The internet places vast amounts of information at our fingertips. More and more customers view the website first before they visit a store or make contact with the company. A company’s web page is becoming the face of the corporation in today’s marketplace. The design of that web page can either entice or detract a potential customer from seeking assistance. Web page design companies use project managers to supervise web page construction for corporate and government clients.
The success or failure of these pages depends on the use of sound project planning and metrics. Practical use of these metrics will win clients. The improper use of planning and metrics will drive business away. Having a project manager that can use the metrics to their advantage will ensure the web design company can stay profitable. Ionata Web Solutions is a provider of internet based applications and data base driven web sites. The company has offices located in Tasmania and San Diego. The company was formerly known as Nextleft before 2008.
Nextleft experienced a great deal of success developing web applications for a wide range of government and corporate clients. Their web design and software solutions facilitate content creation, content control, editing, and essential web maintenance functions. Josh Gaffney has been a project manager for Ionata since 2002. His duties include overseeing the design process of the web sites created for clients and managing a team of 5-10. He uses the information that he and the sales team gather when they are meeting with perspective clients to design web pages that are suitable to the company’s needs.
These web pages can be as small as a page to as large as an entire company’s site, including their sales and support applications. Josh has witnessed and helped fuel the growth of the internet into the enormous influence in everyday life that it is today. In the early stages of web design the pages were sometimes crude and difficult to navigate. With a team of talented and artistic programmers and designers, he has developed stylized pages that consumers find appealing. As technology gets better and computers become more advanced, the bar on web page design and function keeps rising.
Josh has challenged himself and his team to keep above the bar and produce quality products at competitive prices for the customers. I have chosen to interview Josh because I have always been interested in the field that he is currently working in. My goal is to use my project management skills in a technology field as well. I performed this interview with several goals in mind. I wanted Josh to divulge as many facts and figures as he could. Each question was targeted to retrieve the most information possible. During the interview Josh was able to explain the details of his work and how a project starts, progresses, and ends.
To start, I asked Josh what he would consider to be three critically important things you must do well as a project manager in order for the project to succeed. He answered that having great communication skills, understanding the needs of team members, and being able to estimate and give information when needed are critical to his position. Communicating with team members is very important because they need to be informed of their job tasks. Each team member is an integral part of the project plan. If one member is uninformed it could delay every other part of the project.
Keeping your teams needs met requires a manager that is on task and able to listen to the team members requests. Another critical part of the job is being able to estimate information and educate sponsors and team members on what improvements will come from the project. Using a manager’s estimate of impact allows Josh to estimate the percentage of improvement that should be attributed to the project. Being able to show improvement estimations to sponsors and clients will demonstrate that you are ready to take on the activities with a goal in mind. Starting a project can be intimidating for some managers.
It is important that the manager knows how they should start the process. The team usually starts off the project with a “kickoff meeting. ” The team sits down together and starts to plan the schedule and budget. The input from the customer is analyzed and an overall design sense is mapped out. Project costs are weight and compared to the wants of the customer. His team is usually working on two to three projects at any given time. Some are small and some are large, but each is produced with quality in mind. Your finished project is what the customer sees and critiques.
Josh stressed that deadlines can fluctuate. The scope can change if the customer decides to add or subtract requirements for the design. Clients will ask for more or different elements to be added, even during the later stages of the project. Each project has to be looked at in a new light. You cannot treat one client the same as the next. “We do not produce cookie cutter web applications. Each site or application is tailored to the customer. ” He also talked about the budget and the importance of keeping within the guidelines that have been set.
When determining the costs of the project, Josh will meet with the team and produce a “projected cost vs. budget plan. ” These estimates are based on how the project will be done, in what time frame, and with what resources. You cannot decide what to build until the costs and budget have been weighed. You do not want to try to build an elaborate site on a shoestring budget. Before the plan is implemented, he always asks, “Can we stay in the budget range. ” This is a surprisingly simple question, but one that is the foundation of the project.
If the answer is yes, the plan will be approved and work will be scheduled. Josh uses data and statistics to entice potential clients into choosing his team to build their web applications. He will show the customer how building or redesigning will increase traffic to their web page. Using data from previous projects shows the client how a new design has worked for previous customers. This helps new customers see the benefits of choosing to move forward with the project. One of the initial statistics that he uses is web analytics.
Web analytics are “any request for a file from a Web server. ” This means that every request that is made to a Web server can be considered a hit. Every time an image is downloaded for display on a Web page is a hit. For example, a simple Web page with four images would result in five hits to the server. These hits provide sense of overall happiness and time spent at the web page. More time spent on the site means more opportunities for the company to reach additional customers. Another metric used to show the potential benefits of the project is the Return on Investment (ROI).
The ROI helps to convince the client that the expense for the project solution is beneficial. Josh uses estimates of impact verses the cost estimates to convey the payback and profit to the customer. The ROI is a great tool to convert statistics and data to the monetary value that the customer is looking for. Josh has encountered many problems during certain projects, but I asked him to think of two big problems that he encounters and what he does to resolve them. The first problem that he mentioned is managing unreasonable demands. A good portion of the clients do not understand what is possible.
Some customers make demands that the team cannot accommodate. Most want more work performed without increasing the budget. Josh has the daunting task of keeping the customers happy. He works with the customer to explain the limitations and set realistic expectations. The second problem he faces is the element of overload. Working on two or more projects can cause the project manager to be overwhelmed if the schedules are not clear and concise. Following the designated tasks and keeping the team on schedule requires the manager to focus on staying within the set time frame.
As a follow up question to keeping the team on schedule, I asked Josh to expand on how he completes that task and what he does to resolve issues within the team. There are different personalities in every team. Each member should be treated fairly and with respect. You will have different types of situations to deal with in every team. Some members are creative while others are technical or analytical. Team members do not always relate well to others. This is where you pay special attention to the needs of the team. Some need close management while others hate it.
While some members can stay on task on their own, others are prone to over promising and under delivering. For these team members Josh likes to set up “check in points. ” These points allow the manager to keep track of the team member’s progress so the entire team does not fall behind waiting for one component to be completed. Some deadlines are hard and some are soft. It is best to keep the deadlines in the forefront of your mind. Forgetting or dismissing deadlines will ultimately add more cost and resource consumption to the project.
Once the project is coming to a close the team will build a presentation for the customer to see the finished product before the page is uploaded. They will use different methods to exhibit the product to the client. Some customers are presented the information over the web in a live web meeting. Other clients want to see the product first hand or will send a representative to check the work. Mock ups and presentations are prepared in advance with flash slides so the client can see the new design in action. Some have not seen the product since the beginning or at all.
This portion of the project is extremely important to the team. If the client is not impressed or favorable of the product, more work will need to be performed until the product is acceptable to the buyer. As stated earlier, sometimes the customer’s demands are unreasonable. The team is always limited to the technology and tools that are available. Some client’s wants may be too idealistic or they strive for an unrealistic perfection. The purpose of process improvement is to identify, analyze and improve existing processes within an organization to meet new goals and objectives.
The final product is the key to any project. Without quality work the process will not be improved and may even degrade the development. Moving in a backward direction is unacceptable for continued success of the project team.
Reference: Gaffney, J. P. (2010, February 24th). Project Manager, Ionata Web Solutions. Interview. Phillips, J. J. , Bothell, T. W. , & Snead, G. L. (2002). The project management scorecard: Measuring the success of project management solutions. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann.