Kevan Rayne, Failed Project Assignment Feedback
Great example of a failed project. You did a nice job of identifying the factors that contributed to the project failure and identifying how to avoid such failures in the future.
When Web Project Managers list how they can prevent mistakes in the future it is called “Lessons Learned.” It is a good idea to keep a list of these Lessons Learned to remind yourself not to repeat these mistakes in the future.
Creating specific goals and getting agreement by stakeholders and the team are part of the Project Discovery stage. These should be written up in the Project Brief. (With small projects you might combine the project brief and the Project Specification into one document.) The client then gets to read your write up and will be able to comment on your take on the project and reassures you that your understanding of the project goals, success criteria, etc are in fact accurate.
Having one creative lead does help reduce conflict. You may find that a client also has a graphic designer on staff and then find yourself back in the position of your creative lead and the client creative lead at logger heads. This is especially likely with organizations that outsource projects even though they have a Web development team, such as the case with many colleges and universities. In these cases, as Web Project Manager, keep the two communicating with the goal to come up with the best solution given the project goals and objectives and act as facilitator in arriving at a solution everyone likes. If this proves impossible, schedule a meeting with the person chief stakeholder, you and both creative leads and come to an agreement on the direction to follow.
Late content is the primary cause of Web projects missing their deadlines. That is why someone should always be identified as the person who is the “Content Manager” responsible for getting content delivered on time. In your independent design projects you might want to investigate a product called “GatherContent.” (There is a review on my website, http://www.tonyaprice.com and you can check out the product at http://www.gathercontent.com) The web based product allows you to track what content is assigned to various people and whether milestones are being hit or not. If you use a Content Strategist or Content Manager then they can often also serve as the content editor.
Detailed task lists and accurate timelines are great to shoot for but not always possible. I have worked with project managers who buried their heads in the task lists as if the lists would keep everything on track. Accurate timelines often come from tracking previous experience in Lessons Learned documents. One thing I like to do is have the team members track their time. This is easy to do if you are using outside contractors as they keep accurate records as part of their billing process, but in-house team members can view time tracking as big sister or big brother looking over their shoulder. I tell them they don’t have to show me their time sheets but keep them to improve the accuracy of their estimates. After a period of time they should become more and more accurate. Be on the lookout for those team members who are always optimistic or pessimistic in their estimating and adjust accordingly.
The project manager is the one to keep everyone on track, mainly by communicating with everyone the status of the project and encouraging team members to alert them to issues and problems. Teams that are afraid to report problems to a project manager are teams that fail because the earlier the project manager knows there is a problem, the more time there is to fix the problem. Be especially on the lookout for this situation when working with sub-contractors. That is why I ranked my subcontractors and had my “core” group. It is also why as I began to experience problems with a sub-contractor I would begin to try out new sub-contractors with small projects to get a feel for how we worked together without putting my reputation in jeopardy.