One of the frequent complaints we hear from clients about previous digital projects is that “the delivery was late”.
No question, delivering a digital project on time is a complicated task – whether it’s a seemingly straightforward banner or a global content managed site. However, that’s no excuse – there are a number of key factors, that if considered from the outset, should help to ensure that a project is delivered on time.
In this article we’ve put together a list of 10 common reasons for late delivery and tactics that should be used to overcome them…
1. Ambitions too high – too many features
It’s easy to get carried away when planning a new project. The ultimate scenario would be to have every piece of possible functionality in it that you can think of. However, this isn’t always necessary, and will almost always make the project run over time. The more features you have, the more that can go wrong, and this leads to a domino effect.
2. Not phasing features
Following point 1, phasing features is a great way to ensure the essential elements are included in the initial project, and then any ‘nice to haves’ follow in subsequent phases. The skill is identifying which items are essential for the initial success and which will then build upon this success in later phases.
Many companies adopt a phased approach to get a site to market quickly, deploying a lean set-up to test the response of the target audience. Take for example Google Mail (which was in beta for 5 years), they knew to build every feature into phase 1 would mean not offering the service for years, losing vital customers to competitors in the process.
3. Misunderstanding the requirements
If project requirements aren’t fully understood from day one, it will almost always lead to an underestimation of the time required. It’s critically important in the planning and specification stage to ensure all elements are fully understood so that the implications can be taken into account.
If you’re not confident that certain project elements have been understood by your solution provider, make sure you flag the issue or talk to the appropriate specialist companies.
People often find their project features functionality that is already being successfully used on other sites – for example social network sharing. The classic mistake is to underestimate how long it took to get this functionality right, and try to develop it from scratch to achieve similar results.
In this day and age, there are many open source or licensed widgets and plug-ins that can be deployed to avoid lengthy development times with lots of unknowns. Using this type of functionality means that you also benefit from updates and fixes that are released by the original author.
5. Design time squeezes development time
We all know design is an art, rather than a science. However, it still has to adhere to project time pressures. A classic delay comes when design is allowed to run on far too long without good reason. The usual knock on effect is that the developers time is reduced, forcing them to try and complete the same functionality in less time. Obviously, this usually isn’t possible and leads to the project being delayed.
Make sure designers work in a team with the developers so that they appreciate this. Sometimes a deadline really is a deadline for the better of the project and ultimately the client.
6. Not putting enough contingency into project plans
Contingency is often seen as an overhead – it’s not, it’ll save you time in the long run. Expect the unexpected and always allow time for the unknowns, problems and tasks that will inevitably crop up. The skill in managing the project is to identify where contingency is best added to your project plan and how much to add. However skilled your project manager, without contingency it will be a struggle to deliver your project on time!
Take the design vs. development example above, if enough contingency (within reason) is allowed between the design and development phase, you can greatly reduce the risk to the overall project.
7. Not taking testing seriously from the start
Testing takes a lot of time – especially when you bear in mind that it’s highly unlikely everything will be correct first time round. Usually following initial testing, amendments will have to be made, and then testing carried out again. The fundamental rule – if you’re delivering on Thursday, don’t start testing Wednesday evening – allow enough time to comfortably test, amend and test again, etc.
8. Underestimating the complexities of integrating with third party systems
A large percentage of projects involve some form of integration with a third party system, for example:
- Payment gateways
- Stock control systems
- Accounting packages
The common mistake is to assume that because the system states it does x, y and z, integrating it with your site to include these features will be straightforward. Usually what happens is that the integration part of a project is by far the most complicated and time consuming, especially if it’s two way.
Delays are also common in the response time from the third party technical teams – remember, they’ll be working on other projects, not just yours.
It’s difficult to write a paragraph on assumptions without writing the clichéd quote – but I’m not going to! Assumptions, whether they are made by the client or supplier, always delay aspects of a project whilst clarity is sought and amendments made.
How to avoid them? Make sure that your specification is not only thorough, but that is has been read and agreed to by all parties!
10. Not having an experienced project manager
OK, so it’s fairly obvious we would say this, but it is true. If you look at any industry that has projects which combine multiple resources, a project manager is essential and has the experience to bring everything together effectively.
A professional and experienced digital project manager should factor all of the above points into any project, thus ensuring everything runs on time and with as little hassle for the client as possible.