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Project Triage: What To Do When It All Hits The Fan

Session scheduled at 2:30-3:20 in Room 2 (Swain)

“Hope for the best and plan for the worst.” We spend a lot of time talking about best practices: the ways we should run our projects and write our software so that everything turns out as well as possible. But when you add human beings to the mix—whether they’re coworkers, clients, or, well, you and I—something will eventually go wrong.

Using case studies from the interactive agency world (where no two clients are ever the same), we’ll talk about methods for triage, what to do when you sense a project is on shaky ground, and ways to ensure everyone gets to the other side in one piece.


After this talk, attendees should:

  • Know when and how to use The Five Whys to find an issue’s root cause
  • Understand the value of empathy, communication, and flexibility when dealing with client issues
  • Have tools to deal with emergency situations: 1) Step back, 2) Make a plan — And understand the ideal for a *good* plan (What you’re going to do + How you’re going to do it, with flexibility and trust built in)
  • Have tools to clean up after emergency situations: 1) Cultivate a blame-free culture, 2) Circle back and prevent the issue from happening again
  • Believe in the awesome power of the checklist at *least* one third as much as I do
  • Know what an incident response plan is, know when to use one, and have a framework for creating their own

 Attendee skill level: This talk is accessible to anyone with even a small amount of professional software experience (role not important, but parts are geared towards developers and people like PMs and team leads who work with them). However, it contains content that may be useful even to people who have been doing this for a while.

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Presented By

Eryn O’Neil

Eryn O’Neil is a Minneapolis-based freelance PHP developer and tech lead. Grounded in the agency world, she has worked on everything from e-commerce and online promotions to a proprietary framework and CMS. Her philosophy is to build software by placing humans first: both the people who will use it and the developers who will build it with you (and maintain it afterward).

Living in Minnesota, Eryn spends most of her free time teaching blues dancing, flying on a trapeze, and wishing it weren’t snowing.

Follow @eryno on Twitter