How important is it to acquire project management skills
If you happen to be an entrepreneur or a marketer, the sooner you realize that your business depends on the success rate of your projects, the easier it will be for you to step out of your comfort zone and work towards expanding your skillset. While possessing basic technical skills are close to a must-have, you'll unfailingly wake up to the importance of project management skills when faced with big and complex projects. Because, that’s what will you push you to the limits.
Website project management is one of the more crucial skills you should consider gaining if you run a web design & development agency. Working on your technical prowess or trying to get better at aligning deliveries for a project are responsibilities that you’ll find easy enough to handle with time. Managing the project itself, on the other hand, is an entirely different ballgame.
It is only when you encounter unforeseen issues such as a failed deadline, a missed update from a client or simply a technical snag that you will realize how far they can set you back. This can especially ring true when failing to deliver work to your clients on time, a situation neither you nor your client would ever want to be in.
Delivering work in an orderly fashion follows up as a close second. Nonetheless, it’s how you manage a project that really determines how satisfied your clients will be and eventually seal the fate of your business.
Web development project management: The first steps
As intimidating as that may have come forth, it actually presents entrepreneurs and marketers with the perfect opportunity to wield better control over their projects. Website design & development is an elaborate and creatively intense operation, with success hanging on how a project is handled.
With an emphasis, therefore, on some best practices in web development project management, we’re going to tell you just how to make your clients happy and become a real maverick at work. Needless to say, by the time you’re done mastering these steps, you’ll be walking the talk and not just talking the talk.
In this blog we’ll be familiarizing you with the four fundamental principles of website project management for imminent success:
1. Understanding the process of project management
2. Learning to draw the fine line between project budget negotiations and signing new clients
3. Learning the balancing act of managing both the clients and the project roadmap
4. Learning how to draw a project to its natural end after fulfilling all client requirements, while gaining their appreciation and trust at the same time
Before we begin though, it is important for you to understand that the mantra for success is to follow these steps over and over until you have created a system that can’t be broken. Once the system becomes a part of your daily work life, it’ll be a piece of cake to maintain a healthy relationship with the clients and your co-workers (employees) and perform optimally without much effort.
1. Understanding the definition of project management
Project management can be defined as the process of putting together resources (technical & manual) for a project, managing them skilfully and drawing up a plausible deadline to be followed while making the best of the allotted time and ending it on a high note. In other words, It's mastering the art of managing a team, time and clients, while keeping some buffer space on the side-lines for any adjustments if needed.
Project management for web design and development projects are no different from any other project. Having said that, however, here are a few things that you should mentally embed in your brain in case you’re about to take the helm on your maiden project.
- Absolute clarity about the client’s requirements for the project
- The nature of the project that is in front of you
- The expertise and the size of contributors that you will be teaming up with
- The time frame associated with the project to determine whether it’s doable for you
- The conditions put forth by the client
Since this is a design project that we’re talking about, client involvement is undeniably important for the success of your project. Here’s an interesting piece that explains why clients are integral to the design process.
2. Clinching a new project: The art of negotiation
One of the foremost aspects of a website project management that you need to focus on is what the client has in mind for the real objective of the project. Ergo, it is of utmost importance that you sit with the client/future client to gather as much information as possible to have a clear understanding of the project goal.
What is the purpose behind the website that the client wants to be built? Is it to: sell some products, provide some service or be just an informative platform? Who will be the target audience/consumer for the website?
Once you have the answers to all these questions, you will have established the nature of the project that is at hand. As the discussion paces ahead, you will be discussing the project timeframe that the client has in mind and your consent or amendment to it, which in turn should offer you a fair idea about its budget as well.
Once the deadline and budget have been agreed on, you will build the team based on their expertise that’s necessary for the project. At any cost, do not allow any room for ambiguous requirements from clients, which could lead to some really unpleasant misunderstandings and disagreements in the future. Ask them to be specific, especially with numbers and dates.
