Every website design and marketing project should have a project timeline associated with it. A good project timeline will help everyone reach predetermined goals and expectations. Without discussing and solidifying time-frames, it is too easy for a project to become extended beyond the original expectation whether at the fault of the agency or the client. What can you do about avoiding project delays with a timeline? Establish a good project timeline!
In the Planning Process
Prior to even starting your website or marketing project, you should create some timeline expectations. Take the following items into consideration:
- When do you want your website to launch? In the middle of your busiest season is probably not an ideal time as you'll have little time to focus on testing and if a problem does occur, it's at a time when your website is utilized most.
- Part of your initial planning process should be to determine who within your business will be involved with each phase of the website process. Be sure that those individuals that will be involved internally are part of this planning process and are able to provide their input. For example, if you are expecting someone at your business to write your website content, include that person in your initial website planning discussions and determine if their availability is suitable for focusing time on this additional project. Including the appropriate parties off the start will help avoid delays. Keep in mind, everyone's schedule will not fall into place perfectly, so some compromise might be necessary.
- Include launch goals in your RFP process regardless of how informal or formal that might be. Keep in mind that your launch goals must be realistic.
In the Initial Planning with Your Chosen Vendor
You are probably ready to jump right into the project at this point, but take a step back first. This is the stage in which you should solidify your project timeline, goals, milestones, etc. What the client-vendor shares with each other does not have to be down to the task level, but high level goals should be addressed. Be specific in your discussions on what you expect from the vendor and what they expect from you and in what format deliverables should arrive in. Additionally you'll want to establish touch-points throughout the phases of the project. These touch-points should be scheduled communication between the client day-to-day contact and the vendor's project manager. Solidify some dates for conference calls or in-person meetings and stick to them as much as possible.
In Your Touch-Points
Discuss details about where you are at in regards to your project timeline, milestones, goals, etc. Each party should be straight forward with each other and where they expect to be in relationship to the overall timeline whether you are ahead or behind schedule. Project touch-points will vary based on the complexity of the project, parties involved, goals, budget, etc., but don't over schedule or under schedule these touch-points. If you over schedule these meetings you'll start cancelling and before you know it things will start slipping...if you under schedule, you'll start delaying tasks because there is no one to answer to.
In Your Project Timeline Itself
First, let me clarify that you should have a project timeline that is recorded on-paper (electronically of course, not real paper). Don't rely on discussions that you have and expect to remember. Create your project timeline with realistic goals and milestones and as you work through the project, notate or mark your current status. Not only will this allow you to see what is coming up next and if you are behind or ahead, but it keeps you motivated and creates goals for both parties involved to try and achieve.
A Few Extra Tips
- Celebrate Victories - It is nice to achieve goals, by celebrating even in a small way it will help you stay on track for your other goals.
- Have Someone to Answer To - Regardless of your position in the company, from CEO to intern, it is easier to maintain a timeline if you have someone to answer to...that's what the touch points are for!
- Expect Some Delays - It happens, just don't let it derail the entire project.
- Don't Change the Timeline - Easy deadlines are too easy to break. Use the same timeline and mark overages instead of just delaying the deadline.
- Know the biggest holdups - Ask your vendor what they find causes the most delays in projects. Vendors, ask your client where they might expect the biggest delay on their end. Knowing is half the battle.
Would you like an example project timeline to use? Fill out the form below and we'll send you a free one!
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