How Effective Project Management Can Help WordPress Freelancers Improve their Bottom Line
This month’s Austin WordPress Deep Dive Discussion looked at how mastering basic project management skills can make the difference between managing your Freelance WordPress business or your clients running you ragged.
Nick and Sandi Batik shared project management tips to help Freelancers deliver WordPress projects with a greater likelihood of giving their clients what they wanted when they wanted it. Good project management skills help ensure efficient and best use of resources while managing the expectations of the various project’s stakeholders.
➤ You know you need something to keep you organized and on track
➤ And the color-coded markers and post-it note system isn’t the answer
➤ How can you grow your Freelance WordPress Practice and not lose your mind…
WHAT IS PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
➤ Project management is the application of processes, methods, knowledge, skills and experience to achieve the project objectives.
➤ Project management is concerned with managing discrete packages of work to achieve objectives. The way the work is managed depends upon the scale, significance complexity of the WordPress project
➤ Project Management helps WordPress Freelancers get and stay organized while increasing their opportunity to delight clients
HOW DOES A WORDPRESS FREELANCER DEFINE A PROJECT
➤ A WordPress project is temporary — it has a defined start date and end date with a defined scope and resources that create a unique product, service or result
➤ Each WordPress project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal.
HOW DOES A WORDPRESS FREELANCER DEFINE PROJECT SUCCESS
➤ WordPress Freelancers can declare a project a success if it achieves the objectives according to their acceptance criteria, within an agreed timescale and budget.
THE CORE COMPONENTS OF WORDPRESS PROJECT MANAGEMENT ARE:
➤ Defining the reason why this WordPress project is necessary
➤ Capturing project requirements, specifying quality of the deliverables, estimating resources and timelines ➤ Preparing a business case to justify the investment -Discovery
➤ Securing stakeholder agreement and funding approval
➤ Developing and implementing a management plan for the project
THE CORE COMPONENTS OF WORDPRESS PROJECT MANAGEMENT ARE:
➤ Leading and motivating the project design/development team
➤ Managing the risks, issues, and changes on the project
➤ Monitoring progress against plan
➤ Managing the project budget
➤ Maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project development team
➤ Closing out the project in a controlled manner
WHAT TYPE OF WORDPRESS JOBS REQUIRE PROJECT MANAGEMENT?
➤ Producing a new or altered WordPress site
➤ WordPress Projects with a finite timespan: a definite start and end date
➤ Complex sites that require distributed work groups
➤ WordPress Projects that require change management and risk management
WHY WORDPRESS FREELANCERS SHOULD USE PROJECT MANAGEMENT
➤ Investment in effective project management has a number of benefits
➤ Provides a greater likelihood of achieving the desired result
➤ Ensures efficient and best value use of resources
➤ Satisfies the differing needs of the project’s stakeholders
PROJECT MANAGEMENT TEAM
➤ A WordPress project team often includes people who don’t usually work together
➤ Team members can come from different organizations and across multiple geographies
➤ Team members must be expertly managed to deliver the on- time, on-budget results
MANAGING PROJECT TIMELINE AND MILESTONES
➤ Each project can have multiple “deadlines” or Milestones
➤ Project Milestones are usually connected to process payments
➤ Moving a project forward means keeping an eye on the due dates
➤ Juggling multiple deadlines can get crazy
➤ Precise Project Management will help you wrangle both the Known and Unknowns
➤ The good old “White Board” only works when everybody shares the same office
➤ Online Project Management systems make remote team collaboration possible
➤ Some Project Management systems restrict that interaction to your team,
➤ Some let you invite clients into the process
MANAGING AND ARCHIVING COMMUNICATION
➤ Clear communication is the key to effective collaboration is key
➤ Managing a project means you have to track and archive all client/team conversations.
➤ Slack / HipChat might track discussions or decision
➤ Collapsed email windows are notorious for lost ‘end-of -string’ messages
➤ Chat windows offer immediate gratification — but tracking down a specific conversation can be a pain
➤ Some project management systems archives conversations and decisions in one plac
➤ Clients appreciate knowing the status of their projects
➤ A good project management system gives you the information needed to update the client or directly reports to the client
➤ NOTE: Bad News Does Not Age Well — Report it to the Client ASAP!!!
PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOUCHES ON
➤ Client/stakeholder communication
➤ Scope Definition
➤ Resource Management
➤ Risk management
PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROCESSES FALL INTO FIVE PHASES
➤ Initiation ➤ Discovery ➤ Planning ➤ Execution ➤ Monitoring and Controlling ➤ Closing
➤ This first stage of a project defines the business case, the justification for the project, which will be used to ensure the project stays on track.
