How to be a great website project manager
“The art of good business is being a good middleman.”
If you’ve seen the Daniel Craig movie ‘Layer Cake’, you might recognise the quote but, as it’s said by a grumpy Dumbledore-sound-a-like whilst he’s in the process of robbing a drug dealer of a million stolen ecstasy pills, you could be forgiven for wondering what it has to do with building a website and website project management.
Whatever the website is designed for, it’s likely you’ll have a client somewhere who has an idea of what they want and a team of people somewhere else who know a thing or two about pixels and code.
To the uninitiated, bridging that gap might appear to be a simple matter of passing on a message. Some might even suggest it would be much easier to get the customer to talk to the people who’ll design or build whatever is required and literally cut out the middleman. But the unique way a website is put together requires a special someone who understands both sides and is able to get them working in perfect harmony, even if they rarely meet or speak to each other.
A typical request might look something like this:
Even in above very simplified sketch you’ve got a pressing deadline, resource issues, recruitment, negotiation and ongoing customer service to sort out, and that’s just for someone who only needs their site to display the same cat gif on loop.
What about when they need it in 7 languages, or it has to be responsive, or it needs to go live at midnight on New Year’s Eve?
When any online project stops being straightforward (i.e. every time) your heroic middleman comes into their own. These are their tried-and-tested secrets to help keep projects on track and everyone happy.
Build great relationships, fast. Listen to your customers, visit their offices, talk to their teams and read about them online. Listen to your internal teams too: you might not always agree but the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.
Eliminate problems. It won’t always be smooth sailing, but if you react quickly and decisively when things do wobble there’s half a chance people won’t even notice. And, if they don’t notice and they don’t need to know, don’t tell them.
The power behind the throne. Although you may be the public face of the company or project, don’t forget the people who actual do the “real work”. Share the feedback as honestly as you can with your design and dev teams, thank them regularly and keep them on side.
Schedule meetings. Even if there’s nothing on the board and it’s only over the phone. Put some time in their diary and “catch up”.
Network. You may be asked to pull a rabbit out of a hat one day and if you’re not a magician yourself it’s a good idea to get to know one, just in case.
Save some time for the fun stuff. You don’t need huge budgets to be able to entertain people these days. Use your imagination and arrange a few hours out of the office with key contacts or team members.
Being a good middleman might look like a piece of cake to some people, but that only means you’re doing it really, really well.