. Procedia Computer Science, 138, 791-798.

Understanding Enterprise Environmental Factors

Critical elements in strategic project management


As project managers, we can’t control everything.  In every project there are factors beyond our control that can have both large and small effects on the outcome of a project. Market demands, consumer tastes, corporate culture, even the weather, are all factors that can make a difference between project success and project failure.  While these are things we can’t change, we still need to be aware of the elements within our operating environment and what they mean to the projects we manage.

Enterprise Environmental Factors

Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEF’s) are conditions, not under the immediate control of the project team, that influence, constrain, or direct the project, program, or portfolio (Project Management Institute, 2021).  These are things that are beyond the control of the project team, and often the organization in which the project is taking place, that can have effects on the outcome of the project.  Projects take place in settings that can have effects, both positive and negative, on them.  Those factors can exist both inside of the company initiating the project as well as outside of it.  An organization and project team need to identify and consider those factors in order to increase the chances of project success (Arif-Ud-Din, 2020).

Strategic management is the systematic analysis of the factors associated with the external and internal environments of an organization to provide the basis for maintaining optimum management practices  (Thompson, 2010).  It means understanding what is going on both inside and outside of an organization in order to make better plans and decisions about what to do.  Simply put, strategy is deciding what to do to achieve your goals given what’s going on in the environment around you.  Strategic project management means the same thing; making decisions about actions to take in order to achieve your project goals and objectives in consideration of the environment in which the project is taking place.

Just as in general business activities, the operating environment of a project includes both the internal and external environments.  The internal environment includes everything within the organization; organizational structure, procedures, company culture, and so on.  The external environment is the environment outside of the organization and includes everything from customer tastes to legal restrictions, even the physical environment.

In summary, EEF’s are environmental factors, both internal and external, outside of the control of a project team that can have both positive and negative impacts on project results.  The chances of successfully completing a project are increased by strategically considering EEF’s in managing a project.


Addressing EEF’s in Projects

Because every project has at least some EEF’s affecting the outcome, every project manager needs to deal with and address those factors in each project that they manage.  All of the major project management methodologies and approaches have their own prescribed steps for addressing environmental factors, but when looked at as a whole, most of them recommend taking the same three steps: 1) Identifying the factors, 2) assessing them, and 3) planning for them.  Based on experience and best practices, this is also the recommended approach to take in addressing the issue of EFF’s in managing projects.  The overall goal is to strive for having a clear understanding of the project environment in order to be better able to pursue, and achieve, the objectives of the project.


Step 1: Identifying Enterprise Environmental Factors

From formal and structured assessments to informal examinations, several different methods exist for identifying EEF’s for every project.  The depth and complexity of each method may vary, but the overall goal is still the same, which is to develop as complete of a listing as possible of potential factors in the project environment beyond the control of the project team which may have effects on the outcome of the project.

Here are a few examples of ways to identify EEF’s in projects

PMI List of EEF’s

The Project Management Institute takes a formal approach to identifying enterprise environmental factors.  The table below examines both internal and external factors to be examined as inputs into various project development and execution stages.


SWOT Analysis

Performing a SWOT analysis is a good way to identify EEF’s in a project.  While it is not a categorical list, as provided by the PMI list mentioned above, it does force a project team to examine elements of both the internal and external project environments.  In doing so, a list of EEF’s emerges and can be identified.


One advantage of using this tool to identify EEF’s is that SWOT analysis is very well known and understood by most people, which makes it much easier to conduct.

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PESTLE Analysis

A more rigorous, but still approachable and usable analysis, is PESTLE.  PESTLE is an acronym standing for six macroenvironmental factors to examine that can be used in performing an industry analysis.

P Political
E Economic
S Social
T Technological
L Legal
E Environmental


Just like SWOT, the dimensions of the PESTLE analysis are not a categorical list of environmental factors in itself, but performing the analysis also helps to identify the various EEF’s that will affect a project.

Other Methods

Several other structured methods for market and environmental analysis exist; too many to develop a definitive list.  For market analysis, Five Forces analysis can be useful.  If culture is playing a factor in an international project, cultural dimensions such as those from the Hofstedde Institute or the GLOBE project might be useful.

