Redefining success for web CMS project teams

It’s been about two weeks since I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Hilary Marsh while presenting our thoughts and ideas about content strategy as it relates to CMS projects at the 2013 Gilbane Conference. The deck from our talk is available on Slideshare and it includes seven content related project risks and the six ways to mitigate or avoid them altogether.

success kid


As always, there was a lot to learn at Gilbane. But something Hilary shared while unpacking the role of a content strategist really resonated with me: Redefine success. In our presentation, among many other salient points, Hilary communicated the idea that redefining success will help a content strategist transcend politics when consulting on web CMS projects. I completely agree with the notion that it is important for everyone to transcend politics, but I also gave a lot of thought to what the idea of redefining success means for a project manager. I quickly decided this pair of words has tremendous depth and value.

Focus on the right outcomes

Any project manager who has worked on a complex, large-scale, design and build engagement with dozens of stakeholders and contributing team members has probably, at one time or another, experienced a narrowing of focus causing over-emphasis on ‘the next deliverable’. This heads down approach may also be coupled with over-reliance on monitoring and influencing scope, schedule, budget, and risk, while managing expectations…Or those things many commonly perceive to be the traditional role of a project manager.

Furthermore, this lack of big picture thinking is not the exclusive domain of overworked project managers. Many user experience architects may sometimes feel they have achieved success when they have delivered wireframes, a designer when they have delivered Photoshop files, a front end developer when they have delivered the templates, and an engineer when the site has been deployed. You can see where this is going…

In some sense, everyone on the team is correct in assuming they have achieved a measure of success when they do a great job as individual contributors. But there is a level of success more important than individual success: Success as a team. And this is not only as a project team on the design and build side…But also successful as a team with client/business stakeholders as well.

I would even go so far as to say it is not enough to have done our individual jobs well, if we fail as a team. Success as a team is a predecessor to individual success.

I have personally spent many years trying to do a better job of understanding, defining and executing the role of a successful project manager: Manage scope, schedule, budget, risk, and expectations. When mentoring new project managers I tell them, in good faith, this is their job. This is what they must do to be successful. And I still believe that to be true.

Everybody can be a leader

However, I would like to add a new role to the roster on a winning CMS Project team: That of a project leader. And just like David Ortiz taught Boston Red Sox fans in the 2013 World Series, anyone or everyone on the team is eligible to wear the leadership hat. Over time I’d like to add more responsibilities to the role of the project leader but for today, their primary purpose can be as simple as continually reminding us all to be successful as a team.

This makes me wonder what it means to be successful as a team? What are the criteria? This is where things can get a little tricky. The answers will most likely vary to some degree from project to project. Metrics for success are an area of knowledge an account manager, project manager, and/or executive sponsor can and should triangulate and communicate early and often. This is a conversation that should happen with business stakeholders to be sure the measurement is attached to business goals and external KPIs. The goal here is to be sure project teams and business decision makers are pulling in the same direction and have a shared vision of a successful outcome.

All that being said, this got us at the CMS Myth wondering: Are there universal metrics for team success to start with? Are there KPIs independent of specific goals related to an individual project? What do you think? We want to know!

About the Author
Jake DiMare

Jake has spent the last 15 years helping organizations plan, design, develop, and implement effective online experiences with a strong focus on large scale web content management systems and integrated online marketing suites. Jake wrote for the CMS Myth during his time working at Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design). Google Plus Profile

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