One of the basic but vital rules of negotiation with clients is sitting with the decision maker or someone with authority. Negotiation can be a long and mentally tiring process when you have to go through more than one round of talks, especially when the first person you sit with turns out to be just a footsoldier without any authority.
If you’re not careful and prepared, this ploy may wear you down to the point where you just agree to whatever the client proposes just because you want the dragging rounds of negotiations to be over. Be smart, be assertive and demand to speak to someone with the authority to take decisions. Click here to read about the negotiation skills you need to clinch new clients.
3. Balancing clients and projects
If you’ve reached this step, you'll have probably drawn up a contract with the client by now, with mutual agreement on the frequency of updates, meetings and deliveries, and the estimated timeline for the project. This is where you'll get down to the actual task of organizing everything to commence the project.
But before that, it's time for you to incorporate a project management methodology to make sure that project delivery doesn’t hit any roadblocks. As far as project management methodologies go, there are several that have been introduced since the 90s, but we’d like to direct you towards some of the most popular and effective ones in the market.
Strictly speaking, Agile is not really a project management methodology. No, Agile is more of a collective of twelve principles put down to define the best way to develop software.
You see, it was in 2001 that 17 leading software developers gathered in Snowbird, Utah in an effort to deliberate over the future of the lightweight software development methods that replaced the often-criticized heavyweight methodologies and became a rage in the 90s.
As a result, RAD from 1991, DSDM from 1994, Scrum from 1995 and Crystal Clear from 1996, which were some of those popular lightweight methodologies, went on to become a part of what is known today as the agile software development methods after the publication of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development.
So, according to the philosophy of Agile, there are four values that these software developers held with utmost importance:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
These four values of of the Agile Manifesto formed the foundation of their aspiration for finding the best ways to develop software. But just how good Agile really is? Will it deliver great results for your project at all levels?
In accordance to its name, the Agile method follows an approach whereby you as an entrepreneur, marketer or manager and your client are always on standby to promptly attend to changes as and when required, instead of focusing heavily on deadlines.
This can particularly be of benefit for web design and development projects, which demand several changes and amendments on the go, because now you can concentrate on smaller deliverables through regular milestones.
As these smaller tasks are completed in a run-up to the entire project, both you and the client will have a much clearer picture of the status of the project and adjust accordingly, quickly and efficiently. Read more on what the Agile methodology can do for your web design and development project.
Just like Agile, and based on their principles, Scrum has been introduced as more than a mere methodology. Co-created by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland in 1995, Scrum is defined as a framework best used for the development and handling of complex products through intense collaboration and contribution, which means it is ideal for big-sized projects that have a lot of contributors at stake.
The novelty of this framework is that you can incorporate several processes and techniques by bringing the Scrum Teams together for frequent team meetings to make your project management simpler and more result driven.
What you have are transparency and reporting all over the project, thereby giving you the advantage to quickly address and remove issues whenever you encounter them. Here's a detailed guide on Scrum and the benefits it offers to its users.
Kanban, which can be loosely translated to ‘billboard’ from its Japanese origin, is a lean method that found its inspiration from a lean manufacturing method applied by Japanese automobile giant Toyota in its manufacturing process, what they dubbed the Toyota Production System. Nothing to do with automobiles however, Kanban is actually a software development methodology that shares certain similarities with Scrum in their approach.
Under this methodology, the progress of the project and the processes involved are visually available for all the contributors through a tool known as the Kanban board so they can always track the progress. Typically, a Kanban board comprises of cards (multi-colored sticky notes to be precise) to denote deliverables stacked under various columns to signify the stages of the work progress.
As the deliverables progress across the different stages, the cards are moved horizontally from left to right until it reaches the last stage. The columns are usually filled with stages such as ‘to do’, ‘in progress’, ‘for approval’, ‘approved’ and ‘completed’.
The board can be highly simplistic or extremely complex depending on the size and complexity of the project. What's more, you can even use online list making or task tracking tools like Trello, Asana, ServiceNow and Jira with Kanban.
