Most project managers — and many web designers and developers stuck doing project management — will tell you that communication is the most important aspect of their job. And while that is very true, there are other components of project management that have been ignored. The over-simplification of some online project management tools can leave some small businesses too focused on communication and not focused enough on accountability, delivery and frequency.
It is critical that a project manager be able to account for the efforts of her team. A client may want to know how their money has been spent, or how much time is left on their contract. The ability to quickly access this data is important for maintaining good client relationships and establishing their trust in your methodologies. Responding with “let me get back to you on that” may leave the client wondering if you aren’t cooking up a best-guess report. A web-based time tracking & project management tool, like Intervals, is ideal for this situation. A few clicks of the mouse is all it takes to generate a report detailing all project activity and to put the client at ease.
Accountability to the web design and development teams is also important. Keeping team members accountable to one another keeps bitterness and resentment from poisoning a project, and helps maintain morale. Project management is really a team effort, which is why so much emphasis is placed on communication and collaboration, and accountability keeps those channels open.
The ultimate measure of a successful project is delivery. A project is usually broken down into several deliverables, with the final deliverable being the finished project itself. Each one of these milestones is a signpost on the side of the road. Without consistent and timely delivery, the project will become lost and increasingly more difficult to complete on time. It is the project manager’s responsibility to keep each piece of the project moving along so that in the end they all come together on time and within budget. Maintaining good delivery will earn you high regards and unwavering dedication from your clients.
Delivery, however, is a two way road. The project manager must also keep the client on time with their deliverables. Client lag is often the culprit in slowing down a project. The ability to encourage clients in a timely and effective manner is a unique and creative skill. Some clients only require a small nudge to keep the goods coming, while other clients may need to have their hand held during the entirety of the project.
Scheduling tasks for a client project can be one of the more difficult skills to perfect, and a great example of how communication is more than what we speak and write. Some tasks are easier than others, and some projects can be comprised entirely of easy-to-do tasks. It is our human nature to tackle the easy tasks first and cross them off our list. Unless you communicate otherwise (which most of us don’t), getting things done for the client quickly will train the client to expect faster turnaround in the future. And when you have to push a project back for legitimate reasons, there is going to be a conflict. Schedule tasks throughout the timeline of a project, intertwining them with other projects.
Your team will appreciate the reinforced equilibrium as well. It makes them more productive if they can see the week spread out and grouped into chunks of time to focus on each project. Too many tasks too quickly can drain web designers and developers of the mojo they require to tackle larger responsibilities.