Five Reasons to Phase Your Next Digital Project (or you'll regret it!)

Jul 21, 2014Marketing Strategy


I’ve participated on a number of digital projects in my time. From large (6-figure budgets) to small projects (like this website, for example), I’ve learned a few things over the years.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to allow your digital projects to be delivered in a phased approach. This can mean a more formal agile design & development process or a waterfall process that allows for multiple delivery points.

Reason #5 – Technology Trends

This reason may primarily apply to longer projects, but with technology and trends (especially in digital and social media) changing so rapidly, it’s in your best interest to be flexible enough to account for some of this inevitable change. I don’t like the “what-if” game, but what if a new social media platform takes off while your project is underway? How large of an impact would it be to integrate with that new promotional medium? What if target audience screen sizes change dramatically from the beginning to the end of the project? It’s easy to get mired in the “what-if’s”, but your process should allow for some change.

Reason #4 – Fickle Customers

As an agency or digital professional, you do everything you can to account for “what” is to be built. Stakeholder interviews are likely conducted, briefs are written to summarize priorities, functional specs, technical specs and other documentation is produced before a single line of code is written. But clients can still be fickle and change their minds. What was once a priority at the start of the project is now #6 on the list, replaced by other, higher priority features or tasks. Remember reason #1 above? The client learns as they go as well, and even the most informed clients may change their priorities mid-way through a project.

Reason #3 – Unforeseen Circumstances

I’ve been there before as a Scrum Master and digital project manager – you’re asked to lay out a timeline for a project. You try to account for things like vacation and holiday time, but it’s nearly impossible to account for everything. Sickness? It’s going to happen. Natural disaster? Quite possibly. Hard requirements and hard deadlines dramatically increase the chance of failure in my experience. A more flexible delivery timeline that allows for multiple releases over numerous phases or versions provides more flexibility to the project timeline and a greater chance of success.

Reason #2 – Time, Budget, Quality Opposing Parameters

A wise person once said that all projects are limited by 3 factors (the project management triangle): time, budget and quality. As a client, you can only pick two. Phasing your project puts time on your side, allowing you to focus on budget and quality as you deliver new features.

Reason #1 – You Learn as You Go

How many times have you made the statement, “I wish I would have known THAT in the beginning of the project.”? If you’re anything like me, probably a lot.

Even the most prepared and organized project teams learn throughout the project. Whether you’re the client or the project development team, it’s impossible to know everything at the beginning. Phasing your digital project’s functionality allows for you to account for the learning you’ll receive throughout the project. Nothing is ever perfect in ‘version 1.0’ and it can be a lot easier to adjust as you go rather than take notes and try to apply change after the fact.

What do you think?

Are there other reasons you can think of to provide phases to your digital project? What are the downsides to agile development or release of a project in multiple phases? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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