I think a common problem for any digital agency is keeping their website current with the times – design, technology, content. It’s so hard to do it for yourself when you’re busy doing it for everyone else, right?
When I joined DAC Group as a Senior Project Manager, I was told one of my first projects would be to project manage the redesign and build of our website. The website was a pain point for the agency – it was dated, didn’t show our capabilities, and didn’t speak to our target audiences. What a great first project and what a great way to learn about the company you just started working for!
I’m not going to lie… when I started talking about the website, gathering the relevant information and establishing who the team would be…you know, the typical PM stuff… there was a lot of eye-rolling. This project had been an ongoing line item for a while. Years. Classic case of Shoemaker’s Children Syndrome.
In this series we will talk about how to execute digital projects in your own company, and what happens once that’s done (spoiler alert: keep iterating, the days of launch-it-and-forget-it are long past). We will talk about assembling the right team and building a successful project plan. In future posts we will cover how to build a successful strategy for your site, avoiding (design) death by committee, running a successful agile build, and iterating once your site is launched.
It seems cliché to say that the website wouldn’t have come together if we didn’t have a solid team. It would also be cliché to say that without the support of the team and everyone understanding their tasks and role, this project never would’ve made it forward. But, this truly is the case. To break it down into learnings, this is what I’ve gleaned…
1. The project plan was our friend
Talk about a project plan being a monster. The project plan for this project is 252 lines long – and that is still at a pretty high level. Did we stay 100% to the course that was set out for us? No. Did we adapt the plan along the way and make adjustments to keep the project moving forward? Yes. Did we deliver on time? No… we delivered early. Everyone knew their part, what they had to do to keep the wheels moving, and got it done.
2. When a team is fully aligned, the process goes that much smoother
From the get-go, the entire team was aligned to finally complete this project and keep it moving forward. It was like there was a shift, and everyone knew this was finally happening. Without constant communication and commitment from the team, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we had in the tight timelines we had set for ourselves.
3. You need to have some fun with it
Yes, there is a lot to be said for being invested in a project, but I’m a firm believer that you need to find ways to make the project fun and keep it light. If it is “business” all the time, the team can become bogged down and less motivated. I think the team as a whole learned to have fun together, and meetings didn’t feel like meetings. Tasks didn’t feel like work. We all couldn’t wait to see our new look, watch it come together and really show off that we are “geeks with personality.”
4. Communications is key and sometimes motivating
Typically, when project teams form and everyone gets their marching orders, individuals will go off and do their own thing. It’s very easy to lose track of who you need to keep in the loop and at what point. Because the project team was so large for this initiative (about 20 people), we wanted to make sure that everyone had a sense of what was going on and when. Every week I would send out the detailed, itemized project plan highlighting upcoming tasks and any late submissions. I also tried to be encouraging and motivating based on where we were in the timeline. You know, an “OK team we are 51% complete and officially over half way there!!” can sometimes go a long way when everyone is working so hard to meet their deliverables.
We also had a bi-weekly status meeting. We used this time to level set and get any outstanding questions answered. It was also a great opportunity to have the project sponsor come in to provide feedback and thank the team for all their hard work. Sometimes these meetings weren’t needed from a status standpoint, but more a “We’re a team, we’re working together and we’ve got this” standpoint.
5. Reward the team
One of the key factors that some businesses forget about — which can be an important factor in Project Management — is rewarding your team. The PMI (Project Management Institute) even has “Give rewards and recognition” as an output in their processes. On the day that we launched the new site live, we thought we would do a “surprise and delight.” We got a cake and had our CEO come to talk to the team. He thanked them for the hard work and expressed his delight in how we were able to evolve and iterate the project so that we could launch earlier than expected and continue to grow the project as a whole. I would like to think this was appreciated, especially after months of grind to get it done. The reward doesn’t have to be large… Sometimes it’s the little things that do it best.
We are still moving onward, and this project is one that will continue to evolve for the better. But in six months we put ourselves two steps forward and that’s a pretty good feeling.