Build a Website Series: 4. Re-programming for success

Welcome to Part 4 of my ‘How to Build a Website’ series. In this article, I’ll be talking about how to handle challenges and re-programming a schedule to keep things on target when things get challenging. If you’re only just joining us, I’d recommend reading Part 1, where we launched our website project, Part 2, where we examined the importance of defining outcomes for the website, and Part 3, where we looked at the wire framing process.

Things began moving swiftly after we’d defined the outcomes and started building the wireframe. As I’d been tasked with leading the content strategy for the site, I set about undertaking interviews and writing the content we needed to populate the site. I’d got a huge challenge in front of me, needing to understand the services of multiple businesses which worked under a single umbrella, and trying to understand their markets and customers. Each of the businesses has a very distinct ‘personality’, but is recognised in their market for high-quality solutions (unlike some clients I’ve worked with who think they’re high quality, and are average or worse!).

As I started creating the content, it became increasingly obvious to me that the programme of works we’d created had multiple stress points which had the potential to cause delays. As I’d been commissioned to focus on the content, the client had provided a dedicated Project Manager (PM) to handle a lot of the programming and administration of the project. The PM was relatively inexperienced and had never handled a project of this scale before (although I wasn’t to find this out for several weeks later). I was told that they would handle all scheduling and management of the project and that I just needed to focus on content. When I saw the schedule, I knew it wouldn’t be a problem to hit it from my side (as I had only one job), but knew that sign-offs and meetings would be a huge issue, as vital participants in the programme had more urgent priorities than working with me.

When I brought this point forward, I was told that I didn’t need to worry about any of that; the PM would see to it ensuring we stayed on course, and that if I could meet the programme that they would ensure that all other participants gave the time I had specified to gather information and provide approvals.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks, reality struck when we started to hit problems getting sign-offs for work and had multiple meetings cancelled or delayed, creating the disruption to the programme I had foreseen.

When I initially brought this challenge to the attention of the PM, I was told that delays were simply not permitted.

“Great,” I thought to myself, “do they have any idea how unhelpful that is?”

Re-programming for success

Deciding to take the bull by the horns, I approached the PM after a fortnight and presented them with a forecast showing that we were likely to overrun by around six months unless we made some immediate changes. They looked at me rather blankly and again reiterated that delays are not permitted, telling me that I’d simply have to do something about it. It was here that the project had the potential to come off the rails big time, and I needed to step up to the plate and give them a hand.

My first step was to highlight all the issues I had faced so far, primarily around getting sign-off for the content, as the manager in question was simply not providing the sign-offs when they agreed to. I demonstrated that I’d met every deadline I’d been set so far, but that unless they were either willing to replace this manager or reschedule their workload, we were never going to hit the target launch date. The PM looked at me and asked what they should do.

To me – it was simple. The manager required to deliver sign-offs was too busy because they were trying to simultaneously work with me on the copy, and another two individuals on videography and photography, as well as do their day job. The answer was to create a two-stage programme for their work, where they concentrate on only the copy for 1 month, then move to photography later.

This would give me the time I needed to produce a ‘first draft’ of the website in a condensed schedule, including all the points required by the manager, and I could focus on ‘polish’ via a second and third draft later in the schedule prior to the upload of the content on the website.

When I presented this to the PM, they managed to get authorisation for it, and after one week, we were back on track to launch the website, with only a minor delay caused by the manager.