During my career in marketing and communications, I have often been tasked with managing multiple digital projects for organisations that are not traditionally digitally-led. Those organisations have also been based in technology, policy, research and development and have sought to share their knowledge further with their specific interested parties but have also been nervous to do so.
Managing a digital project can be a tricky process. Often, your internal stakeholders will show a high level of interest but won’t always have the same level of understanding of the project process and its objectives. This can result in a disparity between expectations and reality and lead to frustration and bad feeling about the project itself.
Because of this, over the years I learnt that, when approaching a new project, it was really important to follow a few simple steps in order to produce the best project possible, with the support and endorsement of your colleagues.
When starting a project it is helpful to bear the following in mind:
- What the project is
A comprehensive outline of the project will help everyone understand what it is you are trying to achieve.
- What is involved
Detailing the phases of the project and what each component actually means helps co-workers to understand the complexity of the work.
- How long it will take
People often underestimate how long a large digital project can take so making them aware of this (and perhaps slightly overestimating it) will mean there is no disappointment or unachievable goals set.
- Who will be involved
If you need input from your wider organisation it is really important to let those people know and to highlight their involvement, making them feel involved from the beginning.
- Why you are doing it
Sometimes a project can seem pointless to others, or not necessary, so a clear explanation of why it is being done is vital.
- What the impact will be for them and the organisation
To help people support your project you need to help them to understand the benefits for them and why the organisation needs to do it. If you can link it to organisational goals and their personal roles that can also help.
- What outcome they can expect
Explain clearly what the end product will be. Be sure not to oversell at an early stage because this will only lead to problems in the long run.
Provide clarity and a point of contact
As with any new project or initiative, some people can find it off-putting or just plain confusing, often provoking a reaction of indifference or possibly hostility. Therefore, it is really important to provide clarity on the project and be an open point of contact if anyone should have any questions or concerns.
Even though it can be a challenge to try to provide an open forum for stakeholders to air their views, it will help to make them feel heard and later invested in your project.
Participation is key
Although it is useful for key stakeholders to participate throughout the project process, uncovering unknown insights from wider teams with different perspectives at the beginning of the project is so crucial in getting the fundamental requirements of a project right.
The project team will only understand the project from their personal perspective, so it is vital to gain broader knowledge from people working in different parts of the organisation.
Actively involving people can make your stakeholders feel a part of the project from an early stage. They become invested; they care about the project; they see it as something they have worked on. And having them on-side when you come to launch the project is extremely beneficial.
Do not take feedback personally
During the process of sharing with people and getting them involved, you will receive plenty of feedback and some of it may feel like a personal attack. Try to separate your own feelings on the project and what it should be, with the opinions of others. Try to just take the information which is of use and flow it positively back into the project and remember to thank people for their input!
Not everyone will be involved in the project or even show any interest, however, it is important to communicate fully and regularly about what you are doing. Firstly, sharing progress and receiving feedback is helpful but, most importantly, it keeps the whole organisation aware and engaged with how the project is developing. Hopefully, this leads to increased support and less shock or resistance when the project goes live.
To communicate effectively make sure you utilise all of the tools available to you. Tell people in person, email them, put it on your internal intranet or newsletter if you have one. But most of all make sure people know about it and have time to digest the information.
If you’re starting a digital project soon, hopefully this rundown will help things run smoothly. Good luck!