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Flexible Web Project Management

Chantal Forster | January 21 2013

2012 was filled with big web projects -- big as in nearly two years long and filled with politics, steering committees, and interdisciplinary project teams. Delicious for a project manager like myself but somewhat daunting from the perspective of someone preparing to launch a new web project for the first time.

If I could distill what I've learned in one word, it's this: Flexibility

Rigid project management in a web environment certainly has its place, but I've found that a flexible approach is even better -- An approach where you start light and lean, slowly adding formality as the project environment requires it. This approach requires an intuitive project manager able to read the tea leaves and communicate the need for change, but in my experience it pays off.

Here's how I recommend building agility into your plan.

A Light but Clear Kickoff

Invariably, I like to launch projects with a process roadmap in visual form. Sure, you could use a gantt chart, but for teams jaded by bureaucracy (and who isn't, really?), it's even better to keep the project kick-off light and fun. Perhaps a process map like this:

Informal process map

In terms of reporting, I find that communicating at predictable intervals is far more important than formal status reports. For example, setting a bi-weekly team meeting with an agenda is far more effective than cluttering everyone's Inboxes with status reports, at least in this stage of the game.

Mid-Point Formality

As the project picks up and we start delivering research findings and requirements, I find stakeholders begin feeling antsy for more formal reporting. Midway into your project, consider incorporating elements such as the following:
  1. Create a simple project reporting template and use it.
  2. Consider creating sub-teams for deeper tasks (like creating web publishing standards) and assigning a RACI diagram for each.
  3. Consider instituting a simple Change Request Form for any changes to your requirements (which by now, you've likely defined).

True, these three suggestions are uncommon for agile projects to consider; however, I'm a pragmatist and I've found that largescale projects begin requiring a bit of formality as the project rolls on. Start too early, though, and you risk losing momentum under a pile of paperwork. Start too late, and your stakeholders start balking -- Are they actually making any progress? Are they tracking everything?

By implementing a few elements of formal project management, you can keep the surrounding environment conducive to supporting your team's momentum.

Pre-Launch Facetime

By now, your project team is tired and frequently overwhelmed with the minutiae of the looming go-live. In the final 2-3 weeks before launch, I like to incorporate elements of agile methodologies like Scrum including the daily stand-up meeting and a task board.

Task Board

  • Daily Standup: Whether it's the content team or the tech team, just prior to launch, nearly everyone benefits from focusing together for 5 minutes each morning to answer the following questions: What did you do yesterday? What are you working on today? Is there anything in your way?
  • Task Board: It's beneficial to hold the quick daily meeting in front of a task board. You can use a formal Scrum-style task board or simply create a board with process lanes that reflect your workflow. The point is this: Make it public in your organization and make it tangible. Both build momentum for that last tiresome leg in the project journey.
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