Kanban is literally the simplest methodology that can contribute towards optimal productivity no matter how small or complex the project is. The visual nature of the methodology eliminates any chances of confusion or missed tasks that could usually hide away somewhere in the corner of the backlog.
Unlike the other project management methodologies discussed so far, the Waterfall methodology is one of the earliest and therefore the simplest in the block. Not to mention, it is a heavyweight methodology, which means it is quite inflexible in nature.
Waterfall is a model that follows a linear approach in which the progress of a project depends on a stagewise completion of the tasks. In other words, without the completion of a certain stage, its following stage cannot be started, which is basically why this model is known as Waterfall – because of the flow of the work in a single direction.
As simple as it may sound, there’s one undeniable disadvantage in using this methodology. Because of its rigid approach of stepwise progression, if there’s any issue or change required in the backlog, the whole spectrum of stages will have to go through relative changes as well.
Needless to say, Waterfall is therefore best suited for small-sized and simple projects. Because of this shortcoming, the Waterfall or the "pure” Waterfall model met with a lot of criticism and in due time went through quite a few changes.
This gave way to modified Waterfall models, the last of them being American computer scientist Winston W. Royce’s final model. Read more to find out if the Waterfall project management model is suitable for your web design and development project.
With the project management methodology part out of the way, let’s move on to the next phase, which is getting down to the actual business of starting the project. Now's the time when your project management skills will be really tested to the limit.
And to help you moonwalk through it, we’ll introduce you to a plan of action that has a proven track record of success. But before you begin, it’s imperative that you build a healthy work environment wherein every contributor can collaborate creatively for optimal results.
Drawing the line between client expectations and fulfilling them
Without rambling around too much, let me try and explain to you how best to go about with this task through these easy-to-follow steps.
- Get on the same page with clients: This is perhaps the most important rule that will go a long way in maintaining a healthy relationship with your clients. As the one that’ll be leading the team, be sure that communication is crystal clear between you and your team, just as it should be between you and your client.
No matter how many times you must repeat the instructions to your team, do not hesitate until they have fully understood their individual roles to fulfil the client requirements. Similarly let your client be very clear about what you will be able to deliver and by when.
As dull or cumbersome as this exercise may seem, it is the most effective way to avoid any misunderstandings at a future stage of the project. And the best way to get on with this is by gathering everyone, including the client and your team for a collective inaugural meeting.
Put every little detail pertaining to the project on paper after mutual agreement from all participants around the table. Click here to learn these 12 effective ways to improve communication between your team and your clients.
- Appoint your deputy while assigning individual roles: Now this applies particularly if you’re an entrepreneur who’s running the show or a marketer who carries a large chunk of the company’s weight on your shoulders. Because your focus will be on a larger sphere than just the web design & development project management, it would be wise of you to appoint a project manager (PM) to be your deputy in handling your web design and development projects.
The PM will essentially be the crucial link between the client and the team you assign to work with him. And the easiest way to choose that person would be to pick the one who has the best understanding of the project plus the smoothest communication with the client.
It could be anyone from the team with any background as long as that person has the best understanding of the client requirements and maintains a strong tie with the client. As for web design & development project management skills, if it doesn’t come naturally it’s always easy to train them.
The point is to appoint someone who will always be on top of the project for you, while you use your valuable time for other equally important company affairs.
- Be organized, be precise: You may be leading a small team or a big team; you may be handling a small project or a complex one. But one thing that you must maintain at all costs, irrespective of the size and scale of your team and the project, is the combination of clarity and order.
Being at the forefront means you always need to assign the right task to the right team member and be open for dialogue. Feedback, from both the client’s team participating in the project and your team should be a regular occurrence, so the progress of the work is on track and issues, if any, are dealt with promptly.
Keep the channel for communication running round the clock for a stronger team collaboration. Making a presentation to the client with an organized project framework, including details on the breakup of individual roles assigned to team members, estimated deadlines for each task and crisis management handler will put your client at ease and boost their trust in you.
