Everyone can agree that making and having solid plans for projects is important. To make the most of a tech project plan, remember its purpose.
Good planning for the implementation phase of a website project includes two basic tasks:
Requirements gathering helps determine what needs to be done. Designs and specifications help determine how it will be done.
Without proper planning, delays occur and projects are more likely to fail. If you don’t identify the what and the how, you don’t have a target to work toward. Also, you don’t know what problems to anticipate and what risks to avoid. I like the following statement on this idea:
“Plans act as a forcing function against all kinds of stupidity because they demand that important issues be resolved while there is still time to consider other options.”
— Scott Berkun from “Making Things Happen”
Scott’s point is that we can use the planning process to resolve issues before they happen and, further, that planning allows us to consider a wider range of solutions. The closer to completion an implementation gets, the more disruptive changes become. Factors such as timeline and budget can limit solution choices. A detailed and thorough plan can mitigate the majority of both expected and unforeseen complications.
Greg Zguta, mStoner’s technical lead, and I regularly discuss ways we can help refine the planning process for our projects. As an example, we see our clients struggle with the functionality of navigation in a website redesign. There are a lot of details to sort out, and it’s difficult for clients to visualize the options without seeing a working example. If proper time and thought are not put into the plan, it is possible to implement a navigation structure that does not meet the true needs of the website project. Reworking such a fundamental part of the implementation build can be costly, in terms of both time and budget. As the PM for a website redesign, I often ask our clients, “How many levels of the navigation do you want to display?” or “Will the navigation shift in the site tree as the user moves through the site, or will it be fixed?” I believe good planning and asking the right questions can prevent the headaches that sometimes arise from this important aspect of a site redesign.
Another phase of a website redesign that requires solid planning is content migration. On a recent engagement, mStoner migrated 1,000 pages of content into a new CMS. I worked with our client to plan for the prepping and staging of the copy and images. We used a master Google document to coordinate the migration and maintain references to all of the content documents. We also planned for the timing of the work, the online discussions and questions during active migration, and the process for revisions. With such a large volume of content, arranging everything in advance proved vital to the success of the migration.
Early discussions and decisions lay the foundations for an implementation plan. Asking the hard questions early on can prevent that “heart attack” moment when the project is too far down the path to make a change. I strongly encourage you to make the time for thorough planning; it can be a secret weapon for ensuring a successful (and less bumpy) implementation.