This time last year I had just joined magenticNorth (mN) where I got to work with some fantastic clients, most notably the BBC and embarked on a great learning experience which included running user testing sessions as covered in my last post.
Working at mN included my career highlight to date, which was working on the the #ShakespeareMe project. It was an experimental social sharing concept where you could pick emoji’s to generate Shakespeare quotes and share them via Twitter or Facebook. For more details on the project see the links at the bottom of the post.
It was a 9 month long project which as projects go, was a meaty one. So I thought i’d share some key learnings when managing bigger and longer projects.
1. Regular weekly catch ups
Even if you only need 10 minutes rather than the allocated hour, keep to your weekly slots and maintain regular communication with all the project stakeholders both in the immediate delivery team (if within the agency) and the client. We all love to get more time back in our busy schedules so if a meeting is in the calendar for an hour and you don’t need the time then everybody is a winner. As long as everyone is in the loop no communication is bad communication. It’s easy to let catch-ups slip when the project enters a quiet phase but from experience little and often helps to keep things ticking over and everyone up to speed.
2. Build in plenty of contingency and buffer time
With this project we had the extra challenge of coordinating the content curation of around 400 quotes including additional copyrighting with our Shakespeare expert. We knew we needed to have all the content to support with the development phase so we worked backwards to establish the absolute deadline.
We managed to curate the content in an agile manner, breaking it down into sizeable chunks and rolling each batch through the various review/approval phases, which allowed us to keep up the momentum. We all talk about agile in relation to programming and I think we should start to apply the same processes to content given most PM’s will know the challenge of getting content added into any build on time!
3. Take the time to get it right from the start
It became apparent early on that we needed to carry out user testing to better understand the target audiences usage and attitudes of emoji’s. This user research phase and subsequent creative treatment took some time and it was right to persevere and potentially lose a little time at the start to get the foundations right. Don’t be afraid to stand by some slippage at the start of a project, particularly if you feel like the right decisions and outcomes are being made with the project’s needs in mind.
4. Agreed timeframes for testing and how feedback will be delivered
When working on a high profile project it’s inevitable there will be more stakeholders involved. Ensuring the initial technical specification clearly covers the browsers and devices the tech is built for then makes testing more manageable. Offer to lend your testing devices to the client so they can also see how the project looks and behaves over all the touchpoints and sign off on all versions. Setting clear expectations around how feedback / amends need to be delivered and by when will make the final sign off phase more manageable as well.
5. Plan for the post go-live phase
It’s easy to take your eye of the ball when working towards an impending deadline, so it’s important we don;t forget what needs to happen after the project has delivered. l. Though on the build up to the deadline ensure your status reports cover off next steps post go live, what support agreement do you have in place? How long does the client have to report any issues? Are all the finances/invoices done? If hosting the product when does the hosting end? And most importantly ensure you schedule a final project debrief with the team/client to recap on what lessons can be learned and could be applied to future projects.
My final consideration on the run up to go live included making sure I took the time to personally thank the colleagues that I worked on the project with. Even going to effort of getting a memento for a key member of staff to truly show my appreciation for their hard work and dedication. This sort of attention to your colleagues shows that you care and recognise their input. We can all be guilty of forgetting about these all important moments when in the heat of a final go live
It’s been a fantastic year but as we all know time never stands still. Following this project I decided that I was going to take on a new PM challenge and experience life as part of an in-house team. I have always wanted to use my digital skills and experience for social good so when the opportunity came along to work for the British Red Cross my heart leapt and I am happy to say so far i’m loving working for such a fantastic organization. Watch this space as I plan to write a blog later in the year comparing lessons learnt of being a PM in house vs agency.
I’d love to hear your experiences of longer term projects or being an in-house PM, drop me a line.
#ShakespeareMe background articles