Grzegorz Ścisło

e-point International CEO

New Portal Project Management: Getting Internal IT Teams On Board

PortalsTechnologyProject Management

Implementing a new CMS (content management system) that will support a web portal is a complex technological project. It requires engaging with specialists from various parts of the company. Among these, the internal IT team plays quite a special role.

Employing IT leaders’ knowledge and skill is a key factor in the success of the project. Yet collaborating with the IT department can frequently be a source of tension or conflict. Careful preparation is needed for a fruitful partnership.

How to Prepare for Talks with IT

The business head’s attitude toward the project is critical to how IT views the planned implementation. If the IT team can see the business head as a competent partner, one who is able to understand their point of view and clearly communicate needs, they will very likely actively participate in the launch of the project. Before introducing the planned design and implementation of a new CMS (the project), you should:

  • Carry out a SMART analysis and set project goals.
  • Establish areas where support from IT will be necessary.
  • Create a preliminary project roadmap.

It’s an old adage that any team's efficiency depends largely on the motivation of its members.  IT employees may naturally have individual concerns about the new project or that the specifics of the proposed CMS may cause problems. This, in turn, can make them less motivated to support the venture.

SMART Analysis

Defining which business issue the new CMS-based portal will solve is the starting point for the project launch. A clear definition allows us to precisely determine project goals, monitor work progress, and measure outcomes. While setting the goals, using the SMART method ensures they are:

  • Specific – Unambiguous and equally understandable to all project participants; no need to rely on individual leaders’ interpretations.
  • Measurable – Formulated so we can clearly evaluate the extent to which various steps have been accomplished.
  • Achievable – Realistic and implementable.
  • Relevant – Providing real value to a particular entity, e.g. the company, a department, business partners, etc.
  • Time-bound – Possessing a clearly-defined time frame, including dates for delivering subsequent project stages.

This organization and clarification of goals will facilitate prioritizing tasks and particular elements. It will be reflected both in the work schedule and in the technical design of the system itself.

Defining IT’s Role in Implementing the Portal

The internal IT department’s scope of duties may differ considerably among organizations. The priority may go to ensuring the stability of the supported solutions or to proactivity in employing modern and untested technologies to take the organization to new levels. These varying priorities result in different levels of IT team engagement in CMS projects.

The best moment for introducing IT to the project implementation depends on your IT team's priorities and the role it plays in your company.

IT activity in implementing a new CMS system (design, launch, implementation, and maintenance) will fall into one or more of the following areas. It is quite possible for IT to be involved in multiple areas at the same time:

  • Area I - Support for implementing the entire project:
    • Stipulating technical requirements.
    • Defining non-functional requirements.
    • Maintaining infrastructure (in-house/cloud).
    • Verification of the CMS (code, documentation) delivered by the supplier.
  • Area II - Active participation in the CMS implementation:
    • Creating infrastructure (in-house/cloud).
    • Internal development of the CMS with the support of an external supplier or external CMS system development by the supplier with the IT department’s active participation.
  • Area III - Active participation in maintaining the developed CMS:
    • Maintaining the system and/or infrastructure.
    • Running safety/penetration tests.
    • Running efficiency tests.
    • Conducting periodical quality tests of the code delivered by the supplier.

Creating a Preliminary Project Roadmap

The preliminary project roadmap is a high-level graphic overview of goals and products presented against a timeline. Its purpose is to facilitate the management of stakeholders' expectations, the communication of plans, and the coordination of resources with other teams. For a roadmap to be useful, it should be coherent and focused on the general presentation of the planned project, omitting any  unnecessary details. Detailed information may later be placed in the project roadmap, but too much data at the early stages will prevent proper comprehension.

The preliminary roadmap should include the following information:
  • Project goals and tasks.
  • Schedule/timeline.
  • Major milestones.
  • Potential risks.

Addressing Potential IT Concerns

From the outset, the project’s business head should approach this implementation from the internal IT department's point of view.  At the start, the head should address the question "What is the reputation of the IT team in my organization"?. And then: "Can the implementation of the new project affect this reputation?". If the CMS project could tarnish their reputation, don’t be startled to see IT team members being less than optimistic about the venture. A good example illustrating this situation may be a monthly IT team appraisal based on the number of open service requests. A new system initially has statistically more requests, which affects that performance indicator.

It should be also kept in mind that IT team members, just like everyone else, may dread the additional workload caused by the new project.

The table below outlines standard IT team concerns and ways of mitigating them, taking into account the area of engagement in the project (according to the above-presented description of areas).

Concern

Mitigation per the area of IT team activity in project implementatio

 

 

 

 

Should the IT team, with no practical experience in this type of project, actively engage in the implementation of the CMS system?

Area II

CMS system implementation requires pooling experience and skills in the following areas:
  • Designing content architecture and visual elements based on a collection of components in a given CMS platform.
  • Implementing a modern user interface in line with graphic design and UX guidelines, operating in RWD, under all popular browsers, in compliance with WCAG guidelines.
  • Knowledge of the CMS platform that allows the team to quickly implement any lacking functionalities that are necessary to the business.
  • Ability to optimally configure the CMS platform on the required infrastructure for maximum efficiency and safety.

Obtaining the above-mentioned skills and experiences in an IT team that is perfectly equipped to support the current business of an organization constitutes additional effort (cost).

This cost will not be returned with the implementation of just one CMS system; thus, it may be reasonable to consider using an experienced, knowledgeable supplier who has already delivered many CMS platform implementations. 

 

 

The project will take longer to implement and runs a risk of delays

Area I and III

  • Invitation to cooperation at the stage of the inquiry (RFP).
  • Engaging an IT representative in planning.
  • Regular provision of project progress reports to IT.

Area II

  • IT will usually add its PM to the team and this point will no longer be an issue.

 

 

The portal will introduce a new technology to the company

Area I and III

  • Proposal to add training courses for the new technology organized by the supplier to  the RFP or planning a budget for suitable external training courses.

Area II

  • Planning external training courses in the new technology for IT under the project budget.

 

The new system will be unstable

Area I and III

  • Highlighting the importance of acceptance tests in subsequent phases of the project, including end-to-end tests for subsequent stages.
  • Indicating the role of the stabilization period and supplier's support during this time.

 

 

Implementation will require changes to the organization and the existing systems

Area I and III


Ensuring that:

  • IT will hold complete control of the introduced changes.
  • Thanks to ongoing cooperation with the business head, IT will receive early signals with regard to the changes in the existing systems expected by the supplier.
  • IT will have a say in the talks with the supplier in order to minimize the number of changes in the existing systems.

Area II

  • The IT-side PM has a say in decisions concerning this area.

 

 

A new solution will replace the familiar operating system


Communicating that:

  • The new system will be based on more advanced technologies, so it will be more stable and easier to maintain.
  • New technologies mean easier access to the knowledge and specialists on the market.
  • Thanks to the implementation, the IT team will acquire new skills in these new technologies.

 

Project Managers Hold the Keys to Smooth Cooperation with IT

To make the implementation of a new portal a success, it is important to ensure adequate cooperation between all parties engaged in the venture. For this reason, the role of the project manager is vital. It is the PM who has a decisive impact on building relations across the team, and their approach to collaboration with IT is a key decider in project success.