5 Ways Web Development Project Management Makes A Project Successful
As account managers at Elevated Third, we manage many projects across our accounts. Web development project management is intangible though not unimportant. We do not create wireframes or write code, so our direct impact on the Drupal websites Elevated Third produces may be less clear to our clients.
During the sales process, some clients see their communication budget as an unnecessary expense. Similar to limiting overhead spending when choosing recipients for charitable organizations, limiting the communication budget means more time goes to execution, right?
Maybe not. In the same way that a successful benefit event can dramatically increase the funds available for a nonprofit’s mission, strong account management directly contributes to our clients achieving their business goals across projects.
So, how does an account manager foster a successful Drupal project at Elevated Third?
1) Account managers are the single consistent knowledge holder throughout the life of a project
Our team’s level of involvement will vary throughout a project. While UX has a large impact in the beginning, developers complete the majority of the tasks at the end. The account manager is the only member of the team who is in every meeting from kickoff to launch. It can be frustrating (and often expensive) for clients when the team veers from their vision. As a consistent project knowledge holder, an account manager can guide the team to ensure that they are considering the big picture, even when the client is not in the room.
For Instance: A designer knows he needs to create visual design for the project. He reviews what he believes is the necessary documentation, but did not see the client’s email update describing her new brand direction. He spends hours designing with the original brand guidelines in mind, then presents it to the client. The client is then frustrated that her feedback was not implemented and additional hours will be needed to modify the design. As our contracts are time and materials, every additional hour spent on a project has a corresponding cost to our clients.
When an account manager is involved in a project, she is part of every conversation and reviews every client email. This means no feedback will get lost in translation and costly adjustments will be avoided. Account managers are not responsible for creating any element of the website, so we can focus on ensuring that our clients and end users are kept in mind in every meeting and throughout the whole project.
2) Account managers keep budget and timeline top of mind
A core part of the account manager’s role is managing the client’s budget and timeline. No other member of the team has that responsibility. We balance designers and developers who, if given a chance, would often prefer to build the most beautiful, perfect user-friendly functionality. Their desire to build the best thing ever is valuable, but it has to be balanced with the client’s budget and timeline needs. The account manager sets deadlines and monitors burndown throughout the project. From early discussions of which features will be prioritized to consistent check-ins and tweaks throughout execution, account managers ensure that the project aligns with the established constraints.
For instance: A UX strategist, excited about how valuable the tool we are building will be for its users, starts planning her user testing. She creates a first round of prototypes and tests with five users. Their feedback is so beneficial, she creates another iteration of prototypes to test with another five users, and then tests a third. Although she has gained valuable insight, she has now used half of the project hours that were allocated for visual design, as the budget did not accommodate extensive user testing. When an account manager takes on the role of web development project management, she knows the scope and the hours that are allocated for each task. She completes a variety of checks and balances to ensure the execution aligns with the project constraints.
3) Account managers communicate with clients and with the team
Custom web development can often be a mysterious and complex process. Luckily, an account manager has learned to translate jargon for our clients. As a result of working in this industry, we understand the terminology used along with the impact of the choices we are asking our clients to make. Not only do we coordinate meetings and send status updates to keep clients in the loop, but we are also uniquely equipped to ensure they understand the process. This means that our team can stay focused on their tasks and more efficiently complete work with minimal interruptions.
For Instance: A developer has spent an hour working on a very complex task. Knowing that he needs to maximize concentration and minimize interruptions, he silences all of his notifications. This practice, called going “heads down,” is common when tackling problem-solving tasks. During this time, a client reaches out with an extremely urgent issue. Since he is the only person available to answer her request, it lingers for hours before she receives a response. For some development-related issues, especially on a live site, this delay can dramatically impact the client’s bottom line. When an account manager is involved in the project, she can immediately alert the developer of the request and let the client know her concern is being addressed right away.
4) Account managers are organization wizards
For all projects, but especially for complex projects, there can be a lot of documentation. Luckily, account managers choose this field because we love organizing chaos. This skill helps our team work faster throughout the course of a project. Although a client rarely sees our organization and management of tasks and documentation, they will see the benefits of more accurate work and increased efficiency across teams.
For Instance: A developer knows that she needs to reference a particular piece of documentation for the element of the site she is building today, but she can’t find it. She spends 15 minutes digging through folders to find what she needs, which seems to happen every time she completes a task. When an account manager is involved in a project, she knows what documentation the developer will need, so she has already attached it to the current task, saving the developer time.
5) Account managers are flexible and adapt their skills to maximize their value
Every other role on a project is clear. A UX strategist helps to define which features will best achieve the business goals and how to maximize a user’s experience of interacting with them. A designer crafts how they will appear. A developer builds them. An account manager’s role in web development project management is less clear. When people ask me what I do on a typical day, my answer often comes after a long pause, and it’s rarely the same. Many others in my field find it difficult to describe their role succinctly, as our work can vary dramatically from day to day and from project to project.
For instance: Some days, my role is quite technical, and I am preparing or reviewing project documentation or checking the quality of completed development tasks. Other days, my role is more interpersonal, and I am supporting my team in delivering their best work or in back-to-back meetings with my clients. With each project comes a new business to learn, often along with new technologies and additional nuance to my role. To be successful, I am always switching between the various priorities outlined here, along with many more.
At Elevated Third, we value our clients’ investment in our work and are always evolving to maximize the value of that investment. We build communication time into our projects because we know how invaluable strong account managers are to ensuring our Drupal websites generate the outcomes our clients value most.