How to Keep a Project on Track: 5 Ways to Keep it Moving

By Lauren Sandherr

Imagine that you are in the process of renovating your home. There are half-painted walls, gutted cabinets, and missing countertops. Ladders, tools, and drop cloths litter your living space.  Now imagine that the work halted, and you have to live in this mess for months without seeing the beautiful finished product. That’s the last thing you want after investing money into a project. 

Like your home, you are not going to reap the benefits of a website renovation until it’s finished. Here are five things that commonly cause project delays and how to keep the project on track.

1. Set aside regular periods of time to check in and work on your project.calendar2

I’m going to go out on a [very short] limb and guess that you are a busy person; most people are. The demands of work and life keep us constantly moving, which is why projects often get shoved by the wayside when something more pressing comes along.

To keep from losing touch with your project, schedule a set time at regular intervals (every other day, once a week, etc.) to work on any open items or check in with your project manager. Put this time on your calendar so that it’s in writing and so that you’ll get alerts. This scheduled time is particularly useful for answering unanswered emails, completing actionable items, and planning for the next project meeting or presentation.

2. Keep an open mind, but also have opinions!

A surefire way to have a project grind to a screeching halt is getting stuck on small details that may not be relevant to the larger point at hand. The team you are working with is made up of professionals. They have the expertise and years of experience. They know what is going to work and what will have users scratching their heads. Trust them when they say that you will want the extra space in the margin to leave room for longer page titles or that a certain feature should stay on the right side of the page.

On the other hand, projects can also stall when, say, launch is approaching and you realize you don’t like something significant (the header color, perhaps, or the way the News feature functions). This happens when you let that aforementioned team convince you of things about which you may be ambivalent or have no background knowledge. During the phases of the project instituted to eliminate this ambivalence, such as wireframe and design, don’t hesitate to speak up about these larger details. You should be happy with your site, so tell us if you had different expectations or opinions about how something would look and/or work.

3. Communicate with your project manager.

Release the hounds! The project’s most important person has gone AWOL! There is nothing more frustrating (and more deadline-hindering) than an outbox full of unanswered emails and a silent phone when there are decisions to be made and questions to be answered. If you are going to be out of town, if you are too busy and need a break from the project, or if you are waiting on information from other people, drop a quick line.

Though one-sentence emails aren’t ideal, they’re a lot better than dead silence. Project managers can plan around your needs, but they need to know those needs first. Be open and honest and ask questions. That’s why project managers are there.

4. Keep the group involved small.

You know the old adage: too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth. Projects will move at a snail’s pace if there are too many people involved with the project on the client side. Having more than two people representing your company and making decisions means that there are more than two people offering input on layout, styles, colors, page navigation, images, structure, and everything else that goes into creating a website.

That’s a lot of opinions floating around.  Compromising and settling on a decision within a group is difficult and takes a long time, which is why projects slow down.

5. Find out obstacles in advance, and prepare to tackle them ahead of time.

At the beginning of the project, before the work has begun, ask the project manager what they think has the potential to cause delays in the project. Database integration? Product catalogs? Massive quantities of content?

Finding out this information ahead of time allows you to begin working on getting what you need well in advance. Start writing content earlier rather than later. Gather data from third party partners before it comes time to implement it. You’ll be armed and ready for battle before the opponent even enters the battlefield. Finishing important projects doesn’t have to be an uphill battle – or even a battle at all – if you follow these guidelines and prepare yourself in advance.

Do you have any other pieces of advice (or project completion obstacles)? Let us know in the comments!

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