➤ It also states what the project is intended to achieve, how that will be achieved and the scope of the work; this is important for controlling subsequent change requests.
➤ In this phase, those involved in the project will be assigned their responsibilities.
➤ The requirements documentation describes the aims of the project in detail including timescales and constraints.
➤ It should also define the criteria that will constitute a successful project and will be used to manage the expectations of the stakeholders.
➤ Many projects use an iterative process to reach agreement on the requirements, although some projects take an ‘agile’ approach to project management
➤ The project plan includes details about how the project work will be carried out
➤ How it will be monitored and controlled
➤ How communication will be facilitated
➤ Information about costs and timelines
➤ Once a project is underway — the project schedule where most attention is focused
➤ Project Schedule
➤ All tasks need to be scheduled in the most efficient order to ensure tasks with inter-dependencies are completed when required and to enable several tasks to be performed in parallel.
➤ There are many project management tools available to assist with scheduling
➤ The team member assigned to carry out a task will need to know, in detail, what the task involves as well as any dependencies and timelines
➤ Team members will also need to understand the criteria by which each task is deemed complete
➤ Monitoring and Controlling a Project Depends on Communication
➤ The right sort of communication is the most important of the soft skill of a successful project manager ➤ In addition to listening to people’s ideas and opinions Project Management is as much about listening to people’s ideas and opinions
➤ Good Project Management creates a team environment where everyone feels their opinion is valued and where honest discussion is encouraged
➤ Effective communication helps handle and mitigate conflicts
➤ Once there is a client-approved end of product — the project can be formally closed
➤ An “After-Action Report’ is helpful for both the client and team members
➤ The purpose of a project review is to learn from both the successes and the mistakes and take that experience forward to the next project
— NOT to shoot the survivors!
WHAT IS A PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLAN
➤ The project management plan is not just the schedule — is a plan for how the project will be managed so it includes:
➤ A summary describing the aims of the project and the expected benefits, including any assumptions or constraints.
➤ The processes that will be used to monitor and report on the status, and handle risks, change, quality etc.
➤ Documentation of the scope, requirements, and budget as well as a time and dependency-based schedules such as a Gantt Chart or Kanban Board
SIMPLE PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLAN
➤ In its simplest sense a project management plan will include the following elements:
- Project Aims: If the final deliverable of a project does not meet the requirements of the client then it has not been successful. Therefore, you must establish what those requirements are and prioritize them
- Project Deliverables: These are the tangible items that will ensure the needs of the client are met and will include time estimates
- Project Schedule: A list of individual tasks along with how long they are estimated to take, who will complete them, any inter-dependencies and any important milestones along the way. There are many software packages to help you do this efficiently.
- Resource Requirements: The project schedule will enable you to justify the project’s resource requirements for time, equipment, budget and people. Identify individuals by name or skill-set along with their responsibilities within the project.
- Communications Plan: Who needs to be kept informed about project progress and how will this be communicated? Typically there will be various reports with differing levels of detail for different stakeholders that cover progress and planned work for the next period
- Risk Management: This involves the identification, monitoring and mitigating of risks.
- Quality Guidelines: You need to know what level of quality is expected and required so the definition needs to be detailed and measurable. It also needs to take into account available budget and resources.
SIMPLE PROJECT MANAGEMENT PLAN
➤ Putting together an effective project plan is essential
➤ But sticking to it throughout the course of the project or adapting it as a particular project needs
➤ Requires a disciplined project manager, clear client communication, and a cooperative team
PROJECT PLANS CAN CHANGE
➤ Carefully planned projects have regular formal reviews. Stakeholders can assess progress, discover new risks and identify issues that might require a change to the project, such as:
➤ Inadequate business requirements
➤ New information coming to light
➤ External changes in the market
➤ Changes in organizational strategy
➤ New technology becoming available
➤ New regulations being imposed
CHANGES BLOW UP THE PLAN
➤ Uncontrolled changes to project scope or requirements can cause chaos and confusion within the project team and ding your profit
➤ We can accommodate client change BUT the project manager must communicate to the stakeholder that it will effect both budget and delivery schedule and require a CHANGE ORDER
➤ The change control process must be followed rigorously
➤ Who on this project is Authorized to issue a change order?
➤ Has that person “signed-off” on this change?
➤ Signed Change Orders provide a way to document, assess and prioritize changes so that each change has a defined, measurable purpose in contributing to project success.
