Project management is about being proficient in planning, organising, anticipating and reacting in a way that delivers the required outcome within a realistic time scale and at minimum cost. Customers also have to accommodate the project within their other on-going business commitments, which requires flexibility and adaptability on our part.
The formalities of any project management involve planning, reviewing the plan the progress against that plan a revising the forward plan on a timely basis. The development of any bespoke software, whether it is for a business application or a website is a collaborative effort with the customer. This normally entails regular phone calls with email exchanges as formal confirmation of the discussions, and properly documents progress and design review meetings.
Winston Churchill is quoted as having said: “He who fails to plan is planning to fail". It is equally true that change is inevitable. In all but the most trivial applications, it’s virtually impossible to lay down a plan and then expect it to never change. Any system tends to evolve during its development. Customers can change their minds, and external events can prompt a change in direction. In many respects, this occurs to a lesser degree with websites, but, being the face that the business presents to the online world, the visual impact is of far greater importance than for and in-house system.
The timely availability of content is a major factor in the management of this type of project, especially in relation to the stage that the development has reached. In a larger system, this may be business data extracted from an existing system, which may still be paper based. Organising the resources the convert this data into suitable form for entry into the system can be quite an onerous one-off task, which we often undertake for the customer.
The same is true of website content. If the new website is an upgrade on an existing website, then some of this content will be in existence. Invariably though, this older content falls short of that required for the new website. This is especially true of the imagery. Again, the customer is faced with the one-off task of improving and creating this content.
Anticipating & Reacting to Events
Anticipating events that might change the direction of the project or delay it is an equally important part of project management. When unexpected events do occur to change the direct of a project, we react in a timely and appropriate manner that minimises any impact on both the time scale and the costs.
As indicated above, content not being available to plan is one of the most common situations that arise. In these circumstances, other aspects can be progressed, but those areas waiting for the content cannot be, in case the layouts of the pages have to be adapted to suit the content. Some other website developers in particular require that all of the content be made available to the developer ahead of them commencing work.
In our view, this is places an unnecessarily restriction on the customer, inevitably results in an inferior website, and reflects a lack of appreciation of the development being a collaborative effort. The business gains maximum benefit from the website by allowing its content to evolve, both during its development and long after it has gone live.