Digital projects, from automated marketing integrations to redesigning websites, can be stalled or delayed due to a number of factors. We’ve all experienced this – where the dream bubble can be popped by the technical reality of budget constraints, timeline delays, antiquated platforms or even a change in marketing strategy. But this doesn’t have to be the fate. We can have our cake and eat it too – at the launch party.
The key is getting started on the right foot and taking time initially to map out your projects path toward success. When working with a client to launch a digital initiative, processes and practices exist to mitigate timeline delays, roadblocks, budget strains and overall headaches.
1) Project Intake This is like having a good breakfast in the morning; your project intake with a client sets the tone for the entire project and a good intake asks the hard questions upfront to get them addressed before further investment. Be sure to have tools in place for a thorough intake.
These include traditional creative briefs and strategy documentation as well as IT briefs outlining the FURPSS (functionality, usability, reliability, performance, supportability and security). Never start a project without truly understanding the ins, outs, touch points, requirements and success metrics for the project.
2) Remember: You’re working with professionals Sometimes, it’s easy to forget clients are more than just the decision makers. They are seasoned professionals who have passion for their company, for marketing or for the cause. As an agency partner, utilize this passion by keeping your client in the loop along the way for validation, direction and guidance from inside the walls of their company.
Also, be sure to actively involve key client stakeholders on aspects of the project, especially for parts of the project existing outside your client’s comfort zone. This happens all the time in the constantly evolving digital space. Your client may wish for you to talk directly to CMS controllers, front-end or back-end developers to avoid a game of telephone tag.
3) Create project advocates While working on the project, welcome your client or stakeholders into your office (physically or virtually) to see some of the ideation in process. This is understood to be a sneak peek and is typically best in raw form, like white boarding or sketching out the project and concepts.
Have them sit with your team and let them share ideas, insights and other bits of knowledge with your group. What this provides is an opportunity for your client to feel invested in the project and its progress. And when they discuss the project’s progress with other higher-ups, they will advocate on your behalf. During reviews and presentations, you’ll have an advocate in the room rooting for your solution.
4) Surprises are best left to party planners Be sure to take a moment, with your client during intake, to outline potential obstacles that may arise during the course of the project. Identifying these early, even from the smallest unknowns, enables you to tackle them in stride rather than stopping your progress.
Surprises may be unavoidable but keeping in constant contact with your client and stakeholders throughout the project will limit surprises around feasibility, timing and budget. Find the right formal and informal communication cadence with your client – daily calls, weekly meetings, in person, meeting minutes or just looped in along the way – and you’ll avoid blindsiding them with obstacles.
5) Play well with others in the sandbox Your client may have other agencies or external partners involved with the project, depending on the scope. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the other agencies, and truly understand their role, responsibility and how you interact with them during the life of the project.
Keep an eye out for sandbox staking (aka I’m not working with you guys because you are “competition”). And don’t be a sandbox-staking agency. This helps no one during the project, will frustrate your client and is short-term thinking.
Attempting to anticipate every single little nuance of a project is impossible to do. However, using these tips and practices will help you navigate a digital project to measurable success while creating a strong, lasting relationship with your client.