More important than the tool or framework used to evaluate the project or market environment is the ability to identify the factors and how they might affect the projects chances for success.


Step 2: Assess the Identified Factors

With the list of factors in hand, the next step in the process is to asses each one.  The depth of the assessment will strongly depend on the needs of the individual project, but the following list can help to provide a basis for assessment that can be built on as necessary.

Each factor should be identified as internal or external to the organization conducting the project.  This asks the question, are the factors affecting success coming from inside or outside.  Does the identified factor increase or decrease the chance of project success?  This means identifying it as positive or negative. A factor can also be rated as neutral if it is simply an item for consideration in managing the project without any inherent positive or negative direct effect.  Is the factor stable or changing?  Assessing the stability of the factor means to examine if it will remain constant or if it is likely to change during the course of the life of that particular project.  Finally, any additional comments on the impact that factor might have on the project should be noted.


Step 3: Plan for the Factors and their Effects on the Project

Finally, based on the assessment of the identified factors, project managers are in a better position to plan for managing the project in consideration of those factors.  Negative factors can be mitigated as best as possible.  Positive factors can be potentially taken advantage of to increase the changes of project success.  Factors likely to change throughout the lifetime of the project can be scheduled for reassessment as needed.  Other impacts can also be considered as appropriate for each factor.


Developing a full understanding of a project environment and considering the potential impacts on project processes and outcomes is an important part of strategic project management.  Projects are unique, and so are the environments in which they operate.  Those environments are also likely to change as time goes on.  The ability to consider the project environment is a tool that every project manager should develop and be able to use.

Project Stakeholder Register and Organizational Chart: Useful tools for project stakeholder management

Projects come in all sizes, and in most cases larger projects come with more potential complications.  This is also true when projects involve multiple individuals and organizations.  Successfully managing a project often means dealing with stakeholders beyond your immediate project team.  Stakeholders are key to the success of any project, so identifying and managing stakeholders is a critical element of project management (Kissflow Project, 2021).


Project Stakeholders

Projects frequently involve different groups, individuals, and organizations who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project.  These are known as project stakeholders (Project Management Institute, 2021). Project stakeholders can be broadly classified into two categories: Internal Stakeholders and External Stakeholders

Internal stakeholders generally include anyone within the organization conducting a project.  It starts with the internal members of the project team, the project manager, and the project sponsor.  The concept can also be expanded to include other individuals and within the organization or company, such as other teams and departments.  Internal stakeholders are usually the easiest to identify because they are immediately known and often familiar.

External stakeholders include anyone affected by the project, its processes, or deliverables and outside of the organization conducting the project. These include external project clients, end-users of product outputs, suppliers, contractors, the government, and sometimes even members of the community where the project is taking place.  The complete list of external stakeholders can be more challenging to identify as they can be new to each and every project.  And of course, no complete list of stakeholders or stakeholder groups exists for each project!


Stakeholders, both internal and external, need to be identified.  A project team should have access to information regarding their roles, responsibilities, and capabilities regarding the project. Stakeholder contact information is also essential to coordinate communication throughout the project and therefore it needs to be available to the core project team.

In addition to knowing who the project stakeholders are, a project team should know how they are organized and structured within the project environment.  This is why using a project stakeholder register and organizational chart right from the very start can help to get a clear picture of the project organization and to manage communications throughout the project lifecycle.


The Tools

While project stakeholder management is its own knowledge area and functional discipline, knowing how to use two stakeholder management tools will help to organize stakeholder management for projects of all sizes: the stakeholder register and the project organizational chart.

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The Stakeholder Register

A stakeholder register is a document including the identification, assessment, and classification of project stakeholders (Project Management Institute, 2021). It is a list of the stakeholders involved in a project and the “need to know” information about them, kept accessible to members of the core project team.


The first step in creating a project stakeholder register is to identify the stakeholders involved in a project.  Start with the internal stakeholders, and then move on to the external stakeholders.  Think about who is involved with the project both directly and indirectly.  Who might be affected by the project, its execution, and its outcome?  What individuals or organizations have authority over different aspects of the project?

Next, determine what information is needed from each stakeholder and start collecting it.  This starts with each individual’s name, position, role in the project, and contact information.  For organizations and departments, it should include the individual contact person from that stakeholder group.  Finally, any other relevant information or details pertaining to that stakeholder or stakeholder group that might be relevant to the specific project at hand.

Finally, compile the register.  This can be done in any format the project team chooses to use.  A simple spread sheet can serve the purpose, or something more organized like a contact management function in Microsoft Outlook or Google Contacts.  Many project management software programs include a resources sheet just for this purpose with customizable fields to organize the details on each stakeholder based on their importance to the project.  The most important criteria for the selection of a system to use is that it is accessible to the core members of the project team as they need to use it.


Project Organizational Chart

A project organizational chart is a document that graphically depicts the project team members and their interrelationships for a specific project (Project Management Institute, 2021). It is a visual representation of the stakeholder register indicating how various stakeholders are positioned within the project.  A projects organization structure is usually fairly obvious for small projects, but the importance of knowing and understanding the structure becomes more significant as projects grow in size and number of stakeholders.  Understanding the organization of the project stakeholders helps in defining relationships, allocating responsibilities, authority, and tasks (San Cristóbal, 2018).


The project organizational chart can be as simple as a tree diagram or a bubble chart.  More important than its design is its function and purpose, which is to understand the relationships among and between project stakeholders and to communicate this information at a glance.


Best Practices

With the tools in place, following a few best practices in creating a stakeholder register and a project organizational chart will help in coordinating project stakeholder management.

  1. Consider Frequent Project Stakeholders
  2. Start Early
  3. Involve Others
  4. Stress Test


Consider Frequent Project Stakeholders

In many organizations, project work is the normal mode of operations.  If your organization frequently works with projects, then there is a good chance that many of the project stakeholders, both internal and external, will be the same across multiple projects.  Having a list of stakeholders and their contact details ready to go will save time in creating a project register for each project once stakeholders are identified.


Start Early

The process of identifying stakeholders ideally starts once an organization selects and approves a project.  By doing so, they can be kept involved,  contacted, and consulted as necessary throughout the following stages of project development (Kissflow Project, 2021).


Involve Others

When considering details about individual stakeholders roles, responsibilities, and capabilities, it can be valuable to involve the individual stakeholders themselves, where practical, in collecting these details.  This allows for a more complete collection of information and to gain a different perspective.


Stress Testing

Once the stakeholder register and project organizational chart are completed, share them as appropriate with other project stakeholders and members of your organization.  As with the process of involving others, it helps to gain a different perspective on the information compiled.  Additional feedback will help to improve the accuracy, and therefore the usability, of both tools.

Understanding the needs, structure, and expectations of project stakeholders can be a critically important aspect of achieving project success.  Knowing the basics of project stakeholder management, as well as how to create and use a stakeholder register and project organizational chart, will go a long way toward successful stakeholder management in all types of projects.

Strategic Management Demystified – A better approach to strategic management and how you already know how to use it

Strategic management is a topic that sounds very impressive.  It conjures images of cross-functional teams dressed in business attire gathered around a table – or maybe facing a whiteboard – analyzing data and applying models in order to make decisions for the company with millions of dollars riding on the outcome.  Many of us who practice strategic management as a profession don’t mind perpetuating this image.

Sometimes this is exactly how things play out.  But other times, actually most often, the application of strategic management is much more basic.  In fact, strategic management, at its core, is so simple that most of us apply it on a daily basis without even knowing it.  Understanding how this works is the first step in really understanding strategic management.  By doing so, we can build on that understanding and create a better position to apply it in more complex settings.

What is Strategic Management?

Strategic management is the systematic analysis of the factors associated with the external and internal environments of a business to provide the basis for maintaining optimum management practices (Thompson et al, 2010). This is a pretty well-accepted definition and explanation of the topic.  Most other definitions will follow along the same lines.

While that definition is very accurate, it is also a little complicated.  An easier way to understand strategic management is to simplify the definition:  Strategic management means deciding what to do in order to get what you want given what’s going on around you.

How does Strategic Management Work?

