So you are going to do a large web project? As a web project manager (in the Magento ecosystem) I have found time and time again there is no book for what we do. Yes, there are a lot of whitepapers, articles, stack overflows about particular issues but there isn't a comprehensive project plan out there on how to plan a large eCommerce project. I am going to reference Magento because that is the platform I work most often but I will try to translate things in general terms. This series of articles will focus on established web project management methodologies, the best way to run your meetings (yes, they can be productive), as well as small details to focus on the ensure that you stay on budget and within scope.
You've gotten through the sales process and you have the "unicorn signature" on a large budget 5-6 month web project, now what? The time for hypotheticals is over, now it is time to get going. You sit down to your computer, try to formulate a plan but you still don't know how to start. Well take a deep breath and start to type "G-O-A-L-S", and project goals at that. The first step in a major web project is goals. Put yourself in your client's shoes (yes, they matter in this project too) and ask yourself a few questions. "If I could get three benefits from this web project, what would they be?"
- I want to create more revenue for my eCommerce store
- I want to grow my brand
- I want to get more people to come to my website.
Those are pretty typical answers that you will hear from eCommerce manager, web owners, and people with "O's" in their title (COO, CEO, CTO). The next question you need to ask is HOW? The truthful meaning to this project is how you are going to accomplish these goals. If the answer is farfetched or does not have a valid actionable, then it shouldn't be a goal. A few of the answers to "How" for the benefits above would be.
- I want to create more revenue for my eCommerce store. How? By creating a user-friendly website, with easily navigable pages, thorough search features to help my customers explore our product mix, and starting a digital marketing campaign through email marketing, CPC, and social media.
Now isn't that WAY more actionable as a goal? Yes, I would say so. By asking "how?", and making people think, you will formulate a strong game plan and write out the overarching methods to how this project will be successful.
The Client and The Customer
The next thing to do is define the client and the customer. Now, you might be saying to yourself "Wait, aren't those the same thing?". No, heck no, but we will get into that in another segment. The client is the person or company that is writing your check Company, LLC. The customer however is the end-user of the website you will be creating. This is Sally from Wyoming, Clint from Michigan, and Delores from Boca Raton. To become a successful web project manager you must consider that while the CEO of Company, LLC is writing your checks, you must stand tall on the soapbox for the end-user and be an advocate of their wishes. After all, in eCommerce, no customers means no sales.
To define your client ask them a few simple starter questions. Trust me, everyone like's to tell their own story.
- How did the company start? (Yes, it is such a simple question isn't it?)
- How did the company select the products it was going to sell?
- What are the growth goals for the web division in the year 20##?
- What is your internal mission statement, goals, and reason for being?
- How do you communicate internally, with your customers, and with your industry?
The answer to these questions will set the tone for how you interact with your client. If they answer these questions with the words "fun" and "culture" chances are you are going to have a great project. If the answers are "revenue/dollars" and "strict, rigid, line of sight" you may need to set the tone to shape the project to feel like an opportunity instead of work.
You may find yourself still struggling to put your finger on the style of project you can run and what you can, and cannot get away with. Take it to the next step. Setup a meeting and name it the "Questions Meeting". Don't give too many details as to why you are setting this meeting up and don't provide a strong agenda (admittedly, this is horrible), the point is to get straightforward, honest answers to the following questions.
WHY? - are we doing this web/digital project?
WHAT? - is the goal, mission, deliverables, timeline that you would like to see?
HOW? - do you use technology to help yourself be efficient?
WHO? - is responsible for the success of this web project?
You may get the same answer from everyone, which if anything means they are consistently stuck in their ways or using their bad systems and hate change. OR, you can get varied answers, in which you can then follow up with each stakeholder individually to be their "Knight in Shining Armour"
Sit each stakeholder down. Look them in the eye and ask them "Name three things that if you could automate, alter, simplify, or completely remove would free you up to do more meaningful and necessary work?". I can almost guarantee that you don't get the deer in the headlights look? Rather, I bet you get a look of amazement when that person, that may be a female box packer in fulfillment realizes you are there to help THEM. More times than not you'll receive an honest, easy answer i.e. "I wish there was a way to do automatic batch order processing for orders that have the same shipping type." Write it down, think about a solution, and deliver it to them.
You are now the HERO. Congratulations.
Take the time to go through all the stakeholders in the company, from the box packers, to customer service, to designers, to the CEO, and ask them the same questions. "Name three things....". If you can deliver a majority of those "three things" everyone wins, you're a hero and you will have a strong lasting relationship with Company LLC for years to come.
Up next in How to Plan a Major eCommerce Project Series is how to On-Board a client to the project quickly, efficiently, and with a little FUN.