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All Roads Lead to Production Management

Production managers sit at the nexus point of multiple information streams. Their job is to organize, staff, budget, track, schedule and open productions. PM’s coordinate numerous types of resources for competing needs. In some cases, such as a repertory company, they must manage several venues that are all in operation at once. A diligent PM is part air traffic controller, part task master, part accountant and all cat herder.

Since PM’s deal with many different departments, their information needs are particularly complex. They usually work well ahead of artistic teams to plan the logistics of a production, or even an entire season. They generate a lot of correspondence while settling the nitty gritty details with department heads, casts, designers, crew heads and transportation or housing providers.

Although no organization is alike, PM’s may create schedules, calendars, budgets, season planning documents, safety manuals, building specs, union contracts, technical work reports, show reports, rental orders, design work for others, technical addendums and contact sheets. Yikes!

Consistent naming of document types is crucial for smooth process flow.

What are some of the key data control points needed by production managers?

Version Number/Object State

  • PM’s need to know the correct version of everything - a cost estimate for a draft version of construction drawings may be completely different from a final set that incorporates script revisions. If a staff member makes a decision based on outdated files, money, materials and time are lost.

It should also be mentioned that having one master document as a “gold source” saves aggravation by being the single place to make a change and the unique source for authoritative information. We’ll tackle this in another post since it can be tricky in the Cloud.

Production Phase

  • Productions have defined life cycles. Was the file created in the Design, Build or Load-In phase of the show? How do you know? How does your TD know?

Access Control

PM’s often handle work of a confidential nature, so security and access control is important.

  • Contracts, financial agreements, personnel records; these are all materials that may be sensitive or confidential. Having a method to mark them and restrict access is important, perhaps even legally required in some cases.

But how does one get from here to there? If the organization hasn’t had a chance to consider its information practices, how can they begin to move in the right direction? Coming next time…

Jayne Dutra is an enterprise information architect and a stage designer. Her IT consulting practice supports performing arts companies to better organize their materials so that they can focus precious resources on the creative process instead of drowning in information overload.

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