THE BASIC ELEMENTS OF A CHANGE CONTROL PROCESS ARE:
➤ Submit Change Request: Document each issue separately in a log because the chances are you will have to prioritize them if inadequate resources are available – Is it in the budget?
➤ Initial Review: Determine if the change should be considered at all — each change must have a single, clear problem that will affect the project outcome.
➤ Detailed Assessment: What would be the outcome if the change were not implemented
➤ What will be the impact on time, quality, cost and benefits if it is implemented?
THE BASIC ELEMENTS OF A CHANGE CONTROL PROCESS ARE:
➤ Recommendation: Decide whether to approve, reject or defer the change, giving reasons for the decision
➤ Modify the Plans: Communicate the approved changes and their priority to those involved
➤ Implement the Modified Plans: Documenting changes in this way will be a learning experience for future projects in addition to a way of controlling change in the current project.
PROJECT PROGRESS MEETINGS
➤ The importance of regular in-depth reviews cannot be stressed enough – without them, you will not identify gaps in the project
➤ This can be just as much of a problem as uncontrolled changes because WordPress Project will not meet the client’s needs.
HOW TO MANAGE A PROJECT PROGRESS MEETING
- Write an agenda and distribute it beforehand — It is a reminder to the participants just what the meeting is intended to cover and what is expected of them. It gives everyone time to gather the progress information they need to provide at the meeting.
- Repeat the objective —The agenda should be a reminder of the aim of the meeting but state the aims again at the beginning of the meeting and during the meeting if discussions are veering off topic.
- Review progress and future actions — Review the progress from the last meeting and actions for the next period. On a large and mature project it might be possible to do this by exception.
- Stay focused — Stay focused on discussing progress updates, assigning actions or revising the schedule where necessary. Do not deal with any unrelated issues – defer them instead, to another meeting.
- Allow everyone a chance to speak — Nobody wants to sit in a meeting listening to one person dominating the conversation so limit the time any one person is allowed to speak by moving the meeting along to the next topic.
- Avoid boredom — Nothing will be achieved if people are not engaging in the meeting so keep meetings to an hour or less to avoid boredom setting in.
- Assign actions — Assign follow-up actions specifically to an individual with an expected completion date. Whoever is recording the meeting minutes should also create an action plan.
- Summary — At the end of the progress meeting summarize what has been discussed, what actions have been assigned, and to whom, and set a date for the next progress meeting.
➤ Following these simple steps will ensure your meetings achieve something and are a good use of everyone’s time.
CREATING A CULTURE FOR TIME TRACKING
➤ Accurate project cost capture provides an organization with an invaluable amount of data for decision making.
➤ Without the knowledge of actual costs on projects, companies may sell products that do not make any money or attempt to provide services where the cost is not equal to the value.
➤ The long-term viability of an organization depends upon offering products and services for a price that allows for organizational growth.
➤ Your role as project manager is to ensure that projects you manage deliver value to the organization that is in line with expectations.
BENEFITS OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
➤ Organization – Keep track of what needs to be done when. Don’t let anything slip through the cracks again.
➤ Deadlines – Moving a project forward means keeping an eye on the due dates. Juggling multiple deadlines can get crazy, and that’s where project management really shines.
➤ Collaborate – Few people work in the same office these days and can share a whiteboard together. Collaboration has to happen remotely and you need an online system to make that happen. Some systems restrict that interaction to your team, while others invite outside clients into the process.
➤ Archive – Collaboration is key, but you need to keep track of those conversations. A bunch of email discussions or decisions made in a chat window are great, but it’s hard to find those again when you need them. A good project management system archives those conversations and decisions so you can go back and find them in one place.
➤ Reporting – Every client wants to know where a project is at, and a good project management system either lets you know so you can update the client or tells the client directly.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT TOOLS YOU CAN USE
➤ WordPress project management gives freelancers a way to combine your WordPress skills with a freelancer’s need to manage and track time and resources.
➤ For project management to be effective in your freelance development, it needs to work for you. If it’s frustrating or distracting, it’s not saving you any time. You need something that can work the way you want to work.
HOW DO YOU WANT TO WORK?
➤ Before you settle on the PM method for your Freelance WordPress Practice, think about which tool will create the least amount of extra work and bureaucracy?
➤ Think through how you work alone, and with other team members
➤ Sometimes you need to think through your workflow and maybe try a few different ways of managing a project before you settle on the method for you.
➤ Here are some questions you can ask to help figure out what you need:
➤ Internal or External? – Do you want your WordPress project management to be primarily internal for your team only, or do you want to include external partners like clients?
➤ Front End or Back End? – Do you want something smooth and polished to look good on the front end? Or do you just need something for yourself on the back end?
