Posted on 11/21/2017 in Business and Strategy
By Jeannine Szymczak
Stalled website projects can be a real nuisance. They lead to missed deadlines, scope creep, resource uncertainty, and frustration on all sides. There could be all kinds of reasons why this might happen:
- Client is unresponsive
- Lack of clear direction or decision making
- Someone unexpectedly goes on leave
- Scarce resources
- And so on…
Typically where we get stuck is when we feel like we’ve lost control and feel powerless to influence the necessary parties to get a project back on track again. Short of a key stakeholder definitively telling you to stop all work, there are steps you can take to get projects unstuck. Below I have detailed a few common scenarios that project managers and clients might encounter and tactics for how to overcome the barriers so you can launch your website on time.
Scenario #1: Missed Feedback Deadlines
Meetings are being cancelled, calls and emails not being returned or being constantly pushed off. From a Project Manager’s perspective, it might just feel like you’re being ignored. However, there could be other factors at play. Perhaps the person who is “ignoring you” isn’t the primary or only decision-maker. On the client side, they might be just as frustrated with the delays but don’t have the authority to overcome the problem alone.
The best thing to do here is figure out the root cause of the delay. There could be a lot of factors at play that the Project Manager isn’t even aware of:
- Change in leadership
- Shift in priorities
- Conflicting views on what the desired result of the project should be
You must ask why the project is in a holding pattern in order to figure out your next step. Based on the answer, you may be able to help your client be able to get us to the next step. At the start of every project, you should always learn who all of the stakeholders are. Then if delays occur, you can reach out to the group instead of the single contact and usually gain better insight into the overall issue. For example, if upper management is conflicted about a design element or piece of functionality, you might be able to present them with pros and cons of both options as well as timing and cost information that helps them to make a final decision. It might even be that you present an option to them that they didn’t know was available.
In some cases, there really isn’t anything you can do to move it forward but by knowing that for sure, you can still make a firm decision to either put the project officially on hold and set a date to revisit in the future or you can choose to end the project and reassess needs once all parties are ready. In either case, this allows you to close out any administrative loose ends and free up resources.
Scenario #2 Dissatisfaction with Design or Functionality
No matter how much planning goes into a project, sometimes people need to see something to really know how they feel about it. This could put you in an endless edit cycle that blows a project’s timeline and budget out of the water if not handled well. At the end of the day, this is a communication issue. Not everyone is able to articulate the vision they have in their head in a way that others can easily understand and act upon. But it doesn’t need to be a dealbreaker. There are creative ways that clients and delivery can work together to get on the same page.
Start by asking if they have seen other websites that give a good example of what they are looking for. Sometimes that is all you need to make things click. Other times it can be more complicated. In that case, you don’t want to spin your wheels just trying a bunch of different designs or building out functionality in the hope that one of these times you will get it right. It’s inefficient and makes your client lose trust in you. The better approach is to get everyone together for a working session. In-person is always best but if it’s not possible, even a screenshare can be useful so that both parties can show each other work in progress and discuss ideas and examples in real time to try things out together and get instant feedback. This method can shave weeks or even months off of a website project!
Scenario #3 Content Delays
It’s happened to the best of us: things are going well on your project - the designs were approved, the desired functionality is agreed upon and you are starting development. There’s only one problem - none of the content is written yet. If content isn’t discussed ahead of time, this could turn into a big scary problem at the last second and completely destroy your launch date. Especially when the burden of writing the content falls on the shoulders of 1 or 2 people.
Website production doesn’t need to grind to a halt just because content isn’t ready. In general, a website can be fully built and tested with placeholder content. Granted, you can’t launch a website with placeholder content, but it will buy more time for those tasked with creating all of the content. Discussions around when content is needed should happen at the start of a website project. This way you can create a realistic content timeline and stagger deadlines to make things easier. Use tools like GatherContent to make management of content creation and reviewed easier. If copywriting isn’t their thing, suggest potential copywriters that they could work with. For more info on this topic, check out Delivery Manager Corey Furdon’s recent blog post all about content planning tactics.
No matter what the scenario is that is causing your website project to stall, being proactive and keeping communication open and transparent on all sides is the best way to keep things on track. Unexpected obstacles happen all the time. But you can overcome these hurdles by asking the right questions, presenting helpful alternative approaches, and working together to remove the roadblocks.
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