SLO STC banner

Acorn November 18, 2002 Program Summary
by Adele Sommers

Falling leaves

"Keys to Managing a Successful Information-Based Project" was the second event in a three-part Fall professional development series entitled, "Solving Information Challenges in the Workplace."

Summary: The whirlwind tour of project management given by educator, software developer, and multimedia expert Dottie Natal fully riveted a group of over 20 attendees and left us feeling anxious to know more. Recognizing that a two-hour window allows for only a superficial treatment of such an expansive topic, she nevertheless adroitly covered the gamut of project management issues, from a 30,000-foot view of the product life cycle down to the coding-level details.

Was this an impossible request? Not for someone like Dottie, who has mastered the art of the "elevator talk." Consisting of a spiel no longer than the time it takes to get in, ride to your destination and get off, this effective technique has succeeded on many occasions in garnering both interest and business from influential power players who shared elevators with her in Washington, D.C. government buildings.

Many of the resulting contracts and grants that her company, Imagen Multimedia, Inc., has received over the years came from the U.S. Departments of Health, Juvenile Justice, and Education. Imagen's funding often originates from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) programs. (For more information on this subject, see

Imagen's projects often focus on information dissemination. These productions typically reside on CD-ROM and embody enormous amounts of data. They may contain hundreds or thousands of resources in the form of videos, case studies, documents, forms, links, and reference materials. Some are designed as "decision support systems" (DSS) that, much like "performance support systems," guide users through complex tasks such as setting up a new social program. Carefully designed interfaces made with cutting edge tools enable people with diverse backgrounds and learning styles to successfully access and use the material.

Some of the dozens of project management tips and "nuggets of advice" Dottie shared with us include:

  • Tell your clients what they want -- don't agree to give them what they say they want (at least not initially), as they may not know what they need!
  • Walk away from any clients who can't, or won't, articulate their needs, as the project will devolve into a lose/lose situation.
  • Keep your blinders on and don't deviate from the scope of work outlined in the contract -- "scope creep" (or "feature creep") occurs all too easily! Capture any new feature requests on a waiting list for the next system upgrade.
  • It's better to err on the side of overestimating the time and cost -- and then being able to charge less in the end -- than underestimating and having to either charge more or absorb the extra cost.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel -- there are many low-cost or no-cost tools, standards, and modules available that will save your projects considerable time and money.

To see Dottie's online presentation, or to download a printable PDF slide summary, please go to

Photography by Mary Meyer.


We started our journey
We started our journey...


Telling an interesting story
Telling an interesting story


A view of the design cycle
A view of the design cycle


Trying to soak it all in Trying to soak it all in!


With our great appreciation
With our great appreciation

Falling leaves
Falling leaves
Topic 2:
"Keys to Managing a Successful Information-Based Project"
Date: Monday evening, November 18, 2002
Speaker: Dottie Natal, founder of Imagen Multimedia Inc. in Lompoc, and a nationally recognized expert and developer of multimedia projects for academia, government, and nonprofit organizations.

"Keys to Managing a Successful Information-Based Project" explored ways to successfully manage an information-based project to meet the customer's expectations, on schedule and within budget. Whether you're designing a software interface, Web site, multimedia production, knowledge management database, or instructional system -- and whether your role is team member, project manager, client, or consultant -- you'll receive a bird's-eye overview and invaluable tips for keeping your project on track!

For details on the presentation, please see "Program" below.

Door Prize: "How to Run Successful Projects III: The Silver Bullet" (3rd edition) by Fergus O'Connell.

Introduction and announcements

Part 1: What are the basics of managing information-based projects?
This segment will answer these important questions:

• How do you find clients and projects that fit your interests and resources, and/or obtain funding for your own projects?
• Estimating time and resources -- how long will it take and how much will it cost?
• Needs analysis -- what are the needs of the client? Of the end user?
• The design cycle -- what are necessary components of the product? What should the interface look like?
• The development cycle -- what are the nuts and bolts of prototyping, developing and testing?

Part 2: The nuts and bolts -- how do you put it all together and make it work?
This segment will address these key areas:

• How should you select the development environment and professional contributors for the project?
• Show and tell -- some examples of projects and lessons learned
Informal Q&A

Disclaimer & credits