Most Project Managers would agree that process is everything, and following process is the law of their discipline. But in times of dire need, when a client's deadline seems impossible to achieve, a condensed approach may be your only option. Rapid development can be a difficult path to navigate, particularly if you're current using a linear waterfall model. In this post, I offer some sound strategies for safely accelerating the lifecycle of a web project.
Produce hybrid deliverables: This is a critical change in the way most waterfall project cycles function. Traditionally, resources assigned to a web project will work in relative isolation to deliver their respective portions of a product. By enforcing a collaborative team effort, however, deliverables that were once specific to a practice area can be rolled up with complimentary deliverables to produce a single, more robust asset. As an example, a graphic designer could be working to establish high-level visual elements, such a colour palette, title treatment and navigational style, while an information designer is producing wireframes. By providing a client with stylized wireframes that indicate page elements and aesthetic, you will combine two deliverables (wireframes and mock-ups) into a single document. If both resources work simultaneously, this can reduce the overall timeline of a project.
Prototype, prototype, prototype: Prototyping is a way of producing core functional elements of a site rapidly without applying any design, in order to receive team and client feedback earlier on in the project life cycle. Good prototyping requires critical technical and usability thinking to occur simultaneously. Combining this work effort will generally shorten the time it takes to produce an end deliverable, since the back and forth between the departments will be greatly reduced. Prototyping will also engage a client at a deeper level more quickly, as they think about not what their site will do, but how it will do it, before it's too cumbersome to change the specifications.
Spend more time with your clients: Although we live in an era of email and conference calls, spending time in front of a client will help streamline review and approval cycles. If a storyboard, for instance, is presented in person by the designer, feedback can be received from the client immediately, and areas that require further discussion can be worked-through as a group, without delay. Tone is difficult to convey via email, so being in the same room as your client will help you understand the nuances of their concerns, likes, and dislikes. Quite simply, spending more time with your client will develop a more cohesive relationship of mutual understanding, and will go a long way towards reducing the inefficiencies that email and other electronic communication can create.
While these suggestions are not guaranteed to increase speed to market,more often than not, thoughtful incorporation of these tactics will shorten the overall timeline of a web project. Sit with your team and discuss these options. Making sure everyone understands your goal will help move the entire team forward in unison.