It's possible to create a project workflow while you're in the middle of the project. It's also possible to assemble a parachute while you're plummeting to the earth. But in both cases, it's extremely stressful. Let's alleviate that stress and talk about a project management BEFORE we get to work.
Guiding a technical project to the finish line is an art and a science. Complex deliverables require careful vetting and flexible implementation guidelines to maintain steady progress. Over the course of hundreds of projects we have developed a collection of preferred tools and workflow patterns that assure our projects stay on time and on budget.
Setup For Success
When projects begin, clients naturally have high expectations about the finished product. During the initial phase of any project, THOR will provide baseline understanding regarding the overall workflow. For nearly every project we take on we utilize what is known as an agile process. The agile process is a way to structure projects around iterative, continuous delivery. The initial concept of this method was born from the failures of traditional sequential (waterfall) delivery methods for software projects.
In the traditional waterfall system, as projects scale the finish line for the project becomes increasingly distant. Waterfall projects stall from the beginning with cumbersome requirements gathering - essentially a blueprint for how everything works. When a project grows to be sufficiently large the requirements gathering can take so long that completed tasks evolve and must be revisited. This process can repeat throughout a project, necessitating slow downs, restarts, and duplicated effort.
THOR's agile management process turns this on its head. We break projects into individual units called sprints which are completed in two or three week blocks of work. This schedule forms the cornerstone of agile thinking. Each sprint is self-contained with predefined tasks that must be ready for implementation before beginning.
This method helps manage complexity by concentrating efforts solely on the task at hand, rather than wrestling with the full scope of a project at all times. Successful delivery becomes a feature by feature march to the finish line, rather than monolithic phases that easily derail.
Tools to Guide the Process
THOR works collaboratively with our clients, setting both long term vision and sprint-based goals throughout our projects. We have tried many tools and settled on Trello as our preferred way to manage the bird's eye view of the project lifecycle. Trello is particularly effective given that its card and list based structure can be molded to work with different kinds of projects.
For small scale projects, we can run a Trello board with a list for each phase consisting of implementation tasks that team members can easily refer to. As projects grow, Trello becomes a slightly less effective task manager but remains a great way to chronicle the long-term vision of an organization and prioritize goals in a collaborative way with client teams. In medium and large scale projects we leverage Github and their milestones and issues system to set up our sprint planning tasks. Github is an especially great tool for this job because the management side of the product natively integrates with its better known code repository and deployment capabilities. Taken together, they represent a coherent way to manage software development and to keep all parties updated with real-time progress.
THOR uses this agile process to guide our work as much for ourselves as for our clients. Great websites are a work in progress in which evolution is the only constant. Using the tools and processes outlined above, clients can strategically envision how to build on top of their initial investment.
Agile projects represent a continuous process and for that reason don't have a set end point. A well kept Trello vision board stays on top of quarterly updates and allows for rapid project status checks. This project management infrastructure helps our clients concentrate on refining their business objectives, rather than wondering where things stand.
Scheduling and Cost
Project management is a constant in all projects here at THOR. The degree to which we formalize this process with line item costs correlates with the scale of the project. Small and medium scale work have smaller management overhead so we often include those features with that scale of work. As projects grow in sophistication, THOR recommends maintenance schedules delivered on a quarterly basis that keep all parties aligned and websites secured. These can range from smaller scale engagements that keep a site humming along or they can be focused on iterative feature development that builds on the success of our previous work.
Structured maintenance agreements vary in price but usually land somewhere between $5000 and $15000 per quarter. We can also augment teams on a semi-permanent basis. Those costs are individually tailored to the needs of a particular client.
We encourage interested parties to explore our Website 101 explainer series, where we guide clients through our offerings. All website builds feature project management as part of the process. We price recommend quarterly maintenance separately. If you have more detailed questions about how we manage projects here at THOR, reach out and we'd be happy to start a conversation with you.