Starting a New Project with Flywheel Strategic

Scott Snowden
Scott Snowden
Business & Technology Strategy
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At Flywheel, we wake up everyday and build websites, apps and other software. If that routine isn’t familiar to you, this post will give you an idea of what to expect as we start working together.

In the lead up to starting your project, we will have talked to you about the Momentum Building Process that we follow at Flywheel (you can read more about that here). You can think of that Momentum Building Process as the framework that guides our thinking and structures the approach we take for every job. Within that framework, there’s a day-to-day routine that we’ll tell you more about now. We’ll also talk about that in the context of some of the questions we’ve received in the past from clients during the on-boarding phase.

Overview

The one common theme you will find in this post is: adaptability.

We take it upon ourselves to drive the project forward and we want to do that in a way that most effectively leverages the resources you have available, while having minimal disruption to your normal operations.

Our job is also to be challenging. Not in a difficult way, but with the objective to move you forward. We bring our curious nature to every project and try to ask meaningful questions that get you thinking. We want to make sure that the requirements you bring forward are tested against your situation and that the solution we’re all building is going to be as helpful as possible. So get ready to talk, think and innovate.

Who Manages Whom?

For the work that gets done at Flywheel, we will assign a Project Manager responsible for keeping things on track. Flywheel has established strong planning capabilities based on our own experience. That includes managing:

  • Our team’s deliverables and timelines

  • Budgets and billing

  • Schedules

  • Regular status updates and day-to-day care

  • Risks and decisions

For clarity, it is the Project Manager’s role to manage the process, not necessarily to do the building (there’s lots of other people on the team who do that). If there is something that you owe as a deliverable on the project, our Project Manager will follow-up with you to ensure it is delivered on time. If necessary, schedules and budgets will be adjusted to accommodate delays or changes.

Typically, clients will also assign a Project Manager from their team as a primary point of contact for us to work with. We look to you to prioritize your project deliverables and to also commit to provide clear communication on progress.

What Is Flywheel's Project Management Methodology?

We have worked in a very nimble manner with many agencies and direct clients in the fast-paced world of marketing and advertising. In contrast to that, our roots do come from traditional software development and we can adapt our planning process to a more methodical corporate environment. We have an adaptive approach that allows us to integrate with the work process that best suits your organization.

In other words, we follow your lead. We have found over the years that things are most productive when we can use the methodology or approach that you’re already following - be that Agile, Waterfall or anything else. If you don’t have a good process, we’ll talk to you about one that will work for the project at hand.

We believe in good, strong process – as long as it will add value. We will discuss your desired process and key metrics for monitoring success so that the right templates and tools can be used for communicating project steps, decisions and status.

When Will Everyone Be Busy?

Throughout the project you will be hearing from us routinely. The frequency will vary based on the type of project and the type of work being done in the project. Generally speaking, the initial phase of a project involves brainstorming, interviews, user research, and other working sessions to finalize the plan. As you can imagine, your team will be actively involved at this stage. When development work is underway, our team is more heads-down. We’ll be keeping you apprised of progress along the way, but we’ll be less reliant on frequent participation from you. As projects approach completion, there is often content to finalize or functionality to review. Your team will again have a more active role to play at this point. When collaboration with you is happening, we may be talking daily, while at other times we’ll check-in from time to time with status updates to let you know how things are proceeding. Regardless, we always welcome a phone call if you have a question or want to check-in.

How Does the Work Get Done?

Our team is comprised of several experts to help keep your project running smoothly, many of whom you can meet here. Not everyone’s skills are required on every project, but the roles on our team include:

  • Project Manager – As described above.

  • Senior Project Sponsor – A Partner from Flywheel assigned to oversee and provide ultimate accountability for the project.

  • Technical Lead – An expert software engineer responsible for crystallizing the technical plan, assigning development tasks and providing quality assurance.

  • Developer – Programmers who have a range of skills to complete the technical aspects of any project.

  • Content Lead – A strategist who will work on research, building personas, information architecture and the content plan.

  • Content Writer – Someone who can help find just the right way to deliver your message with impact.

  • Creative Director – An original thinker who provide overall art direction and creative insights by participating in research, stakeholder engagement and UX design.

  • User Experience Designer – An interface artist who will be applying skill and experience in an iterative approach to create a best-in-class user experience.

Your team will also be busy at times. And again, not all of these roles apply to every project, but here are the project team members that come from the client side (and often, one person wears many of these hats):

  • Project Manager / Primary Point of Contact – From your side, the person that coordinates the deliverables assigned to you.

  • Senior Project Sponsor / Decision Maker – Someone on your team that has ultimate decision-making authority. Often this is your Project Manager, but sometimes this is a senior person who also has the authority to set priorities and enforce deadlines for other team members.

  • Content / Communications Lead – Projects that involve messaging, be that through a website or even an internal app, require someone who can help collect that content and other media.

  • Stakeholders – This is a broad category that gets more specific based on the project situation, but may include the project committee, internal staff, executives, clients, vendors, the public or anyone else that can inform the use cases that the project must consider.

  • Subject Matter Experts – A subject matter expert is a stakeholder with particular knowledge who has more influence over aspects such as features, workflow, compliance, branding or other high priority project details.

  • Acceptance Testers – Individuals such as subject matter experts, the project committee, project manager and other stakeholders who can review and validate the completeness of all project components.

At the outset of the project, our Project Manager will coordinate with you and identify the specific roles that will apply to your project, when they will be required, and how involved each person will need to be.

What Has Experience Taught Us?

We often get asked to talk about past experience and how that has contributed to the way we approach new projects. A few of those situations include, in no particular order:

  • Content – When clients are responsible for content, the required effort for writing and editing is often underestimated. Projects built with Content Management Systems are easy to use, but the work of entering the content still needs to be properly booked. It is important not to dismiss our advice on how to plan this work if you will be taking it on.

  • System Integration – Our technical team has the capability and experience to connect systems that were never designed to talk to each other. Difficulties arise when we’re integrating with a system that does not come with an accurate description of its features and integration points. Proper testing by both your team and ours helps mitigate this, but most important is the need to have comprehensive information up front. If there is uncertainty, we all need to call that out and do some more investigation and planning.

  • Testing – There is a big difference between saying, “Yeah, I checked it out. Everything seems fine.” and “I’ve run through all the scenarios we need to deal with. Everything worked.” End-to-end testing does happen before we present our solution to you, but ultimately the final sign-off needs your scrutiny also. Everyone on the project – us and you – need to make sure that all the user scenarios have been described, accounted for, and validated.

  • Team Availability – Life happens, and business priorities change quickly. When we build a project schedule, we try to build in flexibility. When things come up that take you away from the project, that’s okay. We can often re-adjust work or start on the next task. Or, we will reset the schedule with new dates to accommodate your team’s availability.

  • Firm Decisions – Something that can cause a lot of frustration for all parties is needing to revisit decisions that have been made. Changing your mind is okay, but as the project moves further along, it gets more difficult (and expensive) to make adjustments. Let’s all makes sure we’re informed and making confident decisions that can help the project build momentum.

How Do We Maximize Success?

The fourth stage of the Flywheel Momentum Building Process is Engagement. We often say that this is were things really get started. You want to be able to turn your new website, app or other solution into something that will accomplish and exceed all the original project objectives. At Flywheel, our Content Team is ready to help. It will be important to measure performance as accurately as possible and to use that data as feedback to help empower users, refine feature enhancements and keep the momentum going.


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