How to Avoid Common Pitfalls in WCM Projects.
UP ENGAGEMENT, EARLY AND OFTEN
In the rush to deliver a project on time, it can be tempting to jump straight into implementation. While this can give a false sense of security early in the project, the risk of not involving the right people from the start can backfire down the line. User research and stakeholder interviews are essential steps in the discovery phase and can reduce the overall time to reach a viable solution.
Ironically, too many consultations before any action is taken can stall progress. In large, complex organizations, the key is to engage with different groups of stakeholders in a way that's manageable. It may not be possible to meet with every user and stakeholder face-to-face and satisfy everyone's needs, but try to reach out to everybody who will be impacted by the project in some way.
SAY NO TO POOR REQUIREMENTS
Poor requirements can lead to scope creep and even project failure. There are three major types of bad requirements to watch out for: ambiguous, poorly defined requirements; overly ambitious requirements; and unnecessary requirements.
An easy-to-use web CMS is an example of a poorly defined requirement. What kind of audience should find this system usable? What user scenarios should the system be tested against? Without this context, the requirement is open to interpretation and can lead to costly misunderstandings. Bug-free code and 100% availability are examples of overly ambitious requirements. Challenge these unrealistic expectations, and substitute them with achievable alternatives.
Have you ever come across a requirement for the new website to look and function exactly like the old website, but running on a new web CMS platform? This is a classic example of an unnecessary requirement, which is rooted in the organization's reluctance to change instead of being rooted in business goals. This "requirement" solves a problem that doesn't exist. Check rigorously that all requirements are linked to business objectives and allow as much flexibility as is necessary to achieve them.
ADDRESS SKILLS AND COMPETENCIES GAPS
All digital projects rely on multidisciplinary teams. Core skills needed for a successful delivery of a web CMS project span across multiple areas and include the following:
* User research and user experience
* Business strategy
* Business change
* Content strategy, content writing, and content editing
* Technical skills (such as web development)
Lack of competence or lack of resources in one or more of these areas can severely impact the overall success of a project. Consider hiring contractors or partnering with an agency if some of these skills are not available in-house.
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE TECHNICAL COMPLEXITY
One of the reasons organizations invest in web CMS projects is to make their operations more efficient. Standardized processes for web content production and consistency introduced through the use of templates result in a reduced cost of running a company's web presence. The more websites follow the same set of principles, the cheaper it is to run each one.
What organizations can fail to acknowledge is that custom web development does not produce similar economies of scale. Introducing extra custom features doesn't make them cheaper to develop or maintain; in fact, the opposite is true. It will take significantly more effort to build. Underestimating complexity introduced by customizations is a common issue in WCM. Be ruthless in evaluating the custom development required for your project.
TRANSITION INTO BUSINESS AS USUAL GRACEFULLY
WCM projects never deliver full value on the day the website goes live. Consider closing the project 3-6 months after that to allow for bug fixes and a smooth transition to business as usual. Make sure that the new processes are documented and appropriate training is in place for developers and content editors. In a way, the day the new website goes live is just the beginning.
MARIANNE KAY (MARIANNEKAY.COM) CURRENTLY LEADS A WCM TEAM AT THE UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS (U.K.). PRIOR TO THIS, SHE LED WEB CMS PROJECTS IN LARGE ORGANIZATIONS, ADVISED WEB CMS SOFTWARE VENDORS ON PRODUCT STRATEGY AND MARKETING, AND WORKED WITH DIGITAL AGENCIES SPECIALIZING IN WCM IMPLEMENTATIONS. SEND YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT THIS COLUMN TO ECLETTERS@ INFOTODAY.COM OR TWEET US (@ITINEWSBREAKS).