This is an excerpt from Authentic Form & Function’s ebook, Partnering for Success, which examines the relationship between organizations needing work done and the agencies used to execute the work.
The management of a project is crucial to its success. Often times there can be communication breakdowns where one party might be managing it internally, but not communicating the status of the project to another person or entire team.
Communication and flexibility are the 2 most important factors in the management of any project, and clear expectations should be established between both client and agency before the project begins.
Communication should be consistent, with regular touch points to account for work having recently been completed and reviewing what’s next. Communication should also be documentation-oriented, ensuring all decisions and discussions have been noted, leaving a clear paper trail of the ebbs and flows of a project.
At Authentic Form & Function, we provide weekly status updates every Monday, reviewing what we accomplished the previous week and what we’ll be working on over the course of the new week.
Flexibility is an attribute many people immediately disregard, but in our opinion is of the utmost importance. No matter how well planned a project may be, things generally take longer than envisioned, and feedback loops more than likely take longer than expected.
An extra day and a half to review a design deliverable can extend timelines by a few days. Consider, too, that there are at least 3-5 different handoff points over the course of any project, and it becomes easy to see how slow communication can easily add several weeks onto a small project’s timeline.
We always go into projects assuming timelines will shift, and the project will take longer than expected. Note: you should, too.
“Always go into projects assuming timelines will shift.”
Knowing this, we do our best to stay flexible and accommodate slower than expected feedback loops, doing all we can to adjust our own internal schedules when extra feedback or communication is necessary. This flexibility is a product of our own experience working with our own clients, and we don’t want to force a process that needs to take time. Doing so hurts both parties.
When it comes to the specifics of managing a project, we have a few other considerations and tools in place to make the process as fluid as possible.
Before the project starts, assign someone on your team to be the project leader or “point person” for the project. This person is the representative for managing the project on your end, facilitating communication between your team and the agency.
Most importantly, it is this person who is responsible for communicating feedback on behalf of your team.
When project deliverables are handed off to be discussed by your team, the project point person is responsible for collecting feedback from all stakeholders in the project, distilling their thoughts into feedback for your agency partner.
This part of the project’s management is crucial in providing constructive feedback, and failing to make this the responsibility of a single person could significantly affect the caliber of work performed.
The situation to be avoided at all costs is having a point person who doesn’t manage the feedback of their team—one who simply lets each stakeholder communicate directly to the agency. This firehose of feedback quickly adds to the “Frankensteining” of the project.
“The situation to be avoided at all costs: a point person who doesn’t manage the feedback of their team.”
In that scenario, various adjustments are requested, with each subsequent adjustment degrading the overall design framework established by the agency.
If not checked immediately, Frankensteining can turn a project into an amalgamation of styles and preferences from several different stakeholders, each of whom have unique tastes and more than likely aren’t qualified to be making these decisions.
In terms of the best type of feedback to provide, it’s always the most constructive when feedback comes in the form of the problem you’re observing, or a goal you don’t think is being hit.
For example, instead of saying, “Make the font bigger…” say, “I’m having a hard time reading the text. Our customers are also a little older.”
Or, rather than saying, “Let’s add in scrolling images…” say, “I’d like this page to be more engaging because it’s an important piece of our story.”
Calling out the problem, rather than suggesting a solution, lets an agency empathize with what you’re trying to improve and lets them offer the best solution possible for the problem.
Want to learn more about scoring the best digital partner relationship, the importance of communication, and what kind of web partner you really need? Get Authentic Form & Function’s entire ebook, Partnering for Success.