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Jan 15 2021
Jan 15

It’s true that execution translates visions of the organisations into reality. Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan’s ‘Execution: The discipline of getting things done’ corroborates the same. In the software industry, it often translates to efficacious project management. Usually, a framework and specific methodologies are followed for the successful execution of a project. While the framework and methodologies are pivotal for project management, the human aspect of it can’t be sidelined.

A vector image with a human face and brain to represent human psychology in project management


Think of a Drupal project that is being undertaken by a project manager. He or she has a mix of experienced members and newbies in the team who would help in the speedy completion and timely launch of the Drupal website. Amongst everything else, the human factor here is very important to be considered. The psychological aspects of the individuals, both the project manager and the team members, can well be the decisive factor for a project to be a success or a failure. Their perceptions, emotions, problem-solving skills, decision-making processes among others can have an astronomical impact on the way project is being handled and executed.

Key competencies in project management

A heptagon formed by circles and text inside it to represent human factor in project managementSource: Project Times

Project management methodologies constitute technical and procedural factors like scoping, scheduling, budgeting, quality assurance, risk, communications and procurement. And, they all very well established frameworks. But, it’s the people who act as the core of project management. In a study titled ‘Human factor skills of project managers derived from the analysis of the project management processes’, emphasises that people, not objectives and processes, make the project successful.

bar graph showing statistics on human psychology in project managementImportance of project manager skills | Source: ResearchGate

Creating and managing the psychological contract between leadership and team is also a must. Project managers need a set of skills to perform at his or her best. These set of skills can be put together in the ‘Eye of Competence’ model, states the research paper titled ‘The psychological contract and project management as a core competence of the organisation’. They are:

  • Technical competencies
  • Behavioural competencies
  • Contextual competencies
pie chart in green showing textual information on human psychology in project managementSource: ScienceDirect

All the skills needed by the project manager related to project life cycle (initiate, plan, execute control, close) comes under technical competencies. The personal competence elements of project managers like attitude, abilities and behaviour come under behavioural competencies that help in dealing with different team-related challenges during the project lifecycle. Aligning project management with the organisational aspects of the company falls into contextual competencies.

The psychology of project leadership

Animated picture of a man and a woman talking to each otherHelping shoppers actually helps in developing great facilitation skills | Source: UXmatters

Brett Harned, Author of ‘Project management for humans’, in one of the chapters, recalls his own experience of working in retail. As the salesman, he was incented to make sales for a commission. He recounts a particular incident when a couple came into the store and were looking for buying a gift for a family member. They started off with five pairs of sunglasses and zeroed in on two of them.  Because Brett wanted to make the sale but didn’t know the person who was to receive the gift, he shared everything he knew about the sunglasses ranging from facts about the glasses to a lot of ridiculous questions.

Eventually, they decided to buy the one they both agreed upon and were satisfied with it. They thanked him for helping them with the decision-making. This incident helped Brett understand what actually helped customers to make a purchasing decision. More importantly, experiences like this helped him understand the importance of ‘human factor’ behind the success of organisations. In organisations, it’s the people who can make projects difficult and it’s the people themselves who can make projects easier. More often than not, a project manager’s role becomes that of a facilitator because part of keeping a project on track is keeping the people on track.

flowchart with boxes connected by arrows showing human psychology in project managementMental decision process | Source: ResearchGate

The proper analysis of the human factor in project management can be done if we know how the decision-making process is actually taking place.

To start off with the psychology of project leadership, look for the objective measurement of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits and educational achievements using psychometric analysis. To do this, Myers Briggs or an assessment tool from McQuaig Institute can be helpful.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is also an important element to be considered for project managers. It is basically the ability to recognise one’s own and other people’s emotions. HBR defines it as:

“From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It doesn’t necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.”

A table with different coloured columns showing human psychology in project managementSource: Harvard Business Review

Daniel Goleman, Author and Psychologist, states that there are five important components of EI:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy for others
  • Social skills

In the conference paper, Complex project management: towards a theory of cognition for ill-structured tasks, Michael Kilpatrick says that the hurdles encountered by project managers tend to be ill-defined and open to several interpretations. The project managers have to understand the internal dynamics of the team and stakeholders.

Moreover, we need to understand that project management is both cognitive conscious (planned forms of activity) and cognitive unconscious (critical thinking skills). So, project managers need analytical, organisational, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.

a rectangle with two diagonal lines inside it explaining human psychology in project managementSource: ResearchGate

The human side of team members and project managers

Consider the following pointers to get the highest level of productivity out of your team members in addition to making sure of their mental and physical well-being:

As a project manager, eliminate the usage of the term ‘resources’

Calling team members as ‘resources’ is the worst you can do as project managers. Because it’s not about using people to just get things done. It’s more about asking them to solve problems that are presented in your projects.

