One of the most overlooked parts of a project is what happens when it’s gone live. While a project might be live, it’s not over. In the euphoria and excitement of delivering a project, managing the proper close of a project is sometimes overlooked. In this post for project managers, we’ll take a look at seven steps we take at FCV to ensure effective project management in the post-live phase of a project lifecycle.
1. Don’t stop smoking
Get this out the way first. You need to continue to smoke test well after the project has gone live. This means ensuring that technically you’re 100% sure that the project is working as it should – make yourself a checklist:
- Have you fully completed post-live QA, ensuring it works cross platform as defined in the Statement of Work?
- Submitted sitemaps and updated Google Webmaster tools?
- Checked that tracking and analytics are working?
- Checked that any required site data is being collected, can be exported and is being backed up?
- Confident that systems are robust, and secure with a back-up plan in case if it all falls over?
2. Be clear about when it’s over
So you’ve completed smoke testing and you’re happy the site is finished? Now draw a line in the sand. The scope of work document should clearly define when a project is complete and all in-scope deliverables are delivered. When the immediate bug fixes are complete, it’s important that you don’t start adding in last minute feature requests before first doing some proper analysis. Some of the biggest and worst mistakes to projects are made trying to make quick fixes to a project in the days just after it has gone live. Invariably, this kind of botch job leaves the site user experience or design severely compromised as changes are made that aren’t thought out particularly well.
3. Test and analyse
Instead of trying to make botched quick fixes, be a bit more strategic. It’s time to start thinking about next steps. How is the site performing against the KPI’s – to what extent is it getting results? Most importantly, explore if the project is properly solving the original business objectives and evaluate whether users do what they need to do with ease. Talk with client stakeholders, use focus groups, user testing and analytics identify any issues and explore opportunities to optimise the project.
4. Create a roadmap
When you’re clear about the issues and opportunities, create a roadmap to carefully define the sequence of implementing them. If you’re not careful you’ll end up with a mishmash of change requests with no particular structure. Instead, plan it out taking into consideration the client’s budget and the importance rather than the perceived urgency of the changes. Start with the quick wins and plan out the bigger opportunities and enhancements so that the client knows what they can expect, when.
5. Optimise, analyse. Repeat.
Got the roadmap approved? Now start implementing each of the enhancements. It’s important that the analysis, roadmap and optimisation cycle continues on the project even after the initial roadmap is completed. It’s often at this stage that the priority shifts from function to content in terms of optimisation. Explore the site’s ongoing content strategy; how is the project going to continue to be sticky, useful, interesting and rewarding? Now do it!
6. Review and learn
If we’re going to become more effective project managers, an important step in every project is to learn from it. Post project reviews are essential. From an agency perspective it’s key to analyse what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what can be improved on for next time. To do this it’s key to take learnings from everyone who was involved in the project, including the client. Look at the original estimates and compare them against actuals – look to see if any departments spent more or less than estimated and document that information in a post project review to help you learn from it for future projects. Ask yourself how this should shape future projects and make sure you share your learnings with the rest of the Project Management team. It’s also important to be transparent and share the information with the client too so they can understand for future projects why things are estimated the way they are.
7. Give yourself a pat on the back
Lastly, but importantly, celebrate your success with your clients. As much as it’s been hard work for you, don’t forget the effort that they’ve put in too. And don’t forget to enter your project into some awards!