As with most concepts, an example can show us what this is all about much better than a definition. Let’s assume that you have a long day ahead of you.  You plan to wake up in one city, travel to another, work there attending meetings, and then end the day in your hotel room.  During the day, you want to stay connected on your mobile phone, which you know you will be using extensively (calls, emails, Über, etc..).  The problem is, between home and your hotel, you will be using that phone more than your battery will last.  What are you going to do about it?  You have a number of options available to you.  You can reduce or limit your use of the phone to only the essentials.  You can bring a charging cable with you to plug in where necessary.  You can also bring a power bank along in your travel bag to power up on the go when you need to.   Simply put, how you answer this question IS your strategy. And, how you make that decision IS strategic management.

In making the decision, you have applied strategic management.  You have considered your external environment – where you are and how long you are away from your normal charging opportunities. You have considered the goals that you want to achieve in your optimum management practices – staying charged up and therefore connected throughout the day.  Finally, you have considered how you can adjust your internal environment in pursuit of your goals – you decide to bring a charging cable and a power bank along for the trip.

Similar decisions are made by all of us throughout our day.  This can mean deciding to bring a snack with you when you know you won’t have time for a proper meal.  It can be deciding what to wear for a particular occasion.  Strategy can also be seen when you select a golf club for making a particular shot.  We use it all the time.

In a classical context, strategic management means applying this exact same logic to a business environment.  It can come in the form of deciding on a strategic approach to marketing, to distribution, to recruiting, a competitive strategy, or to any one of a countless number of areas in business analysis and management.

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Elements of Strategic Management

The working definition for strategic management is, once again, “deciding what to do in order to get what you want given what’s going on around you.”  This definition identifies four elements of strategic management to consider:

  1. Goals
  2. External Environment
  3. Internal Environment
  4. Strategy


Goals are what you are trying to accomplish in a given situation.  In the definition identified, this is the, “get what you want,” part.  The questions to ask and answer for this element include, “What are my objectives?” or, “What am I trying to achieve?”.  Some standard business goals include profit, increased market share, new market penetration, bringing a product to market, and growth.  Other, more altruistic goals might be raising awareness of social issues or community enhancement.  No matter what the goals are, there should be a clear end-state that you want to achieve.

Those goals should be clearly understood and stated while developing a strategy.  After all, it is a lot easier to get what you want when you know what it is that you want to get.  There are times when we already know what our goals are.  There are also circumstances where an important first step in applying strategic management is setting those goals, to begin with.

External Environment

The external environment is the environment you are operating in that is outside of your organization, and in most cases outside of your immediate control.  Customers, competitors, tastes, trends, economic patterns, legal requirements and regulations are all elements of the external environment.  In our definition of strategic management, this is the, “what’s going on around you,” part.

Typically speaking, most elements of the external environment are beyond our influence or control.  In some cases, they can be influenced; laws and regulations can be influenced through lobbying and political action, markets can be chosen to take advantage of a lack of strong competition or because of existing demand.  Usually, however, it us up to us to decide what to do to adapt to the environment we are operating in.

An essential part of strategic management is knowing that environment and understanding how elements of the environment that will have an effect on your chosen strategy.  The formal definition of strategic management refers to, “systematic analysis.”  That systematic analysis often comes in the form of various frameworks for analyzing and understanding the environment.  It can be a simple framework such as SWOT Analysis, or something more complex and detailed to get a comprehensive picture of the operating environment, such as a Five Forces Analysis.

Internal Environment

The internal environment is the environment you are operating in that is within your organization and/or within your control.  Aspects of the internal environment include employees, resources, processes, procedures, and other things that you are able to decide on.

The internal environment is, in a simplified explanation, what you have available to work with and what you can decide to do.  It can be ready on hand or able to be acquired, but it includes all of the elements over which you have influence and control.


Strategy is the final element.  In our definition of strategic management, the strategy element is, “deciding what you are going to do.”  In consideration of what you want to accomplish (goals), and what’s going on around you (external environment), strategy means deciding what to do and how to do it in the areas you can influence and control (internal environment).

Altogether, these four elements combine to create and affect strategic management.