While talking to Project Managers and Scrum Masters at OpenSense Labs about this subject, I understood why the term ‘resource’ occurs in the first place. They observed that with mutiple projects, both small-scale and large-scale, being undertaken by the organisation, they, as project managers, have to be on their toes to ensure proper team effort and timely deliveries. Juggling between a multitude of projects and focussing an awful lot on deadlines, they have shown proclivity to see their team members as so-called resources. With so much going on, they agree that it does get tough sometimes to see the emotional side of a team member, but they know it themselves when things get too hectic and it’s time to put a personal touch so that everyone is at ease and takes it upon himself/herself to finish the tasks.

As a team member, choose product thinking over project thinking

One of the toughest challenges that project managers (or organisations for that matter) face is to try and elevate thinking and culture from a project level to a product level. The focus of project thinking is delivery. This could be specific features of a web application or revamp of an entire website. In contrast, product thinking enables you to focus on outcome rather than on output.

Instead of focusing on timelines and dates, there is an emphasis on the goal you want to achieve or the job to be done. So, it becomes much more difficult to put time constraints around the delivery, at least up front. Regardless of how we try and get there, we ensure that we get to the outcome more efficiently.

The project managers at OpenSense Labs encourage their team members to leverage product mindset instead of project mindset. They have observed it’s practically not possible to do micro-management of team members when involved in multiple projects. So, they expect them to show maturity and act on the tasks at hand with the product thinking approach. Because if they just focus on deliverables and finish off the tasks assigned to them, it becomes tougher and tougher for the project managers too to ensure the best result. They would rather want their team members to proactively work on tasks and come up with their own unique solution too. And, when the project managers look stressed when the deadline approaches, just hearing ‘We will take care of it, mate’ from at least one of their team members puts their mind at ease knowing that there’s a collective effort going on and it’s not just the project manager who is dedicated and concerned.

Make sure that the team is not overbooked and prevent developer burnout

Keeping your team members busy and working on tasks is a tricky thing. You need to create a balance in the amount of work that is being undertaken by your team members. This will enable you to confidently commit to deadlines on projects knowing that your team is actually available to do the related work.

Communicate about staffing as much as you can. In an organisation that is continuously handling change, you will know that it’s a tough target to hit. Nevertheless, make sure to stay ahead of the resource crunch. Your team will be appreciative of your efforts in protecting their work-life balance and work-life harmony.

Well, our project managers have always seen that the mental well-being of team members plays a crucial role for long-term planning. Constant communication and transparency in discussions with each and every member about how he or she is feeling mentally helps them understand whether or not a person is feeling overworked or overbooked. They have encouraged them to take a half day leave or even a full day leave when they are feeling low on spirits for whatever reason it can be. They have also focussed on assigning less critical tasks to less experienced members before moving on to give them the more important and complex tasks. This has helped in making a team member progress through the ranks, learn at his or her own pace and finally working on business-critical tasks when they themselves feel confident about it.

Connect with your team

Matching skills to your projects is a whole new task in itself. Connecting with your team and understanding what motivates them is crucial. Find out what your team members’ interests are. Get to know each and every team member’s work. With changing project schedules, plan how you will fill someone’s time with other work. Asking people to plan holidays and vacations in advance would help you plan ahead. Humans are hale and hearty one day and bedridden the next. So, you have got to be ready with a back-up plan.

Covid-19 pandemic affected OpenSense Labs in different ways and we found ways to cope with it. We made sure open-ended leaves are given to ones who contracted coronavirus for them to recover and be back at work when they feel completely okay. A lot of elders especially were more vulnerable during these times. And, one of our team members looked very worried about his father’s deteriorating health, so we made sure he is given some time to be with his father and the financial benefits are provided without any deductions in monthly income for his long absence from work. We have also seen that reallocating tasks to certain individuals have helped them in their learning process. For instance, we have assigned more HTML and CSS related tasks to the guys who wanted to learn frontend development. We have also ensured that we do not shout at anyone or humiliate anyone in a group call for lack of productivity. One-on-one conversations have helped us to communicate things in a proper way, understand someone’s personal setback or realise how someone’s not happy about his or her marriage-related discussions happening within the family. And, sometimes project managers, involved in several projects simultaneously, have to deal with upset clients for different reasons and our team members understand that. When the PM isn't able to join a meeting with a client, one of the team members gives assurance for filling in for him or her.

Here's how OpenSense Labs shifted to remote working environments during Covid-19 pandemic.

