David’s nine-step “looping” process delivers Web and new media projects on time, on budget, and in alignment with a clearly-defined strategic vision, and then maintains future releases at the same high standards with little effort. Here’s an overview of our project management methodology.
1 Process Orientation
The first step in the process is “process orientation”, in which we brief everyone on how the process will work (as well as offering a workable shared vocabulary) so that all participants can focus on the task at hand rather than wonder what is coming next. This includes establishing expectations around our rigorous sign-off process (the number of sign-off steps we recommend for electronic projects is a surprise to many), and ensuring that all best practices have been built into the plan.
2 Strategic alignment
Every potential step on the project’s journey will be judged by whether it increases the likelihood of fulfilling the measurable objectives that quantify the goals of the project strategy. Part of our initial process is to ensure that you have a strategy established that includes precise objectives and challenge it to prove that they are indeed measurable and in alignment with the technical and mandatory constraints that have been defined.
3 Technical discovery
Technical discovery is simply taking inventory of the technical environment within which the project must reside. We will use our checklist of over a hundred questions to ensure we have agreed upon all the answers up front, thus avoiding possible risks and hurdles arising later when they will be less convenient and more expensive to grapple with.
We’ll insist on the development of a content outline that not only predicts and justifies each content section and tool, but also offers our celebrated evergreening process tool, that will make future updates far easier. This tool imposes a simple-to-follow approach that ensures all content remains relevant, accurate, and current throughout the entire life of future product versions.
5 Information architecture
We will develop a navigation and labeling structure using industry standard practices, that organizes the content in a way that is most relevant to your users. We have a strong bias toward introducing usability testing this early in the overall process, so that we know that we are building from the user’s perspective almost immediately, when it is relatively inexpensive to make adjustments.
We really have two projects here, similar to how building a building first involves architectural design to develop blueprints then a builder to build the building. By the time we get to this point we’ll have accumulated an accurate and detailed approved set of blueprints. These blueprints are made up of the project plan (including the strategy), the technical discovery, the content and evergreening plan, the information architecture (including wireframes or, better yet, an information design document), as well as any user-focused functional specifications which may be required for advanced functionality to be custom developed. The majority of the expense will be in “building the building”, and so once these blueprints of the information design of the product have been approved, we now develop a more detailed plan of the graphic design, programming and testing regimen to follow.
7 Graphic design
Our bias in graphic design, accumulated over twenty years of work in this field, is towards strategic design. This means that we will be able to establish a results-based approach to yielding potential graphic design solutions that can be objectively measured as to how well they respond to the business problem framed by the project plan. All graphic design must also comply with branding standards of all stakeholders.
Approved functional specifications describing the user experience, combined with a precise technical discovery, will smooth the programming phase, often the costliest and most time-consuming step. Programming begins with developing templates and any advanced programming, ready to later be populated with the approved content. Rigorous quality procedures will keep reworks to a minimum. Pre-arranging for expert redundancy and inline documentation will reduce risks. Accessibility and final audience testing, as well as template and final code testing, will keep quality high without creating a drag on the schedule.
9 Maintenance and evaluation
By maintaining the evergreening plan and quality procedures established earlier, maintaining quality in subsequent releases or enhancements is relatively simple and inexpensive.
Throughout our process, we use a variety of reporting tools, online and offline techniques to keep appropriate parties informed and engaged. We especially highlight activities that are outside the parameters of the plans and any changes to the plans. Where appropriate, we will provide recommendations regarding the management of risks associated with activities that are outside the parameters of the plans. Throughout our process, we also encourage repeated testing (so your audience won’t have to).
Reviewed January 8, 2007