How Strategic Management is Applied

With a firm understanding of what strategic management is and the elements involved in practicing it, strategic management can be applied in various settings.  The depth to which an individual or organization applies structured, organized strategic management is at the discretion of the company.  It can be done superficially, or with rigorous data-driven analysis.  The depth depends on the needs of the organization and the complexity of the individual situation.

However strategic management is applied, it should be applied repeatedly.  The one constant in business is change, and this applies to both external and internal operating environments.  As those environments change, so does the big picture.  Over time, goals shift as well.  A good strategy is updated regularly to ensure a good fit among the various elements.

There are a lot of tools, techniques, frameworks, and processes that can be examined and applied in strategic management.  A good business analyst will be familiar with several and be able to select the best one, or combination, to use in a given situation.  But no tool or process can be used to maximum effectiveness if the basics of strategy, and the heart of strategic management, aren’t first understood.

Managing Cultural Sector Projects: Tips & Best Practices

One of the exciting things about project management is the variety of different types of projects available to work on. 

From building construction to product development, event management to process design, there is no limit to the number of fields where the craft is applied. 

While a lot of project management involves applying a standard set of processes, tools, and techniques to unique and challenging processes, it is also important to remember that in some fields different and specific considerations are encountered that need to be kept in mind.  For example, a project to oversee the redesign and renovation of a corporate office space is going to be very different from a project to develop a mobile app for a trade show conference.  Knowing some of the specific differences for certain areas will help PM’s to successfully manage projects in those sectors.  

One area with very specific project management needs is the cultural sector.  Cultural project management is a growth area with some distinctive considerations that are unique to the field.  This article set out to provide a few tips and best practices for managing cultural projects.  Four experts in the field of cultural science and cultural management were consulted.  All four are university academics and active, expert practitioners in the field.  They were asked a series of questions surrounding a single topic- What should project managers know and keep in mind when managing projects in the cultural sector? 

What is the Cultural Sector?

The cultural sector is a wide field, consisting of a multitude of various areas and activities.  While a single, defining, and agreed upon definition is hard to pin down, the cultural sector is most often associated with the arts.  This includes areas such as music, film, literature, fine arts, theater, music, dance, and other such creative endeavors.  Activities in these fields are associated with institutions such as theaters, galleries, and museums. Part of what makes the field so difficult to define is that cultural patterns can be found everywhere.   

One of the most unique elements surrounding activities in the cultural sector is the intention of connecting with emotions and experiential activities associated with and evoking deep feelings. 

There is a lot of grey area when discussing the cultural sector.  For example, debate exists as to the inclusion of both for profit and not for profit activities.  There is also a lack of agreement regarding the inclusion of areas defined as creative industries and cultural activities. Simply put, a checklist of items to define activities in the cultural sector does not exist and the field boundaries are open to interpretation. 

What is much easier than defining culture and the cultural sector is identifying the possible types of projects in the area, as well as the potential applications of project management.  Some typical examples of cultural sector projects involve events within the field, such as performances and shows, exhibitions, performances, and festivals.  Other cultural sector projects involve the production of cultural works.  However, even when projects in the cultural sector are event projects, they still have some very unique considerations to attend to and differences from events in other fields, such as sports or entertainment. 

Managing Cultural Sector Projects

All of the consulted experts focus on different areas of specialization within the cultural sector.  Still, throughout our conversations several common themes arose in the content of the discussions.  While managing projects in the cultural sector can be seen as an area of specialization itself, with no shortage of best practices, the following five items ascended to the top of the list as things for professional project managers to keep in mind when managing cultural sector projects:

  1.      Audience Consideration
  2.      Planning & Execution
  3.      Agility in Project Financial Management
  4.      Special Issues in Project Team Management
  5.      Varying Objectives

Audience Consideration

The output of cultural sector project activities is produced for consumption by audiences.  While the cultural sector itself is very wide, the audience for specific cultural sector projects can be very, very narrow.  Unlike other types of projects produced for an audience, cultural projects do more than deliver a service like entertaining people.  These projects raise questions, change awareness, and have strong aesthetical implications. 

