Friday, 27 August 2010

Project controls - contingency and tolerances

The practice of adding contingency funds onto a project costing has often made clients sceptical. You only have to recognise that the term slush fund is used negatively and that they make the correlation between contingency and slush fund more often than not. If this attitude is present then it undermines the level of trust between you - not good for projects.

Prince2 project management practices ditched the contingency fund concept in its revision in 2009 replacing it with risk fund. They see the fund as linked to unforeseen project risks.

Max Wideman (in Comparing Prince2 and PMBOK)gave a good explanation of the difference between contingency, tolerance and change control in 2003 that can stand today, although remember contingency would be changed to risk fund.
In the context of control, PRINCE2 establishes a good distinction between "tolerance", "contingency" and "change control". Tolerance is the permissible deviation from plan allowed to the project manager without having to bring the deviation to the attention of the project board.

Contingency, in PRINCE2 terms, is a plan including the time and money set aside to carry out the plan, which will only be invoked if a linked risk actually occurs.

Change control is a procedure designed to ensure that the processing of all project issues is controlled, including submission, analysis and decision making.
Remember, we liked the tolerance concept as clients were predisposed to think of this positively. Effectively if you agree with your stakeholders that you have room to manoeuvre within say 10% of time and budget, then you won't have to keep pestering them with small things that impact every project. However, Prince reworked their tolerance concept in the 2009 revamp of project management practices to apply to time and cost, as before, but these are now extended to scope, quality, risk and benefits tolerances.

Elizabeth Harrin's pages are well worth a look as she explains tolerance in detail and defines all of the extensions from the latest version of Prince2 methodology.
Often the difference in perception between positive and negative comes down to the words used – food for thought!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Usability – updated best practice

Here as indicated last week - till I got distracted by that wonderful project management comic strip – is an update on Usability.

Once your clients understand how important usability is to their customers and that it can increase return business at the very least, they have to balance the cost of designing for usability and some pertinent usability testing against their business goals. Just give them some facts and the projected costs. What percentage of your general costs for a project is allocated to Usability?

If you deal in designing and building retail web sites across channels in the UK and US, you may like to tap into a white paper from the IMRG from July 2010 Respect the Shopper: Harmonising the Multi-channel Experience, which looked at shopper behaviour in London and New York across digital channels. It's listed at the bottom of the Usability page.

Then there is a 2009 list from the Tripwire team but it is comprehensive and gives links to loads of Usability sites under categories – even free usability tools!

Usability does call for expertise so you may want to contract it out to specialists. However, it is just as well to keep a level of understanding about what it involves so you can manage the process better.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Snapshot of a web design career? Where's the project management of clients?

I actually began to research the latest on usability of web sites - and maybe that'll come up soon, but I came across such a gem of a potted project process that you should see it! Andy and I are just in one of those uncontrollable laughing/giggling fits (ROFL as they say online) after reading it. And, Andy's going to send it on to one of his favourite clients who fields internal minor changes before involving Andy in the web design.

But before you enjoy the comic strip, the serious side for this is Project Management. When you use it with client control and change control, all the minor and major changes have a cost attached and at least soften the pain!

Very happy reading - we seriously considered the poster too!
Design Hell comic strip

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Localisation, translations and more

The globalisation of the net has actually increased the need for clear, informed translations as each local market and country tries to market globally. Don't assume that just because your company works only in English (and UK English at that), that you won't need to widen your perspectives for some clients in the near future. Web site localisation means translating the site into other languages to appeal better to people speaking those languages – including US English.

We only address the issues in our book in passing as localisation is too big a subject to address by itself. We can only raise awareness and suggest you ask the questions to find out the breadth and depth of what is needed. We investigate the clients' need under the scoping questionnaire at the beginning of a project, and then later guide you in the care needed in trying to cross cultures with communication especially with marketing and branding of products – some words, colours and humour do not transcend some languages and cultures well.

What services can a specialist translation company offer? Is it worth subcontracting a need for localisation? Yes, it is. This is a specialist area needing experienced people to do a quality job. The type of information in the site can increase the specialist need. For example, legal terms, medical or pharmaceutical terms, colloquial style, engineering/manufacturing bias and so on all demand more than a general native or near native speaker of the target language.

Sometimes the result of a mistranslation can be hilariously confusing. When Concorde was being developed, a promotional video was produced and one version was in Arabic. The story goes that during the voiceover session the speaker looked through the script and asked "What are water goats?" This turned out to be hydraulic rams (in the landing gear), although water goats does have a nice feel to it.

A good way to get more aware of the traps in this translation area is to look at a few online translation sites, how they price the different services they offer, how they delineate between the need for the use of highly paid people and the use of facilitators for a quick understanding. It isn't just what information you want to get across, it can also be how well it needs to be put across! In our project management process, we would see this as offering different costings for different levels of quality and allowing the client to decide how much they need an option for which cost. Of course, just as with all the other decisions about your project, you'd need to recognise the client expects translated sites and then probe to see what they want these sites to achieve.

Translating services have increased in complexity, price structure, and sophistication in the last few years. We know, yet another area to keep an eye on in such a complex project management maze as interactive media projects! Worth fifteen minutes, surely.

Browse the following to get a feel for what's on offer and how much it might cost (just for information; we have no experience of or connection with these companies):
There are even specialist software tools for Localisation - of course! SDL offer a few tools for the specialists, and a review of translation software tools 2010 is here:

Check that you are raising the issue of Localisation of digital information at the initial stages with your clients.