One of the very first important issues I had to deal with when starting my first business was how to effectively manage a client through a project. At first the jobs were relatively small, so I reinvented the wheel with each of my clients, but that quickly became tiresome and besides I was focusing on the business fundamentals of project timelines more than that of the creative. Then the jobs became larger and more complex and I knew I had to make some time and figure out a process description that would allow me to handle any potential project.
It may have taken me awhile but it should come as no surprise that large projects are not easy to entertain unless your company follows a carefully planned and detailed procedure that allows for every stage that a project will have to go through until completion. There are, of course, many different ways to accomplish the tasks within each stage of a project but an outline from concept to launch should be respected. Clients also like structure as long as they feel that it enhances communication and doesn’t create an even larger independent project.
What follows is a (very) brief synopsis of some basic stages of a project. Within each of these stages there would naturally be a further breakdown of items such as roles, activities, entry/exit criteria, etc. It should also be noted that each stage of a project is a wonderful opportunity to collect knowledge and data within your own organization and if properly captured and organized it can be a used as a knowledge management tool – more about that in another article.
I have outlined a nine stage procedure that can be either expanded or contracted depending on the project but I believe it is a good guide to start with until you feel comfortable developing your own.
Stage 1: Initial/Continuing Contact
The identification and qualification of a new or continuing business opportunity. Evaluate the goals and objectives of the client, as well as your own objectives and abilities for the project. Note: the goal of this stage is to accept or deny a new business opportunity based on an evaluation.
Stage 2: Proposal
The goal of this Stage is to understand the client and the project enough to create and deliver a proposal for a business opportunity.
Stage 3: Evaluation
Research, analysis and synthesis of all data collected must be performed before you begin.
Stage 4: Project Specifications
Refine the estimate for the development of the project, complete any creative and editorial goals and finalize the technology needs. (these examples differ with each project)
Stage 5: Construction and Implementation
Actual creation of the site, including initial unit testing.
Stage 6: Systems and Integration Test
System and integration testing and development of training materials for client.
Stage 7: Deployment
Delivery and initial operation of the site. Training may also be a factor.
Stage 8: Post-Deployment
Final documentation, project closeout and transition to operations and maintenance.
Stage 9: Project Assessment
External and internal assessments of the project are completed. This step is extremely important and you should be as honest as possible because if you had any faults or errors along the way they should be corrected before your next engagement.
Besides from multiple signoff points, that is it. Believe me it becomes easier with time and more intuitive. And there is an added bonus. You can track your accomplishments easier and figure out what works for you best. Remember you will be forever honing your skills because you will always encounter new surprises.