Thursday, 23 June 2011

Types of Interactive Media Projects

With the increase in platform availability from web, mobile, and iTV, and the widening of use from business to social media, the range and type of interactive media projects has increased dramatically over the last few years.

This places an added burden on developers since the type of project together with its intended audience shapes the relevant content and interactivity (interface). The platforms dictate their own interface limitations on top of the concept of relevance as well. So, the mix of decisions has escalated, the work with the client to define the scope of the project has splintered, the need for a strong project management hand in the developers has increased.

We had problems enough to define the type of interactive projects in a business context a few years ago. In the end we took a project management stance looking at the context in which they succeeded and what clients had found going wrong. This included things such as the objectives of the business changing from the agreed objectives during the lifetime of the project so that although the project was completed according to the original scope, time and budget, it didn't then meet with the changed business/market direction. We highlighted other dilemmas where the developers knew more about the interactive market needs than the clients, but the clients didn't listen and then the ultimate project was found by them not to work in the market as they wanted. Finally, we admitted that sometimes projects don't succeed because the users find them too problematic to use. This might occur because the clients dictated the interactive interface without understanding or trialling use, or that the developers didn't stress this as an absolute so that their design didn't function as it should.

We went on to define the type of project an interactive company does according to where their time was spent. This fell under the categories: client, bread and butter, investment projects, Maintenance projects, quick fix, R and D, Good will, Pitches/tenders. (See Chapter 1 of Managing Interactive Media: Project management for Web and Digital Media.)

How one categorises the type of project depends on many factors. Although our concept remains good in principle, it needs expanding perhaps. But where you spend your time and effort might still work for you as a company.

The only other place we can hope to see a definition of project types might lie in the categories of awards put forward by the interactive associations. Take a quick look at these because each awards group defines them very differently and/or concentrate on particular aspects of development. It's fascinating – well we think so. Maybe it'll encourage you to enter some of your projects for awards. Many categories are still open for 2011. Good luck.
  • BIMA (British Interactive Media Association)
  • IMA (Interactive Media Awards)
  • IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group)
  • Europrix

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Scope creep - not our problem

Well wouldn't it be nice if we could say that! It's the bane of every project. But we can and do take measures to control changes/creep, don't we? It's always a good thing to remind ourselves of basic sound principles that will work in our favour and that's the point of this week's spotlight on recent insights into dealing with creep.

Just in case, scope creep means changes to a project that necessitate extra work often wanted for free. Ah! Yes! Remember what it means now? It's those projects where clients keep expanding what they want as they go along after a price has been established for a particular set of needs. There's a lovely admission of guilt from a client who realises they do this at I'm a self-inflicted scope-creeper! Arggh, on Bracket Project's web site, and the comments on this read reassuringly too.

Mind you, sometimes it isn't just the clients who get inspiration and want to change a few things. These ideas can come from your team and management too. Someone has to stand firm and focus all back on the objectives agreed. Is that person you? Often it is part of the project manager's role.

Patsy from Front - web strategy, design and technology studio - in Manning up your project crew defines the roles needed on a web design team recognising that someone has to stand firm on the scope creep issues. She defines the person as a Guardian. Perhaps that appeals to you more than the title Project Manager.

If you're sitting there wondering that it's all very well but how do we stop creep, How to identify and clarify a Project Scope, Dwight Dunkley 6th June 2011, gives strong sharp advice. Do scroll down to the Tips and Advice part of the page to get the most benefit.

Of course we address this a lot in our Chapter 3 Scoping the project in Managing Interactive Media - Project Management for Web and Digital Media, but we're always willing to listen and find a new perspective; anything that can help in one of the most crucial issues to affect our projects. Any more advice is very welcome.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Conflict resolution and the workplace

Those of you that did our project management course will know that this is one of my favourite topics. iMedia teams are necessarily cross-functional with their skill sets and this can lead to more differences of opinion/perspective as a result. Then add in the different personalities and the risk for conflict increases again. It still has not been appreciated that conflict in the workplace has increased in businesses perhaps as a result of workers being squeezed for more work and the tougher working conditions during and continuing after the recession.

I was pleased to find that some figures - meaning monetary values - had started to be put against the cost of conflict in the workplace. Often it is only once a problem has been quantified in terms of money that management realise that minimising this can bring dividends. See Workplace Mediation - Dispute Resolution at Coaching 4 Success, and How to stop Conflict in the Workplace before it Happens, at eHow by Coleen Reinhart, May 2011.

£33 billion in the UK annually makes you think, doesn't it? So much management time, so much team member time and emotions all operating against productivity.

We advocated the use of ground rules where all team members (including management) agree on how to conduct themselves in any discord situation, what procedures to follow and who to use as a mediator if necessary. This signing up to ground rules continues to be a strategy that is recommended but we realised that the culture of some of your organisations might not find this acceptable. The concept of ground rules is reiterated and expanded in the Interest-based Relational Approach (IBR) section of Mindtools , Conflict Resolution - resolving conflict rationally and effectively, and Barbara Bradbury addresses the concept in a lighter fashion in Resolving Conflict - 7 Inspired Tips for leaders, May 2011.

And, just to end on a visual note for those that have a more pictorial learning style, you'll appreciate the myriad images used to try and capture that conflict moment! Which makes most sense to you?

Happy resolutions!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Clients' prior business experiences and the consequences for us

In these financially constrained times it means more to retain your clients rather than put your time and effort into finding new ones. That is, of course, unless the client has more than taken advantage of the relationship to the point that the people involved are in danger of losing your company money!

That said, do you know your company's churn? The average online company churn as of 2 years ago was reported as 98.7%! 60% of first time clients dropped their company within six weeks! See Harris Interactive Src Risk, Churn Win Back Workshop, slide 9. Harris Interactive states that if you retain clients then their value/spend increases with time. Now that can mean a lot.

Why do your clients leave? Have you any intelligence on this? Perhaps you should try to find out. It tends to be the role of the Account Manager/Project Manager to understand the reasons for leaving, but is the intelligence brought together and analysed in terms of your company performance?

Harris Interactive cites several reasons for clients defecting: unmet expectations, low perceived value, competitive attraction, and unexpressed/unresolved complaints. (See slide 14 Causes/Effects of Risk and Churn.) How are you defining defections?

It is hard to find general business information on client reactions and their impact but harder still for interactive media businesses. However, Garry, in his Intelligent Positioning Blog, the Integrating Value section of The Value in Understanding the Customer Journey, May 2011, makes clear statements about the failure of some companies to fully understand the customer experience of their clients. He says that only 30% had looked at mobile habits and only 34% had taken account of social media behaviour.

If what he says is true — that winning a new client costs up to 5 times more than retaining an old one — shouldn't we be analysing the risks of churn?