Categories: Manage People
I pay attention to your comments, believe me. This post, in fact, was driven by comments to an article of mine on ProjectManagement.com. Daniel Moskowitz and Luis Branco requested more information on techniques I wrote about in Improve Stakeholder Relations by Adding a Social Component related to building a project web share site that will be effective for stakeholders. I got started on my response to the comments and it turned into almost two full posts.
The goal, according to the original article, is to have a project share site that not only works for your project team, but also attracts stakeholders and has useful and timely information they need to keep them doing their job in the project, however that is defined.
These design ideas and communication enhancers are based on sites I have created and also from what I have seen done by others. Always keep your audience in mind. Stakeholders do a lot and your project is just a small part of their work life. They may have just minutes to understand what is happening in your project and be able to respond/participate properly.
What to Place Front & Center
Provide stakeholders with what they need immediately or with just a click. Give them basic context.
- Put a title and summary at the top to clearly explain that the purpose of the site is more than to house project documents but is in part to meet stakeholder needs.
- Next, place a brief "What's Happening Now" with text and links to related status files and deliverables. For example, if you are gathering requirements, state that and describe the work sessions and review meetings that are happening (with dates if a calendar is not part of the site) and link to the latest draft requirements document. Put a link to the email of someone who can answer questions and add people to meetings.
- This is the spot to place the link to the discussion area and specifically the discussion connected to what is happening now. Some applications may allow you to display the last items in the discussion in kind of a snapshot on your project Home page.
- Be diligent about keeping this section updated. It will be a key landing point for your "push" emails that send stakeholders to the site. More on these later.
To summarize, then, your "front and center" content should include
- Current activity summary description
- Link to files that are related to those current activities
- Link to meetings, activities and team members that are related to those current activities
- Links to discussions, showing recent posts if possible
Other Content & Where to Place It
The application you use to build your project site typically allows you to format your page with one or two "rails" on the sides for additional content, links, announcements, etc. that are not important or urgent enough to put "front and center". They can contain links to other areas of the site. You can also use the area below the "front and center" section for additional detail that is more static.
- Links to document repositories for use by project team members who know the organization of the folders
- Announcement bullets and link to archive of communications from the project.
- Upcoming events and link to project calendar
- It may also be useful to include an embedded presentation that summarizes project foundational information, especially when you have new stakeholders added later during the project. This will allow new people to catch up on the basics without involving you or your team in excessive rework.
Avoid These Design Mistakes
It's easy to become excited about what you can do, but a common problem is putting in too much content on the Home page that must be updated. Soon, for various reasons, you will have less time and desire to manage this page. If someone else is updating the page, perhaps there is less of a problem.
Look critically at what you create to see that you have not simply left the design to "default" or "common" without thinking about stakeholders.
- Unnecessary navigation - Stakeholders do not want to navigate through folder layers that make sense only to the person who organized them. Keep direct links to the latest summary updates, statuses, files, etc. front and center.
- Lack of background - Stakeholders, especially those who get involved later in the project, need a quick briefing on your project. Make this easily available, but don't let it take up the whole Home page which is commonly seen. Make it available by a link, even if it is a presentation.
In my next post, I will describe more about applications that are used and using "push" and "pull" emails.