Monday, April 16, 2007

Project Management for Website Redesigns

A CIL2007’s Web Manager’s Academy, Frank Cervone, from Northwestern, did a great presentation on “Managing web redesign projects in libraries and information agencies”.

In the presentation, he reminded us why website redevelopment is so a hard nut to crack – namely, that it involves a complex series of inter-related activities and requires many different skill sets.

Then he defined project management components for us. He defined a project as something with a definite beginning and end. He defined the project manager’s responsibilities as:

  • having knowledge (about the organization & skills to complete the project)
  • communicating (up, down, and across the organization); this is key, Frank noted, so the project manager must put mechanisms in place to ensure this communication
  • documentation
  • quality control
  • development (staff and working practices)

The “formal” project life cycle is:

  • define (initiation)
  • plan
  • coordinate (Scheduling; leading, team building, motivating)
  • control (accounting, record-keeping)
  • close (very important – must have post-project evaluation)

Frank also mentioned “extreme project management” but did not go into it much. It sounded like it was project mgt light, so to speak, much like the rapid application development processes now used by software developers. This is a topic worthy of more research since I’d like to fast-track the planning & clearly it could be drawn out too long (to the point where the changes will no longer be meaningful as new technologies will be available).

He also talked about the allocation of resources (e.g., both cost & human resources). He said that the majority of the resource usage occurs at the end of the project, so don’t expend them all at the outset.

A project is divided into phases. Each phase has a specific function with specific deliverables and in which there is a phase exit/kill point.

Project planning should yield a project brief, describing what we envision by the time the project is done; a preliminary budget, schedule & recommendations. There must also be a project specifications document.

Scheduling and control includes: gathering and delivery plan for web content, and a plan for how to maintain the content. Decisions will need to be made about storyboards – who is involved in their creation. Project milestones will need to be set.

In constructing a website, we must also be certain to decide who gets to decide about web content change & to provide a mechanism that will facilitate communication of these changes to others. Then, the site must be tested. When the launch occurs, there must be a handover brief and documentation for those who will go on to maintain the site. Finally, in the close, training and development needs must be assessed, the project must be reviewed, and performance analysis must be done to the site.

There was so much information in this presentation packed into a very short period of time, that I’m necessarily cutting out details. I guess the key concepts that I took away were the need for an entire project management process for the website redesign. From the beginning of a website redesign, we librarians have to ask the right questions – to ourselves and to our end-users (who are key stakeholders) – to understand what we really want to do before we begin and thus how we will evaluate our success.

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