Audience consideration goes deeper than just looing at differences in taste and interest.  The ability of a target audience to imagine and relate to the content must also be considered.  The level of sophistication leads to varying degrees of engagement.  For example, not everyone can engage equally in an exhibition of 14th century French art.  While a wider audience may enjoy it aesthetically, a much smaller audience, with specific interest and background knowledge, will be able to enjoy and appreciate an accompanying discussion on the works by an art historian. 

These types of considerations are addressed during the initiating and planning stages of project development.  Because cultural projects are very concerned with engaging an audience, it is important to match the levels of the output with the audience’s ability during the initial concept planning stages. 

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Planning & Execution

Another area of unique consideration in managing cultural sector projects is that activities in this area have vastly different skillsets when it comes to the areas of project planning and project execution.  The specific terminology in the cultural sector for these areas is programming and production. 

Programming is most similar to planning, and comes before production in cultural sector project development.  Activities in this area include developing a time schedule, budgeting, venue selection, and the host of other items that need to be done to plan the project.  Production is most similar to project execution, and presents very different questions to solve.  Production also involves areas such as security coordination, operation of technical equipment, plus other items in addition to the actual creation of the primary output and deliverables. 

While there are strong similarities between programming & production and the activities of planning & execution, divergences occur when considering the skills of the individuals involved in them.  In cultural project management, programming and production are two very different areas and with significantly different qualifications.  Ideally, people who want to develop proficiency in cultural project management need to cultivate skills in both areas.  Practically speaking, a when managing such projects a good project manager should work to facilitate collaboration, communication, and interactions between the two camps. 

Agility in Project Financial Management

Cultural sector projects regularly involve multiple, complex sources of funding.  Admissions, grants, endowments, subvention, and patronage are just some of the many sources.  The processes involved in receiving the funds do not follow a regular schedule and are frequently late.  Even spending can be erratic due to common occurrences like last minute programming changes.  Subsidies sometimes come in after an event is over and festivals often have lineup changes.  

These issues combine to create a lot of uncertainty in the financial management of cultural sector projects.  Project managers need to be agile in the areas of budgeting and financial management.  Monetary considerations for cultural sector projects will require more, and more frequent, attention due to the continuous changes and adjustments that are experienced. 

Special Issues in Project Team Management

In addition to working with cultural sector professionals on projects in their fields, many projects will involve non-professionals as well.  Those non-professionals present special issues and challenges in managing the project team. 

Volunteers are a key component of many cultural projects, particularly with larger events such as festivals.  Many of the team members who do receive compensation are not paid very much.  In both cases, a good portion of the team can accurately be described as underpaid and highly motivated.  Their reasons for involvement stem from intrinsic motivations to be a part of the project rather than from financial compensation as their primary objective.  Team members of these sorts can easily experience frustration and a loss of motivation if not carefully managed. 

When working with these team members, management needs to engage them frequently and keep their actual motivations in mind.   Space needs to be made to allow them to identify with the topic of the project, while at the same time making sure that their roles, responsibilities, and limits on their functions are clearly defined.  Most importantly, management needs to treat them in a friendly way, showing appreciation for their effort. 

Varying Objectives

All types of projects are more likely to achieve successful outcomes if the goals and objectives are known and kept in mind.  This is true for projects in the cultural sector as well.  However, those goals and objectives can be considerably different from projects in other fields.

Motivations usually go far beyond profits for cultural projects.  Festivals, for example, are more of a gathering rather than a vehicle to sell tickets and generate revenue.  Exhibitions are held with the intention of inviting artists in order to build discourse.  Events can operate with the objective to reach new audiences so as to legitimize future public funding.  Other altruistic aims are societal influences through communication of topics like anti-racism and anti-sexism.

Whatever the included goals of a project are, they need to be explicitly clarified.  Project managers should make a full effort to understand the goals and objectives of the project owner.  Those goals need to be communicated, articulated, understood, and kept front of mind throughout the project lifecycle. 

Managing projects in the cultural sector presents many more differences and uniquely challenging elements as well.  No amount of advice can replace experience, but some guidance can help to achieve success while that experience is being developed.  Cultural projects also have the potential to be rewarding and inspiring endeavors to work on.  The cultural sector contributes to society and its members.  The successful management of projects in the sector can help to further the depth and reach of that contribution.