Consider the stakeholders as decision-makers

It’s of utmost importance to understand that no one gets trained formally or is taught at some place to be a good client, stakeholder or project sponsor. But it’s not like they don’t know how to. They do know the fact that they have to be polite and nice to a project manager. It doesn’t have to be drilled into their heads by some means. What matters the most is that they are also, at the end of the day, humans and show their emotions while working on several projects with several people at one time. Life as a client can be difficult. As a project manager, you have to help them plan their time appropriately and communicate properly.

A lot of the times our project managers would have to deal with frustrated clients. Not because of any kind of problems with our work. But because of the fact that the client's boss would be putting some pressure on him or her and asking for an update on some of the crucial tasks. Our PMs have to understand their emotions and communicate things in a way that there is a mutual understanding of each other’s emotional well-being. We have also put a particular emphasis on finishing off different tasks much earlier than deadlines for the client’s satisfaction even if it was not that urgent. And, there was an instance where one of our new guys couldn’t deliver any task for over a month. But our project manager communicated with the clients accordingly as he saw that the guy showed intent and gave enough time and space to prove that he can start delivering. His daily tasks were internally supervised and managed and it worked eventually. Sometimes, we have to deal with a situation where a guy, who has worked late hours and has given his everything to the project’s success, has to suddenly attend to his family crisis when the project is nearing deadline. We have always strived to show sympathy in such situations and provide any help to our guys we can. Our project managers have amicably discussed such situations with clients to figure out pushing the deadline to a different date or trying out another guy in place of him.

Once you have understood the importance of human factor in project management, it's time to start your next Drupal development project the right way, learn how to handle complex Drupal projects and understand why to choose Drupal for a smooth web development experience.

Conclusion

Technology will always keep evolving and change the methods by which projects are completed. Projects themselves will keep changing in nature and scope. What doesn’t change? Human factor. Ethical behaviour, consideration of others, principles of communication and a quest for knowledge and excellence are some of the examples of those invariable elements. It’s important to learn and practice ways of optimising human interaction, to build trust and confidence and to efficaciously interact with team members, internal and external stakeholders, individual in positions of authority. All these considerations will ultimately pave the way for efficient project management.

Jan 04 2021
Jan 04

2020 has ended. (Finally!) So, is it time to rejoice? Is it time to be cheerful and optimistic?  Or, do we have to be realistic and concerned about the coming months?  We have this proclivity to celebrate and be mirthful when the New Year begins. But the fact is that Covid-19 hasn’t left yet and has actually left an indelible mark. We keep hearing about the occurrence of new Covid strains and how it is becoming more fatal than ever as days go by. Anyway, the good news is, the coronavirus vaccine is already here and multiple countries are fast-tracking the approval processes.

Beach in background and ' Drupal 2020 Year in review' written at the centre


With our strong resolve to tackle it, we have found ways to fight the gloom. 2021 has only just begun and will bring with it new challenges like every year does. No matter how difficult it gets, we will dodge everything that comes our way this year too and come out on top together. The Drupal fraternity, too, has risen to the top by uniting and becoming a force to reckon with. The Covid-19 pandemic has only made the Drupal Community to come even closer and work together. The power of the open source community was discernible as the Drupal project, which did get affected by the pandemic, witnessed an awful lot of growth in 2020. As the year has gone by, it’s time to look back, analyse, see what worked and what not and look forward to 2021 with hope.

19 years old: Almost two decades and still counting!

Drupal celebrated nineteen years of existence since it was first released on 15th January 2001. Well, it all began in 2000 when Dries Buytaert decided to put an internal site, used by a small group of people for socialising, online.

Snapshot of a tweet with a person's image on top left, textual content below it about Drupal's nineteenth (19th) birthday and an image with blue background and number 19 below it


So, what began as a hobby project is now a global project with hundreds and thousands of users, active contributors and a strong ecosystem. 15th January 2021 will mark the completion of two decades since Drupal came into being. With Drupal Community’s continued efforts to innovate, reinvent and evolve, Drupal has thrived and will continue to do so for many years to come.

#DrupalCares: Weathered the ‘Covid-19’ headwinds

With the Drupal Community celebrating 19 years of Drupal, a new viral disease from Wuhan was rapidly becoming the international cause for concern. Therefore, it will be incomplete without the mention of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Drupal world. Without a doubt, these are unprecedented times and no one saw it coming. But, Open source, with a reputation for being recession-proof, got itself back on track with the support of millions of supporters. Drupal was no different.

