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Four risks that will kill your digital project (that you don't even know to look for)

Jul 18 '17

 

Man with laptop contemplating risk

In pursuing digital projects, risk is all around us. Our project management team's philosophy is that if you can’t find a risk in your project, you are simply not looking hard enough. Here I break down four risks that you probably don’t know to look for that are certain to kill your project.

Treating your first release like your last release

It hard to not want to get as much in your first release of your new website as possible. However, if your timeline matters (doesn’t it always?), you could be risking having a smooth, on-time release with less features, for a site or system that is late, has more features but has not had enough time for thorough testing, and will ultimately not perform as well. The first step to achieving this is defining your minimum viable product or MVP set of features. These are the things you cannot possibly live without… the things without which will effectively make your website not be able to perform the function that it is set out to perform. I emphasize this because it may require tough decisions with a lot of tradeoffs between stakeholders, but remember that your first release is just that. For those who just can’t live without that one feature, you can define “fast follow” releases that add functionality in quickly post-launch. Your stakeholders will thank you for putting everyone’s best foot forward and getting the project live on time. Finally, by getting your site out there sooner, you will be able to use live user data to inform your next move.

Not being engaged

While you may be hiring an agency to make your digital dream come true, they cannot do it without you and key inputs are required. If you are a company embarking on a digital project, you need to make sure that your team has sufficient capacity to be able to work with your agency when feedback or approval, or when questions come up.  On the flip side, having too many people engaged can also cause chaos and lack of decision-making. Having the development team on hold waiting to know how to proceed can still have project cost implications, and will definitely impact scheduling. An agency may even need to reallocate resources if too much time has elapsed, and you may be on hold indefinitely.

To make your project be a success, it is best to have a highly engaged, single point of contact to facilitate decision-making across the many stakeholders in your organization and to funnel those decisions to your digital agency.

Not keeping your organization up to date

While it may be tempting to keep high level executives or key stakeholders out of the day to day progression of the project, keeping them too far out of the loop can end in disaster. The last thing that you want to have happen is to work with your agency to come up with a beautiful "final" design only to unveil it to executives who will inevitably have changes. Even worse is to have started building the site and have to go back to the drawing board to figure out changes. By this time, the budget is already dwindling. Holding regular updates to keep internal executives in the know helps foster buy-in, gracefully pivot, and keep the project on track.

Not planning for post-launch

This goes hand in hand with #1. The new life of your website is just beginning, so you will need to make sure that there are people and budget allocated to support your new website operationally, and for development of new features to keep you up to date with your competitors. Operationally you will need to define who should own the site — again, if you are continuing to work with an agency, a single point of contact is key to give direction and prioritize new work for the external team. Many stakeholders will have input and new requests, but these must be managed through an owner to ensure there are no conflicting requirements. Technically, your site may need periodic maintenance for security updates so you want to make sure you have a good technical partner to help you.

In addition, as the site is being built, you want to make sure you communicate to the design and development team how internal administrators intend to use the site. There's nothing like having a new website built and not knowing how to use it! A good agency would have initiated this discussion during discovery and planned to build for the backend administrator experience. At TAG, we emphasize user experience not only for customers, but for those who need to maintain the site, adding “shine and polish” to make it easy to update content and make changes that should not require a developer. 

Photo (cropped) by Tim Gouw on Unsplash