Project management for WordPress: Setting a communication schedule
Communication is a vital part of your project’s success. Find out how to keep your WordPress build on track by setting an effective communication schedule.
Something I always struggle with when building a site is phone calls. I hate to admit it, but anyone who calls me while I’m coding is probably just wasting their time. I can’t give a status update, I don’t know how the project is progressing or have a list of what still needs to be done. In fact, my mind is somewhere else entirely. While I’m struggling to form coherent sentences, my brain is still busy working on the code I was just writing.
It’s a terrible experience for everybody: my workflow is interrupted; the caller is worried that they are working with an idiot; and all because we used the wrong communication method at the wrong time.
A website build project is a complex thing. With lots of processes that rely on each other, and coordination required between clients, project managers, designers and developers, it can be difficult to keep track of what everyone is up to. Put those people in different locations and the complexity ramps up even further.
In modern WordPress projects, managing expectations is the order of the day. If team members can’t talk to each other all the time, it’s important to set some clear communication ground rules:
- Define roles and responsibilities
Who is going to do what
- Choose tools and procedures
How you are going to communicate
- Set a communication schedule
How often you will talk to each other
- Get feedback and iterate
How you will adjust the communication schedule if it’s not working
1. Define roles and responsibilities
Before doing anything else, it’s vital to decide who is responsible for each aspect of the project. Often this is obvious – it’s fairly clear that designers will be responsible for the design, and developers are responsible for the build itself. However, with more complex builds, and on projects where you have multiple organisations working together, it’s a good chance to make things explicit, and pick up early on any ambiguity or lack of clarity.
Below you can see an example of how responsibilities might be allocated on a WordPress build where a client is working with a design agency and a separate remote web development team.
|Focus on creative direction, client needs, and project vision
|Web development team
|Technical challenges, progress updates, and clarifications
|Overall progress, key milestones, and decision-making
2. Choose tools and procedures
These days, there are so many different tools you can use to manage communication. Which one(s) you choose may depend on a number of factors, e.g.
- How quickly you need a response
- Whether you need an easily-accessible permanent record of the communication
- The working hours of all the different parties involved
You may also wish to use different tools and procedures at different stages of the project.
When you need to have a conversation – for example at the start of a project where there’s likely to be a lot of information gathering and discussion – synchronous tools are usually the best solution. These include things like audio or video calls via software like Zoom or Teams, or instant messaging platforms such as Slack.
Later in the project – such as during the design and development stages – you might find that asynchronous tools such as emails, project management software (like Trello and Asana), and shared documents( such as Google Docs and Notion) might work better.
Once you have agreed on the tools you are going to use for the project, it’s important to decide on the communication rules you will follow, so that everybody knows what is expected of them throughout the entire project.
Some typical procedures include:
- Learning everyone’s working hours so that meetings can be scheduled at mutually agreeable times
- Designating primary points of contact for different needs
- Crafting a communication guideline: When to use email vs. instant messaging vs. a call
- Setting expectations for response times based on the medium used
- Trusting remote teams to handle tasks without micro-management
- Setting clear deliverables and check-ins to ensure accountability
3. Set a Communication Schedule
The next step is to set up an initial communication schedule for the project, based on all the decisions you have made so far. This isn’t set in stone – it can be adjusted later as the needs of the project dictate.
As a starting point, you might want to consider:
- Daily Check-ins: These are brief updates, ideally at a consistent time, for immediate team members. These can easily be done as short posts from each team member on an asynchronous platform such as Slack, rather than requiring everyone to get together for a meeting.
- Weekly Updates: More comprehensive progress reports, involving as many people as necessary, to discuss achievements, roadblocks, and next steps.
- Milestone Reviews: Larger meetings with all the project stakeholders, including clients, at predetermined points in the project, typically with a specific goal in mind (e.g. to get design signoff). These typically take place either in-person or by video call.
- Ongoing communication: The daily back-and-forth that happens between team members in the process of doing the work. This can take many forms, from in-person conversations, Slack messages and emails to extensive comment threads in places like Github, Trello or Asana.
4. Get feedback and iterate
The initial communication schedule is just a starting point. If, once the project gets going, you find that you need more frequent (or less frequent) check-ins, add them. If you realise that some team members are putting things in emails that should really be on Trello, adjust.
The key to successful project communication is to be flexible. Check in periodically with both the development team and the client about how well the current communication schedule is working, and make adjustments as needed to ensure optimal collaboration. It’ll pay off in the long run.
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