A drop shaped icon with hearts surrounding it and Drupal Cares written below itSource: Drupal.org

Drupal Association, which was formed as an open source non-profit to help grow and sustain the Drupal Community, was hit financially. But the massive response to #DrupalCares fundraising campaign only showed the power of the open source community and the open source model that make projects like Drupal the best possible investment in these uncertain times. Over $500,000 was raised in just about 30 days surpassing the expectations initially set. (The plan was to raise such a large amount in 60 days.) Hundreds of businesses and organisations along with thousands of individual donors and members donated to reach the goal in record time.

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DrupalCon: The year of virtual events

Ever since the first gathering of Drupal contributors way back in 2005, where just about 50 people made an appearance, DrupalCon has become the global event that is highly anticipated every year. While it acts as the ideal platform for the Drupalists from around the globe to meet at one place and share intuitive ideas, DrupalCon Minneapolis 2020 was very unlikely to happen with every other nation closing their borders and putting their respective countries under lockdown to try and curb the ever-multiplying infection rate.

Collage of Screenshots from Drupal 2020 international events like DrupalCon Global 2020 and DrupalCon Europe 2020 homepages with an image of earth on top and buildings at bottom


Eventually, virtual events started kicking off everywhere. For example, the likes of Cannes, Sundance, Sarajevo, Berlin, Rotterdam, Toronto, Tribeca, Locarno, Mumbai among others joined hands for the first time to screen one-of-its-kind, free, global, virtual film festival called We Are One. And, Drupal Community, too, had its share of virtual outings in its intinerary of Drupal 2020 international conferences as it had its first ever virtual DrupalCon Global 2020. Going by its success, DrupalCon Europe 2020 followed months later. Unlike 2019, where large gatherings and in-person meetings were the norms, 2020 became the year of everything virtual. Check out Drupal 2019: Year in review to know more.

Drupal 9: The most ambitious release ever!

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In spite of the pandemic, the roadmap of Drupal 9 release was right on the money because of the continued efforts from the Drupal Community. From the beta test process for Drupal 9 to the release of the first beta version, everything went as per plan. Eventually, the Drupal 9 was released on 3 June, 2020. It took birth with much more usability, accessibility, inclusivity, flexibility and scalability than previous versions. After all, it was in the works for almost 5 years!

And, the release of Drupal 9 was not shorn of any fanfare either. While Drupal 8’s launch saw hundreds of release parties happening across six continents, celebrations in the time of Covid-19 was a different game altogether. For Drupal 9, the community created CelebrateDrupal.org where virtual events can be posted for people to join, photos can be uploaded of Drupal 9-resembling food items, or just simply selfies and videos could be added.

Snapshot of a tweet with a collage consisting of images of people and food items to show Drupal 9 celebration


The rebranding of Drupal had to happen along with this release. So, it did. The new brand represented the fluidity and modularity of Drupal and more importantly the Drupal Community’s value of coming together to build a greater whole.

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Drupal 9 is a lot easier to be leveraged by marketers and offers a streamlined way to maintain and upgrade for developers. With intuitive solutions for empowering business users, state-of-the-art new features for reaching new digital channels and further enhancing content management processes, and offering easy upgrades for avoiding the need to replatform, Drupal 9 is just what web professionals need in this day and age of ever-evolving digital landscape.

While Drupal 8’s end-of-life date has been fixed for November 2021, Drupal 7’s has been moved to November 2022 in light of the impact of pandemic. It was simply because it felt like the right thing to do and it aligned with Drupal’s values and principles that calls for building software that is safe and secure for everyone to use. This goes to show the Drupal Community’s never ending commitment to continue to care for a software almost a decade after its release. Read this ultimate guide to Drupal 9, burning questions about Drupal 9 and the key modules to start Drupal 9 project to know more.

While Drupal 9.1 was released on 2 December 2020 with new experimental Olivero frontend theme and several additions to the Claro administration theme, the plan for Drupal 10 release is already under development. Drupal 10 is being targeted to be released around June 2022.

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DrupalCon Global 2020 had plenty of insights to share vis à vis Drupal 10 like Drupal 10 readiness initiative, enabling Media Library, Layout Builder and Claro by default, the completion of Olivero frontend theme, offering automated updates, and adding official Drupal JavaScript components to Drupal Core.

