What is the first thing to look for in a project?

by Bogdan on February 4, 2010

In his excellent book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen R. Covey unveils a principle which he calls “Begin with the End in Mind” which virtually applies to any areas of life.

To be successful, in every profession, one should pay attention to the above law. Think about marketing: a marketer begins his work what the client needs, wants, fears and frustrations – and that, and only after that, he proceeds with the rest of the work. For a doctor, the main focus is restoring patient’s health, and with this in mind, she starts to investigate what is wrong and what is the cure. The captain of the submarine, knows his destination first.

Actually this advice is just common sense – and therefore fundamental: after all, did you know any farmer to plant random seeds, and then reap whatever grows up? But now, please think of an online project. With which end should we begin? Is the project’s end – like delivering the website to a product manager or webmaster? Or is it a totally different end, in which everyone happily lives ever after?

Confused? But seriously, what is the online project’s end, to know where should we begin? Obviously, the first answer which comes probably in every junior project manager’s mind is the main project deliverable – the website. And while this is true – as no one can call himself a project manager unless he delivers – it may not represent the whole truth.

Let’s take a look at another habit of highly effective people: “Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood”.

By adding this layer in clarifying project’s scope, your chances – as project manager – of reaching the final destination increase, as it adds the human factor to the entire equation. Satisfying the project stakeholders – especially the post launch ones – is an absolute must for project’s success.

Unless what needs to be delivered is thoroughly extracted from the minds of the stakeholders and understood by the entire team, the project is just like a pizza delivery without a menu. From my experience, the best online projects start by defining who is going to use it (the end-users as well as the web manager), by defining the high level performance metrics of the website-to-be (which should be part of project development), and – just after that – how the site should look.

Bottom line: the first and probably the most important thing to look in a project is getting right, as quick as possible, what needs to be done and what not – by clarifying, articulating and testing what the project stakeholders expect to have after the project is over.

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Web Project Management Analogy – Part 5
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