Gaining approval to launch a new website is a big investment — and it’s expected to achieve a big reward. Your internal team (and customers) expect it to match up to their favorite website. That could be Amazon, Apple, or any number of well-known brands relying strongly on their website.
Needless to say, the expectations for a new website are very high, regardless of your budget. Compounding the challenge is the fact that a site build remains a complex process due to technology, expectations, diverse perspectives, and competing goals within the organization.
The challenge for the business is that a new website build is not standard operating procedure. It is not something that is done regularly. It is often resisted by the internal users because as much as people want the latest and greatest site, they may also fear change. So the risk-reward can be very high for the person in charge of the project, but selecting the right digital agency and leveraging your agency-partner relationship can tip the scales in your favor. Your agency-partner, let’s say partner, can help you, because it is standard for them.
Perspective from both sides of the aisle
My career experiences have given me a broad perspective and good understanding of the internal challenges one faces to get buy-in for a major website re-build project.
Today, as a Mediacurrent Project Manager, I primarily work with existing clients for both site builds and post launch support, and I also work on pre-sale projects.
I was previously hired by a top 20 medical device manufacturer into a new position responsible for Online Marketing Strategy and Analytics, reporting up to a reasonably new head of the department of Marketing Services. Up to that point, online marketing and the website was not a focus for the marketing team. We made the case for a new website, got management and budget approval, chose Drupal, and I managed the entire process — including vendor selection.
The RFP Process
If you have an existing agency partner, they can help you. It would essentially be consulting time, but often the partner sees a lot of RFPs and can identify areas that you may have missed.
Have a diverse group of people involved in the process. This can make the process slower, but can help significantly in the end if you have early buy-in from all the right parties.
Accept what you think is fair based on the request vs. resources and experience being made available to you. You may not always have the names of all the individuals assigned to your project, but the partner will ensure the resources meet the need.
- If the partner doesn’t offer, ask for regular demos of functionality throughout the development phase. This will help you see the work being done and you can make adjustments as needed. Be careful with adjustments though. You want them to be clarifications and not changes to the original scope of work.
- Don’t go short on Quality Assurance (QA) time. Partner QA teams do nothing but QA and are well versed at finding things you may not think to look for. Allow the partner to QA each ticket you review. If you by-pass QA or do it yourself, you run a high risk that there will be issues and ultimately misses.
- Keep your stakeholders abreast of the work being done, so they see progress. Invite them to the demos and reconfirm their approval.
Training Internal Users
- During development, begin planning for training your internal users. Without their buy-in, you will fail. Keep them informed of the progress and if possible create a campaign that raises awareness and keeps the project top of mind.
- Be sure to build your site with help text for each field. When demos take place, have them recorded so you have videos of both front and back end for the users to understand how what they insert is rendered.
- Your partner can help plan training sessions to get everyone acclimated to the new system.
- Websites are evolutionary; new features and functions arise as users get acclimated to them. Most likely there will be items that didn’t make the initial launch in order to keep within time or budget, but having a support agreement will allow you to continue to improve your site. If necessary, have your partner convey the fact that these new features and functionalities are possible, but can be done post-launch to keep the project on time.
- Reporting is critical. While this has to be established during the development phase, you need to develop a series of reports. There should be a report for the product team with specific areas for them to focus on and the senior management team, which wants to know if their investment is paying off. Your partner can help develop these as they have done them for other clients in the past, as opposed to taking time to do it yourself.
- Your hosting and development companies need to work in unison, and sometimes this can be more than two companies. Keep them connected to ensure the entire platform is optimized.
While these are high-level considerations, I believe they are all critical to success. When you have the opportunity to build a new site or revise an existing one, following these guidelines will put you in a position to be successful and to leverage that success to a promotion.