Have you ever tried to find a good “how to” article or a good strategy overview written for professional website managers?

I did. And I could find plenty of good stuff aimed at the “I love thinking about the Internet” set or the “I love cutting edge web technology” set. But very little at the “I am running a website group at a real company” set.

Although techie articles and pie-in-the-sky articles have their place, when you need real answers for real problems they just don’t give you what you need. You want actionable answers not down-in-the-dirt details or information about macro trends on the Internet.

So I set out to make a website that provides actionable answers to the questions that website managers ask on the topics that matter. Topics like:

  • Project Management finding big problems, coming up with solutions and mobilizing the teams to get the problem solved
  • Content Management slicing and dicing through requests for new web pages, getting the pieces together and getting it live without hiring a legion of web producers
  • Internet Marketing getting the folks to the site, getting them on the list, and then getting them through the funnel to sales or a shopping cart
  • Web Development developing the technology that makes it all possible

And while those are pretty big topics, they are the topics you deal with every day when you run a big-ish website. And if you hang with me, I am going to spill the good stuff I learned from doing this stuff myself.

The next question you are thinking is… who is this guy?

As of today, August 15, 2013, I have 0 PDU

As of today, August 15, 2013, I have 0 (that is a zero not an o) PDU for this PDU cycle.
That is a problem.
But I am also looking forward to working on my Agile Certified Practitioner certification. So I am thinking that combining the pain of getting PDU with my interest in this new certification might make the whole thing bearable. Here is my plan to getting both done at the same time.

Required ACP Training & PMI category B PDU – 21 PDU

After looking around for some online training the folks over at simplilearn.com have good looking and in-expensive course that both delivers 21 PDUs that can be used for both the training requirement for the PMI-ACP cert and as PMI category B PDU. That’s a win! Not bad for $120 for 30 days access.

Studying and Learning the ACP Reference Materials & PDU Category C – 30 PDU

Although I had 4 of the 11 books in the PMI-ACP reference materials I still have a lot of material to research and learn. The good news is that this stuff is not entirely new to me and that I learn best by reading, analyzing and summarizing the material I need to learn. So, I figure I will read and summarize each book on my blog. Assuming that takes 4 hours to read each book (and that is a very, very low estimate) I will max out my PDU Category C Self-Directed Learning hours – 30 hours is the max allowable per cycle.

Creating New Project Management Knowledge – PDU Category D – 9 Hours

This will be the easy – simply types up some of the analysis and sumarization material from my ACP reference material studying and I am home free.
As a reference point here is the PMI PDU categories and more information on the PMI-ACP.

The PDU-ACP Situation

After having the Project Management Professional (PMP)certification for a long while, I am once again faced with earning enough professional development units (PDU) to keep myself in good standing with the Project Management Institute. But this time around I have another something to tack on to “earn enough PDUs to keep current” goal; earn the newish PMI  Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) as well.

Getting this certification makes some sense. First off, I am attracted to the agile lifestyle. And I have spent my career running lighter weight projects that lend themselves to agile thinking and execution. Those facts alone beg me to engage and learn more and certify.

To that end, I am going to write a series of articles on the reference books, my ACP test preparation and hopefully some analysis and critiques of the thinking in the agile community as presented in the reference materials and blogosphere.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix Resources

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix – Technique

The Project selection decision matrix technique described here is a project management best practice as defined by the project management institute (PMI). Except the PMI would call this a scoring model.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix - Websites

American Society for Quality
This site has a pretty good description of using a decision matrix but be prepared to wade through some technical terms and general geekery.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix - Books

Practical Project Initiation: A Handbook with Tools (Best Practices (Microsoft)) - Karl E. Wiegers
This book is among the best I have seen for down to earth practical project management techniques. And the section on project selection is excellent. This book is highly recommended.

Website Project Selection Decision Matrix Organization Roll Out

Now that we have made our website project selection matrix, here are a couple of tips to rolling out your website project selection decision matrix into your organization a success:

Tailor your impact driver list – The example’s impact driver list isn’t the right impact list for your group, so you will want to tailor it. Some of types of impact drivers you might want to add are: financial performance (Internal rate of return, project payback), technical (complexity, reusability), resources (funding, staff, materials cost), strategic value (project strategic fit, strategic direction fit), risk (business, technical). I'd recommend at least 6 impact drivers but less than 12 with a good balance between technical and business drivers.

Set a minimum impact score – Make a minimum impact score that a project must score above to be implemented. This will weed out the projects that are simply not worth the money to implement and save a lot of needless discussion.

Set up a project selection group – Try to build a group of decision makers, not lackeys, from the business, marketing, and technical groups you do work for. Use this group to help guide the project selection process. I’d recommend meeting with this group at least quarterly.

Work through the decision matrix as a group – Working through the decision matrix as a group will help everyone understand each project’s issues and trade offs, and help draw consensus between the groups where it’s possible. Where consensus is not possible, I recommend that you, as the website honcho, break the tie.

Develop a high-level project roadmap - Project selection using this process is great but when can they generally expect these great projects to be complete? A high-level schedule of upcoming projects, also called a project roadmap, will help everyone understand when the good stuff is scheduled to appear.

It's pretty easy to see how using a project selection decision matrix can really transform the way your organization thinks about projects. It may be so transformational that you could see the folks sponsoring projects think about the value of a new project before they propose them. Give the decision matrix process a try in your organization and let me know how it goes.

