We Need More Bridge Builders

A year ago today I wrote this post about the main challenges with website redesign projects.

Since then, I’ve worked on nine website or app projects in various roles (content strategist, information architect, UX lead, project manager and copywriter) and guess what?

Website redesigns are still difficult.

One recurring challenge for a website reboot is that for the first time, or the first time in a long time, ALL departments have to get in the same room and accomplish a goal together. The key word being together. Departments like IT often feel defensive, since they no longer “own” the website. Others, like marketing, sales and operations, have their own expectations for what the new site will do for them.

These internal dynamics and politics seem to be the biggest hurdle and present the most risk for web projects to fail. This is the reason more companies should invest in better facilitators and product managers. The most successful web projects I’ve worked on had someone who ensured good collaboration and managed expectations.

My last job, before I went out on my own, was at a software QA and testing company. One of the services they provided was as an independent validation and verification resource (called IV&V). This role worked outside the vendor(s) and the company to make sure each party had what they needed to make the project successful.

This should be an essential role on all larger projects in software or marketing. It may be considered “overhead”, but isn’t it worth it to reduce risk and ensure a greater ROI? I’ve fought to bring this “bridge building” role into the projects I’ve worked on this year and it’s made a huge difference.

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in utilizing engagement and project managers with these skills on your projects.

The Other Side of Inertia

I’ve been heads down in several big projects of late. We’re at a point where we’re in sync with the client and everyone is focused on working the plan. Like a crew team tuned-in to the coxswain’s voice, everyone is in the rhythm. I’m fortunate to have an incredible engagement manager partnering with me who knows how to keep the momentum going (Thanks, Marty!).

Momentum is the only thing that matters when deadlines are tight and expectations are high. It’s momentum that enables clients to not get hung up on small details and creative teams not to get sidetracked by distractions.

At this stage of the project, you want as few “new ideas” introduced as possible. None is best. When you’re in create and build mode, all brilliant innovations and improvements should be placed on a backlog to address later.

Coming up with simpler solutions and fresher creative concepts during the process is expected. This is another reason “launch is the beginning” and why continual improvement and optimization are important. But try not to sacrifice present momentum for future enhancement. You don’t need to discard your ideas, just save them for later.

To tie a bow around this point, I’ll leave you with this great quote from Ben Chestnut, founder of Mailchimp.

Never sacrifice momentum. I might know a better path, but if we’ve got a lot of momentum, if everyone’s united and they’re marching together and the path is O.K., just go with the flow. I may eventually nudge them down a new path, but never stop the troops mid march.