The Holistic Research Project Management Ecosystem: Data, documents, and more...

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Research projects increasingly include a diverse range of stakeholders and collaborators with varying levels of involvement and responsibilities. All stakeholders and collaborators are rarely part of the full lifecycle of a research project which highlights a risk for information loss between various project phases. Platforms that facilitate clear communication between project members with diverse academic backgrounds, computer literacy skills, and research domain knowledge is thus a fundamental part of any research project. Principle investigators (PIs) and project teams often need to draw on project management skills and tools previously not required or taught as part of a formal research training program. These new tools and skills are specifically critical for managing large interdisciplinary, interorganisational research projects to ensure cohesiveness of the project and accessibility for all project members regardless of background or phase(s) involved.

“we-DELIVER: Holistic service delivery to older people in local government through ICTs” is a North-West University-based research and development project funded through Tirelo Bosha. The overall objective of we-DELIVER is to develop ICT solutions to capture and disseminate service and resource information that will address the care needs of people 60 years and older in rural communities. The project involves, but is not limited to, researchers based on the three geographically dispersed campuses of the North-West University, local government officials, rural community leaders and members, postgraduate students, project managers, social workers, software developers, collaborators associated with NGOs, and individuals delivering services in rural communities. Research disciplines represented in the study include psychology, social work, population studies, sport sciences, computer science, law, health sciences, and more.

In this project the authors aim to trial a suite of packages for project management and to facilitate communication between project members and information dissemination to the broader community. Many project management tools these days offer seamless integration between document repositories, version control systems, and communication tools. The we-DELIVER project will use Trello as internal project management tool, Google Drive for document sharing, and GitHub for open information dissemination and to encourage collaboration even beyond the initial project. Research data will be stored according to NWU policy and will only be accessible to authorised project members.

This presentation was given at the eResearch Africa 2017 Conference in Cape Town, South Africa. It provided an overview of the project management challenges of a research project of this magnitude and diversity. The authors discussed how various tools borrowed from software development project management can be utilised to address some of the issues raised. Ideas for the upskilling of project members to utilise the tools, even beyond the current project, were also discussed. We hope to gain insight from the audience about methods and tools used in their own environment as well as policies and practices that may hamper the use of tools that are utilised in we-DELIVER.