Managing Projects Online – Part 2

In this second part to our Managing Projects Online article, we are going to cover sticking to a process and methodology.

Using an Online Project Management Process

To ensure the project runs smoothly from start to finish, project managers should follow a core methodology. There are many proven project methodologies to use (such as MPMM or PRINCE2) which can be used for developing a website or online system, however if you have a good understanding of the scope of the project – you can develop your own methodology to fit.

To get you started, we have outlined a simplified version of our project management process:

Stage 1 – Requirements Gathering

To gain a full understanding of the project before any documentation and design is started, a number of detailed requirements gathering meetings are arranged with key project stakeholders.

Having the most experienced members of the project team involved during this stage gives you the time and knowledge to be able to discuss and advise on any new functionality and technology that would potentially make the overall solution more effective and future-proofed.

Stage 2 – Specification

Once both the client and supplier are happy with the requirements discussed above, these are transferred into core documents which are agreed and signed off. These documents are then used throughout the entire project to ensure the project remains focused within scope.

A project schedule is agreed and generated from the deadline launch date backwards to ensure all aspects of the project can be achieved within the given timeframes. Milestone deadlines are put in placed and each stakeholder informed where appropriate by the project manager to ensure all materials and resources are supplied at the necessary time.

Stage 3 – Design

The next phase focuses on the website/system design. An initial design meeting can be held to review the previously agreed core documents. This meeting gives clients the opportunity to highlight any design preferences if required. It also gives you the chance to question the customer on a number of design related questions. The design is developed and tweaked over time until it is agreed and signed off.

Stage 4 – Development

The next phase is when the development of the project begins. This is the largest part of the project in terms of time and normally consumes over 60% of the project timeframe. The project manager must keep the customer updated at all times throughout this process.

Stage 5 – Testing

After the development is completed, the system should be tested fully. A lot of companies fall down at this stage of a web project. They do say that the last 10% of any project is the most important. All browser testing, bugs and amendments are identified during this phase and are prioritised for fixing.

Stage 6 – Launch & Review

Once the system is completed a pre-launch meeting should be held with the client to discuss the launch plan. Final sign off is then provided and the website is launched. Monthly review meetings can then be held for an agreed period after the launch date to ensure the system is running as it should be.

There are many more things to thing about when managing an online project of this kind however providing you have a structured methodology in place – the project is more likely to be delivered on time, within budget.

Online Project Management – Top Tips

In summary then, in order to manage a web project effectively – below are our top 8 tips to ensure the project is delivered successfully: –

  1. Keep your knowledge of technologies current – As the project manager, read online tutorials and sign up to latest RSS feeds in each core sector that you work in. Use the experts in each field around you to stay informed so that you feel confident when making important decisions.
  2. Manage your relationships with key members of the project – A project manager needs to be respected by colleagues in order to get the job executed successfully. Operate a firm but fair management style that demands respect but encourages input. Nobody in this industry knows it all.
  3. Good honest communication – You’ll be surprised how happy clients will be if you communicate with them at every step of the way. Even if something goes wrong or a deadline is going to be missed –  The client is always going to be happier knowing earlier rather than later. Sometimes these hiccups can not be predicted and with good consistent and honest communication, you may even be surprised at their reaction when you tell them the bad news.
  4. One client voice – If you are working with a client with multiple stakeholders, it can become very difficult to get sign off at key points in the project. These sign off stages can end up taking up a lot of company time therefore ensure there is only one official voice from the client. This will help manage clients by funneling their input through one key member.
  5. Sign off stages  – Ensure the project has key sign off stages for design, build and testing as seen above in the PM process template. These stages help to reduce project scope creep and also protect both the supplier and customer when it comes to the final testing and review of the project.
  6. Be consultative –  The client has chosen your company to implement a task that they can not do themselves. Guide the client, assist them and recommend better ways of doing things. The more you impress now the more likely it’d be that you do another project together in the future.
  7. Use online PM tools – Managing both your colleagues and clients can be very difficult especially if the client has multiple stake holders with decision making powers. Use online management tools to funnel all communications and actions. If the client and your colleagues use one central system to create to-do lists, send emails and manage milestones – you are already one step ahead.
  8. Follow an agreed project methodology –  To help you deliver the online system effectively – always follow an agreed methodology to ensure no stages of the project are missed. Sometimes web projects can be difficult to measure and track. Having a clearer defined methodology can help to give clients tangible goals to work towards.

We hope that you have found the two articles in our managing projects online series useful and we would love to know if you have any hints, tips or advice to share too!