Project delivery is a vast topic, and it's one where you'll always keep learning. Every project offers new lessons, adds to your experience, and leaves you with memorable stories—some incredible, others challenging, but all worth it.
I still remember my first day as a digital project manager (DPM), thinking there was no way I'd ever grasp everything I'd heard that day. The design and development world has its own language, with terms like pull requests, agile, stand-ups, and full-stack. But years later, I've come to appreciate how much I've learned and how these experiences have molded me into the DPM I am now.
So let's explore project delivery and see how you can make it work for you!
What is project delivery?
Project delivery is the entire journey of a project, from the initial client kickoff to the final handover.
For example, for a website build, the delivery process includes stages such as discovery and planning, design and UX, development, content creation, migration, testing, and quality assurance. Remember that the aim isn't really to finish a digital product, as it will always need improvement and maintenance. Bugs can pop up, users provide feedback, and new feature ideas emerge.
It's an ongoing process that keeps your digital product evolving and relevant.
Four essential tips for successfully delivering projects
Successfully delivering projects is a skill that takes time and experience to develop. To help you navigate this learning curve, here are four essential considerations for effective project delivery. These insights are based on my own experiences, and I hope they can help you avoid some common pitfalls in your projects.
1. Keep in mind that you're part of a team
As a project manager, it's essential to understand that the success of a project is the result of a collective effort. Developing an intuition for when to step in, when to ask for help, and when to delegate tasks can make all the difference. It's important to realize that you are not alone in this journey. Here are some strategies to help you foster a supportive environment and leverage the expertise of others:
- Encourage open communication, transparent decision-making, and supportive team culture.
- Don't hesitate to contact your manager, team members, or external mentors for advice or assistance.
- Join active project management communities like Digital Project Management and Louder Than Ten, where you can connect with professionals who have faced similar challenges and are eager to share their experiences and advice.
- Build strong relationships with your team members and stakeholders, fostering a sense of trust and shared accountability for the project's success.
➡️ Here are five critical skills to hone as a project manager.
2. Master the art of capacity planning
Striking the right balance between the demands of your delivery and sales teams is critical to maintaining a healthy and profitable organization. To achieve this equilibrium, you should:
- Involve the people who do the work (developers, designers, etc.) in the proposal stage, especially for projects with fixed budgets and deliverables. Their insights can help you identify potential issues and allocate resources more effectively.
- Encourage team members to take annual leave and schedule breaks between projects to prevent burnout. A well-rested team is more productive and happier, which ultimately benefits the organization as a whole.
- Allocate time for learning and development, internal projects, and bug fixes. This approach ensures that your team isn't constantly working at full capacity on billable tasks, which can lead to stress and decreased productivity.
- Reevaluate your agency's rate card to see if it's tied to people working at 100% capacity or on 100% billable work. Sustainable success requires a more balanced approach.
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3. Cultivate positive stakeholder relationships
It's important to remember that stakeholders face their own pressures and challenges. Building positive relationships with them is crucial for successful project delivery. Here are a few strategies to consider:
- During the kick-off meeting, establish clear expectations for communication, scope, and ways of working. This clarity can help prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Rely on your statement of work (SoW) to be firm about what you deliver. Be vigilant about scope creep and recognize when new business opportunities arise during the project. These opportunities can lead to further collaboration and growth for your team and organization.
- Empathize with stakeholders and understand that they may be facing pressures from their bosses, trustees, or shareholders. While it's essential to stand your ground on project expectations and deliverables, doing so with empathy and understanding can help maintain positive relationships and foster a collaborative environment.
4. Allocate ample time for every project element
Learning to allocate sufficient time for each aspect of a project is a skill that takes time and experience to develop. To help you master this, consider the following tips:
- Keep a record of recurring issues and questions that arise during projects. Make sure they're factored into schedules and estimates to avoid surprises down the line.
- Don't overlook seemingly minor elements such as designing a 404 page, conducting code reviews, and allowing time for client feedback. These details can make all the difference in the success of a project.
- Be mindful of factors impacting project timelines, such as team members' annual leave, CMS training, and content population. Adjust your plans to ensure these factors don't derail your project's progress.
- Remember that estimates are not deadlines, and it's essential to allow for flexibility in your project timeline. The rigidity can lead to increased stress and lower-quality outcomes.
- Develop a habit of questioning everything, from project requirements to stakeholder expectations. This inquisitive mindset can help you uncover hidden challenges and devise more effective solutions.
Delivering projects effectively is a journey that requires constant learning and adaptation. By keeping these four considerations in mind, you'll be better prepared to navigate the challenges that come your way and lead your projects to success.
Be kind to yourself, support your team, and maintain open communication with your clients.
Remember that with each project—no matter your seniority—you're building new, valuable experience and insights that will help you become an even better project manager in the future!