Introduction to web project management

Update: I recently wrote the Web Project Management FAQs

If you look at my profile you’ll see that I work as a web project manager. But what does a web project manager do and, consequently, what is web project management?

A web project manager is a professional that deals with the management and coordination of a web project (site or application) from its inception to the delivery (and more, if a maintenance phase has to be considered). The web project manager is an all-accomplished figure as he gets in contact with the client, with the salespeople, with designers, with developers and with systems analysts; with – in other words – everyone involved in the project.

Compared to a project manager in the traditional software field, the web project manager usually works on pathways that have yet to be explored. Constant innovation, heterogeneous working groups, agile development methodologies are all variables that deeply influence his working behaviour.

It’s quite difficult to define exactly the skills of a “good” web project manager, but we can try to list them. A web project manager

  • is able to evaluate a project in terms of cost (infrastructure, people, content, maintenance), time (needed to design and develop the application and delivery date), quality (measuring it with quantitative metrics)
  • interact with the client. At the beginning of the project meetings are held with both the web project manager and a salesperson; subsequent meetings are managed solely by the web project manager together with the client. The web project manager is often the client’s only referent; that means he is also the only one responsible for delays/bugs/misunderstandings related to the project
  • works with a group whose members own very heterogeneous skills
  • masters communication skills: face-to-face, in a meeting, on paper. A web project manager can write documentation fluently, especially the requirements document and the project specifications. Sometimes a web project manager designs prototypes and wireframes
  • chooses the most appropriate professional figures for a particular project
  • is able to plan his team’s timeline even when there are concurrent projects in development
  • doesn’t just define costs and timings on his own, but knows when and what to ask to his team in order to obtain a detailed and shared forecast. He’s not a one man band.
  • he believes in group spirit, and cultivate it
  • promotes and rewards everyone’s success. The project manager suggests improvements in one’s professional skills when he thinks it’s time for something new and eventually is able to evaluate the achievement of agreed objectives
  • is conscious that problems can’t be avoided, but knows how to anticipate them. He is able to recognize them in advance, so they can be addressed before they turn into emergencies
  • defines how much space there is for innovation in a new project and when, instead is better to reuse consolidated solutions
  • finds and works with teams and freelances in outsourcing when internal resources have been already allocated (or are not enough skilled for the particular task)
  • knows how to design and develop most of the project on his own, even if with poorer results compared to his team. This allows him to estimate projects with good approximation and to understand his team’s problems and difficulties
  • understands when to accept compromises – budget constraints not always allow to build an excellent product

When the web project manager improves these skills, the quality of his work improves too. Using delegation in the right terms, for example, can lead to the development of new skills inside the team and can add more time to other opportunities for the web project manager himself.