More planning up front will not only ensure a better result, it’ll save you money too.
It may earn an agency more money, sure, since projects without a predefined structure tend run longer due to lack of planning (earning them more revenue in change orders and scope expansions), but a premiere web design agency will look at the bigger picture, and set off only once a course has been charted.
Some digital agencies will embark on a project without nearly enough planning, not beholden to structure or process—this is dangerous and short-sighted.
A thoughtful program roadmap will quite simply result in faster turnaround and better results, which, in turn, will build a level of trust and increase the chances you may go back to that same agency when it comes time for the next project. In the long run you will both prosper with better planning.
Here are the top 5 signs that you’re not planning enough:
1. Unrealistic Timeline
If you have an overly optimistic timeline, be ready to finish later than scheduled. A top-notch agency will immediately flag an unrealistic timeline.
Beware if you get zero push back on an aggressive timeline.
Either the agency you’re working with doesn’t care that they won’t deliver on time, or they’re not experienced enough to know that the plan is unrealistic. The best way to know if a timeline is aggressive or not is to detail it out as much as possible. Work backward from your launch date and add milestones and deadlines to a calendar.
2. Undocumented Milestones
Unless your project is only going to take one day (yeah, we didn’t think so), you need to setup realistic milestones. Milestones help you and the entire team check in on the project and make sure things are moving along at the right pace and in the right direction.
Bonus: Milestones also force you to break a large project into smaller chunks leveraging the divide and conquer algorithm.
3. No Written Plan
It’s easy to gloss over things when describing and agreeing to something in words, and many holes in a plan become apparent when you write things down.
- Write down your deadlines and milestones.
- Write down your nice-to-have features,
- Your must-have features,
- Your internal dependencies,
- Your external dependencies,
- Your next steps,
- Your questions,
- And anything else you can think of.
Whether you end up using a commercial grade project management solution or just note cards, the important thing is that you get things written down. This will force you to be more realistic, and will help you communicate your vision to others.
4. Lack of Success Metrics
Make sure you’re clear about what success looks like. Having clear metrics helps everyone on the project make solid decisions. Each project has a scope, a budget, and a timeline. You can only fix two of these. The third will be a function of the two you pick. It important that everyone knows the fixed parameters. For example if a short timeline and a well defined MVP are the success metrics, then everyone on the team should be comfortable with asking for more resources, even if they increase the budget.
On the other hand, if a low budget and a short timeline are the success metrics, then everyone on the team should be comfortable simplifying the end product if a feature will cost too much or take too long. Imagine what wild success will look like and describe it to your team. Help everyone work toward success by deciding what to keep track of and measure.
5. No Buffer Time Built In
Finally, no matter how much you plan, things will go wrong. The more complicated your project, the greater the dependencies, the bigger the team, the more things will go wrong. Since both you and your digital agency are highly motivated to complete a project, it can be easy to fall into the trap of being overly optimistic. You’re trying to hit a deadline for a big launch, and your agency is trying to finish a project for the final payment, but you’re in for a rude awakening if you’re not include a buffer in your project plans.