This in turn will go a long way in creating a positive impression with the client and cutting down the project timeline. Here are some popular tools to enhance team collaboration and communication:
- Zoom – For daily/regular video meetings to share feedback, inputs and workflow progress with team and client
- Google Meet – For video meetings with clients to share presentations or work progress
- Microsoft Teams – For instant messaging and group chats with team members
- Asana – For project and task management and team collaboration
- Trello – For workflow management through stage-based updates of assigned individual tasks
- GitHub – For hosting and reviewing codes in a collaborative manner
Here’s an extended list of the best project management software for 2021, especially those that are handy for remote work management.
- Always be ready to tackle any possible roadblock: This has got to be your go-to motto that should hum in your head every day you sit down to work. Be a step ahead, be ready...for anything. It seldom happens that a web design & development project gets completed without any roadblocks, whether it’s on your side of the fence or on the client’s side.
For roadblocks on your side, whether technical or manual, always be prepared with a buffer, even if it means spending a few extra bucks. After all, the grief of losing a little bit of cash can’t be as great as watching your reputation slide down in front of your eyes, especially if you’re just starting off as an entrepreneur. Read up on these five common design project challenges and how to overcome them.
However, if the roadblock appears to be on the client’s side, such as a client that doesn’t respond to your calls or messages for days, which can unbelievably happen more often than not, just play it cool and handle it with tact. Yes, it’s easier said than done, especially when work delivery will get delayed just because the client’s comm has gone cold and you need their feedback for the next stage of the project.
As frustrating as it can be, the best thing to do would be to drop a gentle reminder over the formal communication channel that you share. If that fails to evoke any response, try an alternate and a more informal channel if there is.
If that also fails, it’s time you shot off an email or called them up, all the while maintaining a gentle and friendly tone, to find out the reason behind their unresponsiveness. Most times, this is when the clients will finally break their silence and reveal the reason/s behind it.
If an agreement is reached to commence work post that, all good. But if it signals a halt or an abrupt end to the project for whatever reason, gently draw up the contract signed by both the parties to act upon situations such as these as agreed.
Which reminds me – always include a stipulation for such scenarios as to what the agreed course of action would be. In most cases, contracts generally include a Pause Clause or a Cancellation Fee Clause, which is what you should also add to your list of clauses on the contract. Here are seven successful ways to handle unresponsive clients.
4. Ending a project on a high note
Delivering all the tasks and fulfilling the expectations of the client may seem to you like the perfect close to a project, but it is slightly more complex than that. It's really not over until both you and the client sign on a formal closure agreement to indicate that the project has been closed after you have delivered all the deliverables.
Failing to do so might see you struggling with a client complaining of an unfinished task or asking for a change even after they agreed in the first place that the deliverables have met their expectations. Your next task should be to compare the finished project with the preview from the planning phase to see how close it is to a perfect match.
This little task can be the analysis that could be very useful for future project management. It will also let you document where, how and why you fell short and help you improve on your next project. In case you may have involved a vendor to help you with the project, sign a contract closure with them as well.
Once that is done, organize all the project files, each corresponding to the contributors responsible for the task, for future reference. Click here to know more on how to master the perfect website handover.
The final step? Celebrate! This is when you raise a toast for the grand efforts of the team members and celebrate the successful completion of the project. Simple and cliché as it may sound, celebrating a project closure is an effective way to maintain the morale of your team and keep them motivated.
Website project management is a delicate affair involving many intricate steps than can be mastered over the years with experience. It’s simply something that you have to run through like most challenges in life.
Since you’ve reached this far in the blog, I’d say you have gained enough perspective to apply these principles the next time you bag a project to find out how much of a difference they make compared to your previous project results.
For entrepreneurs and marketers who are making their debut in project management, you’re about to step into a a world that’s both invigorating as well as highly challenging. And all you need to overcome those challenges are a sharp mind, oodles of patience and high-octane energy.
At 0707 we conduct training sessions to prepare new & young entrepreneurs and marketers for all the challenges that await them in completing projects successfully. Our marketing experts are always eager to share their knowledge should you wish to get in touch with them to learn the ropes from them.