Your company’s business development team just announced a new Drupal project has been given the green light, and you will be the project manager. What do you need to do to help your development and strategy teams succeed in giving the client the best possible experience and product? You need to ask the right questions.
3 questions to ask regardless of the CMS in play
The project manager of any technical project, leveraging Drupal or some other CMS, should first and foremost ask:
1. Where is the Statement of Work (SOW) and how do I access it?
The SOW should:
- lay out the scope of the project, including functionality, travel and training expectations;
- provide you with a start and expected end date;
- tell you the budget;
- explain the agreed upon change order process to handle any new requirements that may come up during the project.
PM Tip: Tap into the knowledge of those who came before you!
In addition to the written knowledge in the SOW, don’t forget to speak to the business development team about their interactions with the client. Did the client mention any pain points? Does the anticipated launch date correspond with a business need and is therefore a “must have” instead of a “nice to have?” Any insight into the personalities of the various stakeholders? And remember to talk to your fellow PMs too– have they worked on similar projects or with similar clients?
2. What project management methodology are you using for this project - Agile, Waterfall or something in between?
If you use Agile, your project plan will need to account for the collaborative nature of the project – expect more back and forth discussions and meetings with stakeholders throughout the process. If using Waterfall, you should account for the upfront requirements gathering that needs to take place before the development can begin. Either way, your project plan should fit the needs of both the client and your internal team to get the project done right.
3. What are the best talent resources you have available to fit the specific needs of this project?
Based on the SOW, who is going to be on your team? You should consider not only the special talents of your available resources but also the preferred working styles of the team members, and how they will mesh with the client and each other. It goes without saying that you should provide a front end developer if the contract includes applying a design, for example, but there are subtler considerations too. Maybe the client has expressed an interest in knowing how things work instead of just seeing the end result of the technology. In this scenario, you’d try to engage a developer who wants to share his or her knowledge and enjoys client interactions.
PM Tip: Nothing beats a real conversation!
Get to know your development and strategy teams by picking up the phone or walking over to have a face to face conversation. Reading a bio or an IM thread is great but nothing beats talking to the person – simple human to human interaction is still the best indication of who the person is behind the talent.
Questions to ask for a Drupal CMS
In addition to the aforementioned considerations, a project manager about to start a Drupal CMS project could benefit from knowing the answers to a few more questions:
1. In what platform is the current site built and which version of Drupal is the most appropriate for the client’s needs?
2. What are the hidden “it happens by magic” moments in this new project – aspects of the project that the client might not recognize as heavy lifts or even considerations for your team and therefore might not directly call it to your attention?
Your Client’s Customers and Other Vendor Relationships
A project manager must establish a foundational understanding of the client’s customers and have a full view of all third-party vendor relationships in the mix. This process sometimes involves decoding client requests:
- Client says “We have members or donors and want to track their behavior.”
Single Sign on or other API
- Client says “We have members who want to login once and be able to see everything across the online communities we provide them.”
SOLR Search Functionality
- Client says “We have members who want to login once and be able to search the content in all uploaded files and conduct mini searches within our publications to find what they need quickly.”
Every client must be satisfied that the security measures behind their new Drupal website are aligned with their unique business needs. Many times, clients take security for granted but it is the project manager's job to make sure a client's trust is earned and proven well-placed:
- Client says “We need to be secure.”
- Client says “We need to be secure because we are collecting money.”
High Availability Server
- Client says “We need to be secure because we are collecting a crazy amount of money from our 1 million transactions a day.”
- Client says “We need to be secure because we are collecting a crazy amount of money from our 1 million transactions a day for our multiple concert events each week.”
In the end, the worst thing a project manager can do is ask nothing and just hope the project works itself out. A project team’s success and a client’s great experience is made or broken largely in between the sentences of the contract and outside the negotiation meeting room. Asking questions and truly listening to the answers given can only lead to good things for your project. In the case of communication, you can never have too much of a good thing.