Interested in learning more about a decision matrix?

Website Project Roadmap Resources

Website Project Roadmap Technique

Creating a project roadmap for a set of projects or a program is a pretty common thing as a quick google search points out but there is almost no information about to make one. I find this interesting because ongoing set of projects, often called a program, almost always has a need for a roadmap as a lightweight planning and communication tool.

The closest project management technique like the one documented here this is Technology Roadmapping. Technology Roadmapping is a product management technique, which starts by identifying a set of business need then defines a set of projects to deliver the solution at a high level. Similar to the technique I have described but adds a large strategic planning element and a lot more rigor.

Website Project Roadmap Resources – Books

Good luck finding any books on this topic. I can’t find any books that cover it specifically or generally. Let me know if you can find any.

Website Project Roadmap Resources – Websites

There are very few resources on how to make a project roadmap. But technology roadmapping has some good ideas on how to mix in more strategy and rigor to the process that I have described.

Sopheon makes a software product which help with the process of technology roadmapping. And have a great article on the process.

Yeah, I know that wikipedia isn't the most reliable source of information, but the ideas in this article are pretty good. I reviewed it on March 30, 2008.

Website Project Roadmap Organizational Rollout

After you get your website project roadmap done your next step is getting it out there in your organization. These activities will help make that happen successfully:

Preview your first roadmap – Folks all over your organization might be shocked when they see the first roadmap. Maybe their project isn’t on there. Maybe their project is different than what they want. Maybe They don’t quite understand what the roadmap is. Whatever the case, it’s worth your time to preview the first version as a “work in progress” to your team, your boss, and project sponsors. This is best done in person.

Update it or it dies – Your project roadmap will change frequently: after releasing a project, substantial change of project dates or as projects are added and deleted. And if you don’t update the roadmap when the plan changes, it will be constantly out of date and folks will start to ignore it. Use the roadmap as a good excuse to communicate your bright shiny future whenever you get the chance.

Soften the blow personally – When a project sponsor or other significant person is adversely affected by a project roadmap change, it’s a good idea to talk to the person before you send out an updated project roadmap. Blindsiding someone with bad news using a public document like your roadmap is never a good thing.

Widely distribute the website project roadmap – Get the roadmap out some place so that folks can see it. I’d recommend your intranet site as a good place to store the most recent version of the roadmap.

Now after working through the why, how and org roll out of website project roadmap, don’t you think it’s time to put one together? It’s not hard to pull together, I’d say an afternoon or two, and the benefits are simply huge. Create a website project roadmap for your organization, roll it out and let me know how it goes.

Want to learn more about website project roadmaps? Check out the website project roadmap resources.

Website Content Management Done Right

I thought that by 2011 every website would have content management figured out. One way of solving the content management system conundrum would have emerged and everyone would be doing it. But guess what? It’s still a free-for-all out there.

Some folks swear by home grown stuff. Others like open source solutions. And others have gone all out and purchased a big package to solve the problem.

And I guess that makes sense. There just isn’t one solution that works for every site and every organization. There is too much diversity in what folks want out of their content management system (CMS) and processes.

But even with the diversity of needs out there, I do think there is a sweet spot of “just enough” CMS. A place where you get enough CMS to get ease of use and efficiency but not so much that you kill creativity and agility. Check out the article “The CMS Sweet Spot” for the details.

Regardless where you end up with a content management system, there are a set of issues critical to figure out if you want to run a content rich website and keep from hiring a legion of web producers to keep the lights on. More specifically, I’d say that there are 6 issues you should get figured out to make CMS work well for your organization:
  1. Didn’t We Just do Something Like That? When your group cranks out the same project over and over, then it isn’t a project - it’s content production. Separating the projects that tend to require more up front work and client interaction from the day-to-day “update this section, launch this product, post this press release, change this page” sort of stuff will save so much effort that it will amaze you.
  2. Release a Release Checklist – Wouldn’t it be great if you could know when the project is ready to release instead of just guessing? It would be great if you could move the “it’s done” decision from gut-feel to science. And that is exactly what a release checklist will do. A release checklist for projects and content production items introduces a touch of science in what is typically an emotional call.
  3. Find Your Site Design Guide – You probably have a site design guide. Somewhere. If it was up to date, maybe you could avoid that “I want my project to work completely different than the rest of the site” conversation again. And you could avoid a lot of work too.
  4. It’s Supposed To Be Easy, Right? – I have never seen a website that wasn’t supposed to be easy to use. But few folks really get in there and test their content, information architecture or functionality to figure out if it is easy to use. There is so much value in just a little testing that once you start your team will be hooked on getting first hand feed back from real users.
  5. If You Don’t Track Bugs They Will Squash You – It’s simple. If you don’t track bugs, they don’t get fixed. And lots of defects on your site will kill its effectiveness. Plus with tons of cheap hosted or onsite bug database options, there isn’t a reason not to have one. Most bug tracking software will even help you track issues, too.
  6. Perfect Your Release Process – Getting content and functionality from the website group live on to the site reliably is a must. If your team can’t do it perfectly every time, then getting it perfected should be next on your to do list. Not hard to do but critical to do.
Nothing on the list is rocket science but there are a lot of meaty issues to get figured out. The nice part is that whatever CMS you pick to get these issues worked out will first make things all that much easier to get your content management system straightened out. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.