This article contains answers to several questions I receive regarding web project management and can be considered a sequel to what I wrote in Introduction to web project management.
It’s a starting point. If you think that there are some aspects that deserve to be deepened you can use comments or the contact page.
Web project management is a discipline that helps building web projects (sites and applications) that are delivered complying with the deadlines, planning the best compromise between quality and cost and satisfying initial requirements. Web project managements is the expression of the web project manager’s skills in organizing and managing resources towards a shared goal.
The web project manager is the professional in charge of the management and coordination of a web project from its inception to the delivery, dealing with every person involved in the project. For a detailed explanation of the web project manager skills, you can take a look at Introduction to Web Project Management.
A web project is the set of activities required to build sites or applications that satisfy user requirements. It spans between specific start and completion (delivery) dates and its goal is to create a unique product or service which brings beneficial change or added value. A project is different from a process in that the latter is made by a repetitive series of steps to produce the same product or service (see the definition of project management in Wikipedia).
No. Attending some courses you have the feeling that project management is just a series of rules to adhere to using Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Project, all surrounded by acronyms like Prince2, PMBOK, PERT, Scrum. Methodologies are important because they set guidelines that facilitate many web project manager’s tasks, but web project management is a job made of relations with clients, developers, designers and freelancers. A project manager is first and foremost a leader, not a tracker.
No one, except some rare case starts his career as a web project manager. A more common situation is to work for the IT department of a software house or web agency and develop management skills that can eventually lead to become a web project manager. A web project management course can help the project manager in improving her skills and competences, especially in terms of analysys and risk management. But a course is not enough to help a student, a designer or a developer master this discipline.
Web project management has its own peculiarities that make it different from the “classical” definition of software project management in terms of innovation and communication. The web project manager’s skills span multiple disciplines, such as publishing, design and television. These characteristics are well expressed in Web Project Management, a book by Ashley Friedlein:
- development schedules shorter and more aggressive;
- multiple projects to be managed simultaneously;
- “cutting edge” technology;
- no standard pricing models;
- clients understand the medium and its parameters less well;
- team members often perform multiple tasks and roles;
- project manager is not always the main point of clients contact;
- innovation is key objective for many web projects;
- change is endemic.
No. The web project manager is the professional responsible for the right execution (design, development, release) of a web project. Once a project is delivered the web project manager is no longer responsible. At this point the webmaster is in charge of the ordinary management of the site or application. Usually a web project manager works for a consulting company while the webmaster works for the same company that commissioned the project.
The web project manager usually belongs to the IT or creative department. Reading some resumes or job proposal it happens that one can find the term “web marketing manager”. This label doesn’t identify the professional responsible of the project, but the one in charge of the marketing part of the site, the set of activities aimed to bring traffics toward the web site or web application. Sometimes the term “web project manager” is erroneously used to mean “web marketing project manager”.
No. A web project manager can work both for big and small companies. What can differ is the role of the web project manager in these different kind of companies.
In mid-sized or big companies the web project manager can work for project that last several months. In this specific case the web project manager has to possess a strong understanding of project planning and risk management because even the smallest problem can have a huge impact on costs.
In small companies the web project manager usually manages various projects at the same time, many of which can last for few weeks. In this case it’s important for the web project manager to be able to define roles and schedule team members ensuring that project resources are used effectively.
For these reasons a web project manager should underline his skills while writing a resume, specifying in detail roles and responsibilities.
Yes and it’s self evident reading the findings from the web design survey held by the ezine A List Apart in 2007. Job title distribution by organization type, in particular, highlight that the greatest percentage of web project managers work for startups, followed by web and software agencies. A possible reason is that in working environments that require strong innovation skills, frequent releases and fast changing roadmaps, a management role is paramount.
Web project management finds its expression with different methodologies and development tecniques. It’s a project manager’s task to define, together with his team, the right method to follow and, when needed, its learning and widening.
It depends. Usually a web project manager is responsible for the entire project’s life cycle, from its inception to the delivery. However, if his firm works only in the web design field, the web project manager obviously will be responible only for this part, that eventually will converge in a broaden project. This activity has however its own life cycle, that could end when templates are developed.
In well structured situations a web project manager can be in charge of a part of the entire project, while other colleagues can be in charge of other sections. In this case it can be that a gerarchic structure exists, with junior web project managers that report to senior web project managers.
It depends on the project, but usually the main roles, apart from the web project manager, are:
- account manager – responsible for winning new business, he’s usually the first person the client meet;
- webmaster – manages the site once it’s live;
- information architect – build and organize the site’s architecture so that information is easily searchable and findable;
- art director / web designer – responsible of the creative concept of the entire product;
- analyst / developer – the professional that, together with the web project manager defines the technical standards to adopt and is responsible of the programming part;
- editor / copywriter – chooses and writes the site contents;
- consultants (marketing, usability, user experience, strategy, etc.) – professionals with particular expertise not found in the agency.
Other experts can help with the project delivery, such as testers, illustrators, database administrators, audio/video professionals, journalists, search engine optimizators, community professionals.
A lot. The ideal situation would be that the web project manager is able to build on his own some parts of the project and that he reserves time to do so. This would allow him to be up to date with current standards and solutions and to anticipate problems. Project planning skills can be improved too, even if it’s clear that the web project manager should ask his team to provide a detailed scheduling.
In most cases a web project manager works for the company he manages projects for. The main reason, considering that he’s a professional that works closely with other experts, is that the quality of the project depends on reciprocal people acquaintance. This approach is not profitable if the web project manager is a freelance.
It depends. Some web project managers work with just Excel sheets while others prefer to build complex diagram in Microsoft Project. More than the tool what’s important is to keep these documents updates and share them. A detailed diagram kept in the web project manager’s drawer is useless, while a simple sheet of paper delivered every week to every member of the team is invaluable.
In small agencies it’s quite common that the web project manager works side by side with his team and helps developing small portions of code. This is the ideal working environment for him, because he has the opportunity to improve his technical skills too.
The answer to this question is well expressed in an article written by Mike Morrison. In short management skills are the ones required to manage people and resources to deliver a product or service while leadership skills are the ones required to engage with people and persuade them to ‘buy-in’ to a vision or goal.