Lecture 1 Why Web Projects Fail

Lecture 1 Why Web Projects Fail

Reading: Chapters 1-3 (Background and History of Web Project Management)

What you will learn:
•    Definition of Web Project Management
•    5 ways that Web Project Management is different than Project Management
•    Reasons that Web Projects Fail and how you can avoid them

Welcome to the first week of “Web Project Management Essentials.” In the course we cover the essentials of managing Web Projects. We’ll learn how Web Project Management is unique. We’ll take a look at some of the approaches to Web Project Management and discuss when each approach might be most appropriate. We will also get a high level feel for how Web Project Managers keep projects running smoothly, ways projects can get sidetracked and review a useful checklist for Web Project Managers. Finally, we’ll list resources for staying current with the latest developments in Web Project Management.

How Web Projects are Different from other projects

Project Definition of Web Project Management

Let’s begin our first lesson taking a close look at a definition of Web Project Management. Actually, there aren’t too many definitions out there. Here is the one I use: “Web Project Management is process of identifying measurable goals for a Web based project that involves careful management of the resources in order to meet all the project deliverables within a time frame that is acceptable to those paying for the project.”

Many definitions of project management talk about the “end stage” but there is no end stage with a Website. As soon as one project is finished, another is already in the wings with the initiation stage already in progress.

There are a number of different approaches to Web Project Management, these include waterfall, agile and many others. We will discuss these in more detail in lesson 2.

5 Ways Web Project Management is different from Project Management

Web Project Management is different than traditional project management because Web Projects are different from other projects. Specifically:

  1. Web projects are part of an integrated Web strategy that by necessity will change quickly
  2. Every project tends to be somewhat unique and forms the basis of the next iteration of the site
  3. Projects evolve – they are never truly “over” until the site is closed down
  4. There are often several ways to solve a problem
  5. The team and their expertise changes, new professions arise quickly – ie “Content Manager”
  6. It is possible to measure the effectiveness of the project using Analytics and then modify the project to improve the results. In fact, this should always be part of the strategy.

Let’s review each of these in turn.

1. Web projects are part of an integrated Web strategy that by necessity will change quickly

Every day new technologies are being launched.  In just a few years content writing has become a valued skill on a Web team. Now marketing teams are integrating content curation into their strategies as part of their SEO strategy. Netmagazine posted an article, “New Tools for Web Design and Development,” [http://www.netmagazine.com/features/new-tools-web-design-and-development-january-2013] written by Mark Penfold, listing ten new design tools.

A new, better solution to achieve the goals of your Web project that didn’t exist when you sat down to formulate your project strategy may launch days after your Web project launches.

2. Every project tends to be somewhat unique and forms the basis of the next iteration of the site

For most projects, once you finish the project you move on to a new project. You complete a redesign of an automotive assembly line you move to a new, different project, but you don’t keep adding on to the original car.

When working on Web projects it is possible to measure the effectiveness of the project in achieving goals and using Analytics to modify the project to improve the results. In fact, this should always be part of the strategy.

3. Projects evolve – they are never truly “over” until the site is closed down

Due to the constantly evolving nature of the Internet as soon as one Web project is launched, there is already a need to begin the next project. This is particularly true for large sites. Take a university site, for example. You finish launching a new Admissions sub-site and the Alumni department is requesting a mini-site for their Capital Campaign set to launch in five months. Content Management Systems (CMS) make text changes easy to implement, but if you are building a new robust search capability, then a CMS can’t provide a solution.

4. You often don’t know if you’ve solved the problem until after the project is over

Many of the professionals working on Web projects started out working on software products. These two areas share a common characteristic of multiple strategies will result in achieving your goals. However, in the end, the software either works or doesn’t work. With Web projects, analytics must be employed after the project is launched to determine customers or readers, (as some user interface designers like to call site visitors,) are using the site the way the user interface designer intended.

5. New positions on the team arise quickly

New professions on the Web team are constantly arising. Some of the positions that are currently highly sought are Content Manager and Social Media Manager. These are positions that didn’t exist a few years ago. Ongoing training is a must for team members to be on top of the latest available tools and strategies.

Why Web Projects fail

Definition of a failed web project

Everyone has their own definition of a failed Web project, but let’s create one for our purposes.

Everyone has their own definition of a failed Web project, but let’s create one for our purposes. In most organizations a Web project is considered to be a failure when the measured performance of the project does not meet the expectations of the stakeholders; when the launch date does not meet stakeholder expectations or when the costs exceed stakeholder expectations.

In addition, projects might be launched on time and within budget but be judged a failure if the project was mismanaged with disagreements between the team and stakeholder(s) or among the team members and in an environment of chaos resulting in long workdays/nights.

There are a number of reasons Web projects fail. Here are five examples:

Reasons Web Projects Fail
Reason for Failure The Result of:
Lack of planning No specified goals or no agreement on goals
Poor estimation No forethought given as to what tasks are going to be accomplished and how long it will take to achieve those tasks or the cost of achieving those tasks
No one responsible for content delivery A solid web project management plan can be derailed by delayed content. Someone must be responsible for managing content creation and making sure the content meets the agreed upon delivery date.
Disfunctional team If team members argue with each other, the Web Project Manager and with the Stakeholders, they will waste time, work at cross purposes and delay the project.

What you learned in lesson 1

  1. “Web Project Management is process of identifying measurable goals for a Web based project that involves careful management of the resources in order to meet all the project deliverables within a timeframe that is acceptable to those paying for the project.”
  2. Web projects are conducted in an environment of frequent change that involves different market conditions, new technologies and spiral type production environment in which one project frequently leads to and forms the basis of the next project.
  3. There are a number of reasons that Web projects fail. You should be able to identify five common reasons for project failures.

Assignment for Week 1 – Due: September 10, 2013

Describe and analyze a failed project:

Describe the project and why the project was determined to be a failure. List the factors that contributed to the project failing and in hindsight, what could have been done to prevent the failure.

 

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