Screenshot of a video meeting with a person's image on top right explaining Drupal 9's and Drupal 10's vision in DrupalCon Global 2020 Source: Dries Buytaert’s blog

Drupal businesses continued to grow despite pandemic

Drupal Business Survey 2020 had interesting data points to showcase. Drupal agencies have considerably done a great business without getting adversely affected by the pandemic. Financially, Drupal businesses were well placed and thrived with many asserting that results exceeded the pre-covid prognosis.

a piechart with blue coloured and red coloured separations explaining the state of Drupal during Covid-19Drupal businesses during Covid-19 pandemic | Source: Drupal.org

The survey also delineated that almost half of the Drupal companies who participated are confident that their business and on-going situation will further improve in 2021 while 20% of the companies aren’t optimistic about the coming months. As far as the industry segments are concerned, Education continues to be a sector with most Drupal projects followed by Charities & Non-Profit and Government and Public Administration.

Growth in terms of Drupal project pipeline, deal size and win rate

Graphical representations with multi coloured regions to explain Drupal usage statisticsDrupal usage statistics | Source: Drupal.org

There has been a steady growth in the adoption of Drupal 9 ever since its launch. Drupal Business Survey 2020 also indicated that the Drupal project deal size grew more than the project pipeline or win rates that, in turn, shows Drupal’s growth  to the enterprise market.

Three piecharts with multi coloured regions to explain Drupal project pipeline, deal size and win ratesSource: Drupal.org

When the survey sought to look for answers as to why Drupal is chosen for web development projects, it was observed that clients, who worked with Drupal before, most often than not, decided to stick to it (this constituted 60% of the answers). This proved that they considered Drupal as a viable option for solving their business problems. Also, the recommendations from Drupal agencies, Drupal being an open source software, its amazing flexibility and the robust security that it provides made the clients want to go with Drupal.

But, the survey also revealed some of the downsides the Drupal Community would want to give a look at and take some actions to improve further. Drupal development being time consuming and thus being expensive was one of the issues it pointed out. Moreover, Drupal being intricate and potential clients not knowing much about it also came into picture.

Increase in Drupal contributions was observed

From Drupal Global Contribution Weekend (where people more or less close to Drupal and its community participate) to the Google Summer of Code (where students developers across the world get an exposure to open source software development including Drupal), contribution-focused events are given its due importance by the open source communities like that of Drupal. Because contribution is at the core of Drupal project and it thrives because of that.

Graphical representations with multi coloured regions to explain Drupal contribution creditsNumber of people contributing to Drupal has increased over the years | Source: Drupal.org

Drupal.org’s contribution data for 2019-2020 shows that there is a 20% increase in the number of contributions to Drupal project as compared to the previous period mainly due to Drupal 9 release. Although contributed modules witnessed the majority of credits, there was an increase in the contribution credits across all project types.

Bar graph with multi coloured horizontal bars to explain Drupal contributionSource: Dries Buytaert’s blog

Even though there was a decline in individual contributors, organisational contributors increased. Moreover, 20% of the contribution credits are coming from the top 30 contributors (the top 0.4%). It was noticed that two-thirds of all contributions were sponsored. But, volunteer contributions continue to remain a pillar of success to Drupal. Also, it was seen that currently Drupal’s maintenance and innovation is largely dependent on traditional Drupal businesses and larger, multi-platform agencies are barely contributing to Drupal. Read about perks of being open source contributor and different ways to contribute to Drupal to know more.

The continued support for diversity, inclusion and equity

The US was convulsed by the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, an African-American man, in police custody. This incident of racially-driven police brutality once again sparked violent protests and much-needed discussions.

The Drupal Association released a statement strongly “condemning racism, racist behaviour and all abuses of power.” It reiterated its support for diversity, inclusivity and equity across all facets. Drupal thrives because of contributions from diverse contributors and it’s pivotal to its health and success. Drupal’s values and principles state that treating each other with dignity and respect is of utmost importance.

While the Drupal Association values diversity, it understands there are still plenty of things to do to create meaningful change within the Drupal Community too. The Drupal.org’s contribution data for 2019-2020 showed interesting data on gender and geographical diversity. Only 10-11% of contributions were coming from people who did not identify them as men.

Bar graph with multi coloured vertical bars to explain Drupal contributionSource: Dries Buytaerts’ blog

And, while Europe and North America continued to be the biggest contributors, Asia, South America and Africa remain big opportunities for Drupal. To know more, read about the relevance of the trio of Diversity, inclusion and Drupal.

Bar graph with multi coloured vertical bars to explain Drupal contributionSource: Dries Buytaerts’ blog

Conclusion

2020 proved to be a tough yet exciting year for Drupal. It continued to grow and weathered all the storms that came its way. It made new progress and identified where it can improve in the coming years.

2021 has begun but the Covid-19 hasn’t yet gone. It’s going to be a while before we can expect absolute normalcy to return. But until then, we shall keep moving forward, continue contributing to Drupal and grow with it.

Happy New Year to all the Drupalists!

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