➤ Single or Multiple Projects? – Do you need to keep your projects separated, or do you want to see details across all your projects?
➤ What Do You Manage? – What are you looking to manage? Do you want-to-do lists, milestones, a place to schedule deadlines, a place to track conversations, a place to upload files?
➤ Any Extras? – Are there any extra components you track elsewhere that might make sense to tie into project management? Maybe you track your time or chart budgets, and it’d make sense to see that info here.
➤ The point is to figure out what works for you
SP PROJECT & DOCUMENT MANAGER
➤ This plugin works with multisite and is actually available in a premium version now. Premium features include a responsive layout, custom fields, custom email notifications, thumbnails for projects, versioning, and file collaboration. You can also add on other features like a standalone dashboard for customers, integration of WordPress user roles and BuddyPress groups, downloadable zip archives, Dropbox integration, Google Drive importer, sub folders, and more.
WORDPRESS TASK MANAGEMENT
➤ A premium plugin you might want to check out is called WordPress Task Management. It’s simple and straightforward and operates strictly out of the backend of your WordPress site. It allows your team to track activities as they relate to your current projects. These activities can be linked to the whole of your organization or to just individuals, which helps to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them at all times.
➤ Orbis promises to turn your WordPress dashboard into a full-fledged business management tool and it doesn’t disappoint. This plugin includes all the features you’d expect from a project management tool and then some, allowing you to customize it to the needs of your specific business.
➤ What sets this plugin apart is that it comes with a front-end theme that lets you provide front-end access to your project management tools quickly and easily. You can change this theme as well since Orbis is highly extendable.
➤ If you need a quick way to manage tasks within the dashboard, TaskFreak! ought to serve you just fine. You can create, edit, and delete projects and tasks. You can also add attachments to your tasks and make comments on tasks using a provided comment system.
➤ TaskFreak! is responsive and perfect for managing public and private projects. It offers multi-language support and recognizes default WordPress user roles so you can easily attach team members to projects and tasks based on their current capabilities.
➤ A rather robust plugin offering you should know about is called Project Panorama. It’s easy-to- use and quite simple at its core but offers plenty of features designed to streamline project and user management—not hinder it.
➤ Newer features include a project cloning tool that allows you to create new projects without having to go through all the tedious setup steps and an automatic progress calculation tool that lets you get a bird’s eye view of project, task, or phase completion.
➤ What sets this plugin apart is that it relies on visual communication to make project management easier. You can create an unlimited number of project phases with unlimited tasks so you can easily communicate with your team where a project stands with as much detail as you want.
WP PROJECT MANAGER
➤ The last plugin I’ll mention here today is WP Project Manager. It’s a full-featured project manager designed to be used within WordPress, which means it only includes the tools and features you need to run your site successfully—no more, no less.
➤ Primary features include the ability to create new projects, assign users to projects, send messages about projects, attach files to messages, and leave comments on tasks or projects. You can also create to-do lists with as many tasks as you want with a visual progress bar, comments, and complete/incomplete statuses for keeping tabs on everything. Additionally, you can create milestones for better overall project management.
➤ Online tools for collaboration and communication come in a wide variety. Some, such as Jira and Slack, are popular among software developers, who might use an agile or JIT (just-in-time) style of working. Trello ($3.75 per user per month), on the other hand, uses a kanban-style work methodology, which is highly visual. Trello is an online, collaborative workspace you can use to manage projects of all kinds, whether they’re business-related or personal. It works fairly simply, with drag-and-drop capabilities and an intuitive interface, but it doesn’t include some more traditional project management staples, such as Gantt charts, time tracking components, or reporting tools. Trello is eye-catching and fun, but it’s not right for every project. It works best, in my opinion, for short and quick assignments, rather than tasks that take days or projects that take months.
➤ Basecamp is a real-time communication tool that helps teams stay on the same page; it’s less for traditional project management tasks (e.g., resource planning and long-term scheduling). With to-do lists, calendaring, due dates and file- sharing, Basecamp provides a way for teams to keep track of priorities and actionable items.
I hope these class notes help. We look forward to seeing you at the next #WPATX Deep Dive Discussion. I hope these class notes helped. I have included a link to my Slidedeck below. I’m sorry if the transfer from Keynote to PowerPoint format sometimes does odd things to the headers and some images. We look forward to seeing you at an Austin WordPress Meetup soon. Drop by https://www.meetup.com/austinwordpress/ for the class schedule.
Follow me @sandi_batik / @WPATX Contact me at: handsonwp.com/ Connect with LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/hsandrachevalierbatik