Managing Communication: What Good Project Managers Do Well During a Website Launch
If you look at a website project in nutshell you’re looking at a journey that goes from an idea through a construction phase and eventually culminates in a launch. While a lot of work goes in to the design and development it is the eventual launch that needs to be successful in order for the world to see your vision of your business and a huge factor in that launch is communication.
Why is communication important?
- Website launches are an extremely chaotic time. It’s a gathering of multiple team members such as developers, QAs, DBAs, project owners and clients, and often times there is a lack of coordination across teams
- Most teams produce in silo’s and in the absence of good communication you run the risk of individual teams having a partial understanding of the final action plan
- In-efficient communication set ups at the beginning in the long run lead to multiple, redundant communications being sent out, phones constantly ringing and each team trying to achieve their deliverables without understanding how they contribute to the complete picture
- Throw in a potential issue and you then have a single team resolving the issue while the rest of the teams are suddenly put on hold and now completely unsure on launch plans.
- From a business owner perspective a lack of coordination and potential launch delay could also be worrying from a revenue perspective
Our team at AgileWeb Inc. has always been a strong advocate of launch planning and through the learning’s from our many website development projects with varying levels of traffic we have created an easy to understand plan that should hopefully work as a great tool to help your successfully navigate your website launch.
Key Communication Steps During a Website Launch:
STEP 1: Gather the core information pieces
To begin you will need to essentially build yourself a base of information which will act as your go to resources prior to any communication. It should include the following components but these may vary or you may add additional items based on your specific project management needs:
- Team Org structures, reporting relationships and involvement in launch: Aside from the basic information such as name, role, direct supervisor and contact information it’s also helpful to include a high level summary for each team member documenting their skills and their role in the launch
- Launch tasks: A project is essentially a culmination of completed tasks and as a project manager you need to document what tasks need to be executed when to keep the launch on track. In addition also include who the task is assigned to and what the estimated time of completion
- Technical information: If you want to cut down on time wasted looking for basic technical information this is a good time to compile specifics on components such as domain registrar access, server names, ip addresses, DNS records, hosting server, applications, databases and cron jobs or tasks
STEP 2: Create an action plan and associated communication requirements
An action plan essentially looks at the what, by who, by when, with what resources and associated communication for each action plan step. A good action plan must:
- Be complete – Document all action plan steps that need to be executed during the launch cycle. Also include a section detailing emergency action steps that can be taken should a launch be derailed or delayed
- Be clear – list in simple language what each action step entails and who needs to be responsible
- Be current – Keep the action plan updated at all points, the last thing you want is someone working on a step which is no longer required
Action Plan Components:
- The What: What is the purpose of the overall project that everyone is working on? What are the pre and post launch goals that need to be accomplished?
- The Who: Who is involves, what is their role, their responsibilities and contact information? Who is the overall project launch coordinator?
- By When: What are our project timelines? Key approval and deliverable timelines? In what situation will a launch be considered delayed?
- Constraints, Resources & Dependencies: What are the constraints the team needs to work within and can potentially cause delays? What resources are available to us or need to be negotiated for? Are there any external or third-parties the launch is dependent on and what is the plan B should these fall through
- Communication Tools: Establish a launch coordinator and specific communication protocols which allow the entire team to be kept updated and made aware of every major change in the launch process. The best way to accomplish this is to set up standard, simple, regular communication messages which go out to team and advise everyone of where the project stands and next steps.
STEP 3: SHARE YOUR ACTION PLAN AND TRACK
Once you’ve got a solid action plan and associated communication strategy set up its very important to set up a venue to share your work.
- Set up a meeting with everyone involved to ensure that everyone is on board and aware of their duties
- Rely on the entire team to help identify any potential road blocks so that you don’t end up wasting valuable time later on
- Not sharing information can often lead to more anxiety and stress for team members who can’t see the complete picture so sharing your action plan is a great way to help minimize uncertainity and help everyone feel involved
- Sharing with the team will also help keep everyone engaged, on task and excited to be part of the project
Now that you’ve communicated what needs to happen you need to hold people accountable in the days leading up to launch day:
- Schedule regular touch points with every team member to have a “how are you doing” conversation. Research shows people respond better to a person calling to offer support vs. a boss type of role demanding to see results
- Keeping in touch helps people feel appreciated, valued and is a great reminder to work on their assigned tasks
- By keeping track you mitigate the risk of a situation where everything looks like its falling apart the evening before final launch date
STEP 4: RELAX AND MAKE SURE YOUR TEAM GETS ENOUGH REST BEFORE THE LAUNCH
Once you’ve put everything in place it’s important to relax. Make sure your team is well rested prior to launch day. You don’t want them to be working till midnight the night before and then coming in hoping to pull off a perfect launch.
- You could end up with a potentially challenging launch so you want to make sure everyone is functioning at full brain capacity
- Make sure you put together your own high level launch checklist to make sure nothing gets missed
- In case there are multiple issues, the website launch can go way longer than the expected time and that can tire the team and can cause more mistakes in the process especially if their already exhausted
At the end of the day effective communication is always a good place to invest time and effort. You want to be clear, concise and bring everyone together to ensure you have a highly successful, stress free launch.