How good website project management will make your next project a breeze

A smiling child rolling paint onto a wall

Website Planning Guide #14

In this article, we’ll look at how applying a flexible, and human-focused project management approach will get your website live with minimum fuss.

Building or refreshing a website is the perfect opportunity to kick-off a partnership with a new agency. Getting a team on board that has years of experience to hand will ensure that your project is delivered on time and on budget. Pulling together the right people (ones who are able to communicate effectively and work well with your brand) will help keep your project on the rails. They might even be able to make it a memorable experience – for all the right reasons.

Much of our website planning series is about how you prepare for your website project. This article gives you an understanding of how your agency should guide you through the challenges by putting your mind at rest and doing the heavy lifting for you. (Yes, there is still some homework, but it’s the good kind.)

Why good project management is critical to project success

As we’ve said in previous articles, making great websites is complicated. It’s a lot of left-brain, right-brain stuff working together, and creative design and sales psychology working against technology, logic and legislation.

Understanding and defining your website’s requirements and navigating through creative and technical stages to a successful outcome takes an experienced, steady hand on the tiller. This is where the right agency is worth its weight in gold.

When prospects approach us, we’re asked more questions about how the project will be managed than anything else. This concern tells us how critical it is to get project management and client communication right. A big part of our job is putting clients’ minds at rest. We never want to add to stress levels.

Setting up the project and the new team

Clients come to us with a huge variety of experiences. Some clients have been involved in website projects before and others are nervous first-timers. Some are detail types; others just want us to get on with doing our thing and communicate concisely and efficiently. Some clients are part of larger teams, whilst some are time-poor marketers doing 101 other things. All are different, but everyone wants the same thing – a successful website, and a stress-free project run.

Right at the start of the Discovery phase, an agency should spend time understanding your experiences, preferences, limitations, availability, fears, and hopes and dreams. The more we know about each other from the start, the easier communication will be from the outset and the greater the chance of anticipating and quickly navigating bumps in the road. It’s almost inevitable there’ll be challenges in a complex website project, and although nobody would invite problems, overcoming issues together is a positive opportunity to build a stronger relationship in the long run.

What will I need to do?

Firstly, and most importantly, it’s definitely not your job to manage the project or the agency. As the client, your job is to help us, help you. You need to focus on providing the information the agency needs, whether that’s helping to create the brief and specification, gathering content, or organising feedback from your wider team. All of which the agency should help you with and guide you through.

And now for the homework. What’s really useful, whether done before or during the Discovery meetings, is a threats analysis. These are the types of things that might trip us up during the course of the project. Honesty at this stage can save time and resources in the long-run. Here are some of the more common risks to get you thinking:

  • I’ve never done this before
  • I have six directors that will all need to have their opinions heard
  • I only have a day a week to dedicate to this project
  • I have an internal IT department that’s a nightmare challenging to work with
  • I’m away for three weeks running an event
  • I’m not tech-savvy, and this is a complex project
  • My boss is a detail kind of person, but often won’t get involved until late in the project
  • My personal favourite – I’m leaving the company in three weeks, and a replacement hasn’t been hired. The website needs to go live in 8 weeks.

The agency will go through risks like these and create a mitigation plan. Not to labour the point, but the more we know, the more we can plan for and the more sleep we’ll all get.

What will the agency do?

Our job is simple – to make you feel that the project is in safe hands, that the deadline is going to be met and that the delivered website will be a commercial hit that makes you look like a star. Ok, our job is actually more complicated than this, but the point is, it shouldn’t be for you.

At the very least, your agency should:

  • Assign a single point of contact – a dedicated Project Manager (with a backup)
  • Create a detailed project plan that states all key dates, roles and responsibilities
  • Share this plan with you regularly and keep it up to date throughout the project
  • Review the project status continuously, checking in with stakeholders and looking for threats and opportunities
  • Look ahead at the next four or so weeks and ensure that all stakeholders are reminded of their tasks and deadlines (especially you)
  • Check-in with you throughout the project to make sure that you’re receiving the right kind and amount of communication. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to forget to draw breath and check that there are no issues or questions that could easily be addressed. Never be scared to say so if something doesn’t seem right

By getting this all right there’s no reason why a website project can’t be a memorable and enjoyable experience. Yes, it’s possible! We love what we do, and there’s nothing better for us when we have a shiny new website to show off and a glowing and proud client.

You might have noticed that we haven’t covered project management tools and methodologies in this article. In future posts, we’ll look at how we flexibly apply Waterfall and Scrum models, and our ISO9001 quality system, to different types of digital projects, to drive efficiency and quality.

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