Hi Barbara and Glenn,
I have uploaded your Assignments 2 for you to review.
Barbara, Assignment 2
You are correct that when a team is small, it is hard to adhere to set milestones if the manager is constantly adding tasks to the team and changing priorities and timelines. This is usually the sign of a poor manager with little or no Web Project Management expertise. With a small team trying to work on multiple projects at one time is very difficult. Sometimes teams try to squeeze in work on other projects while waiting for approvals, but this is hard and can lead to mistakes. Underfunded and understaffed teams are an industry wide issue. In these situations it is sometimes possible to get the stakeholders to take on some of the work, but as you point out, this often leads to missed delivery dates.
Adopting an Agile approach can be daunting for an organization. When a team moves in this direction, you need the support from upper management, buy-in from the team members and stakeholders that understand and agree to this type of approach. There are different types of Agile practitioners including Scrum, Scrumban and DSDM (and dozens more.) It is worthwhile researching these various methods to determine which would work best in your organization. When estimating the budget for the transition period, include salary for an Agile coach who can help the team make the transition and don’t be afraid to take a look at sequential with Agile (although Agile purists would consider this advice blasphemous.)
Good write up and conclusions.
Feedback: Glenn, Assignment 2
I too had a small design company. I started out with two partners who both dropped out within three months leaving me a sole proprietor with sub-contractors doing my development.
Your assessment of why waterfall worked well for your clients is spot on. The projects and profile of your clients matches well with the sequential, staged process. It also works well because the approvals drives home to the client that progress is being made and the approval process tends to give the clients the idea that progress is being made and that they have made decisions. This tends to limit the amount of change requests however, it can also present challenges if the client has difficulty making decisions as they will delay the approval process. In this case when working with small businesses, give them a date the decision needs to be done to stay on track for the deadline and indicate that if you don’t hear from them the approval will be assumed. Follow up with an email that the date has arrived and they have a specified amount of time to indicate any changes. Often they are relieved not to have to make a decision and will let it ride. This lets you move forward.
Breaking planning into achievable pieces is a good idea. As you say, letting the client tell you what they need to have done rarely works well. It is important to listen for their goals, what benefit they want to get once the project is completed, but they rarely know the best way to achieve that. When they see you do know how to do that, through the conversations during the research and planning stage, they usually will develop confidence in your strategy suggestion. If they do, you often have a loyal client on your side.
You are so right about clients causing issues with content development. It is no longer enough to just put up a client’s existing brochure text on the site. It was actually never a good idea since people skim screen text and tend to read more closely print text, especially if they have requested a brochure. Just as once many of us would bring on board a graphic designer or database programmer either as a hire or as a sub-contractor, now it is important to do the same with content development. The nice advantage of this is that the content developer is responsible for meeting the content delivery milestones, eliminating the old situation of having clients delay the launch date because they would never deliver content. When they did finally deliver content it would often be in an unusable form.
Ongoing testing is important, but as you say, final testing avoids many problems and embarrassments. This is especially true if you are working with sub-contractractors in a dispersed development environment. It is just so easy for small bugs to creep in.
Ah, Web usability, one of my favorite topics. Poor usability hurts a businesses reputation. One thing to remember with clients, if they need things done as soon as possible they haven’t planned well and chances are they are unorganized. It is hard to turn down a client, especially if you are starting out and have just a few of them. However, once you feel your business is doing well, then you can start judging whether a client is worthwhile dealing with. A client that can’t wait for you to do the job well, (and this includes taking the time to incorporate usability into the strategy,) is a client that will drive you crazy. Have you noticed too, that often the client that needs everything done immediately, will often be the client that takes forever to approve something? Don’t let their poor business practices, damage your firm’s reputation. You don’t have to take every client. When your business can afford it, one of the best things you can do is turn down those clients that cost you so much stress, time and headaches!
If you have usability questions send them to me. I’m not sure how much we get into it as we progress through the course, but it is a favorite subject of mine.
Great job on assignment 2.