I am currently working on a project to rollout a new web site for my organization’s main fundraising initiative. It’s been a rocky road so far, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Don’t rely on a vendor to manage your project. Ultimately, a major challenge of successfully completing a project on time and on budget is to make sure departments within a nonprofit work together towards a common goal. This responsibility can’t be delegated to the vendor whose product you are implementing.
- Develop the project plan as early as possible. While there’s a certain amount of ‘discovery’ is useful, it’s important to make sure everyone knows what the schedule is and what their tasks are to complete. By waiting too long to create a detailed plan, stakeholders can become concerned about project progress, even if it is on / ahead of schedule.
- In addition to regular status meetings, use smaller workgroups to achieve specific deliverables. Include these workgroup meetings on the project plan. By trying to involve everyone in all meetings, there will be much wasted time and it will take much longer to get things done.
- Use a centralized place for project documentation that everyone can access, e.g. project plan, minutes of meetings, wireframes etc. Trying to keep all stakeholders up to date through email only makes it harder for everyone to stay informed.
- Allow enough time for quality assurance review – don’t just add it to the end of the project plan. Testing should be done as new deliverables are completed so there is time for corrective action.
- Pay attention if the vendor is upsetting any of our stakeholders. You can find this out quickly based on someone’s tone during a phone call, and is best dealt with by speaking a one-on-one with the stakeholder. This situation can result in one department either trying to take control of the project or otherwise working independently of other stakeholders.
- Keep the project sponsor fully aware of what’s going on. If there are problems, come up with recommendations on how things can be improved.
- Over-communicate through a variety of channels – be careful not to rely too much on email and not on phone calls and in person conversations.
- Especially over the summer, ask for notice when team members are taking time off. Often staff only advise immediate boss and others in their own department when they will be out, not those in other departments. Most online projects involve a team from multiple areas.
- Be careful to respect the wishes of your nonprofit organization colleagues. Acting as liaison between co-workers and the vendor can be a delicate balance, but in the end, it’s important to stay focused on meeting your co-workers’ needs during project rollout.
Have a wonderful fourth of July! While my wife and I will be moving this month, I’ll do my best to keep blogging.