Recently I wrote about the differences in the expectations, understanding and objectives of the 3 main stakeholders in any web development, business relationship namely the client , the web company and the ethical web professional. I hinted that I may try to come up with a few strategies for dealing with these conflicts from the point of view of the web professional. Well I have and here are 3 of them.
Try to educate both the client and management. Much conflict is the result of a basic misunderstanding between one or more parties. Very often assumptions are made about the level of understanding that has been reached, both on the part of the developer/designer about the management team and on the part of the web company about the client. Left unchecked this can result in the project taking a turn for the worse. For example it is quite common in the industry for people to use words/terms they have heard being used but have never really fully understood what they mean, or for a client to misunderstand an explanation they have been given and were to embarrassed to ask for clarification in case they would appear silly. Do take time to ensure that everyone really is on the same page. It is worth the effort at an early stage and will definitely nip problems in the bud.
Empower clients. Make sure they are freed up from thinking about web stuff and focus on what they do know, there own business. Educate them as to their role in the process. Once they realise that you do not expect them to come to you with a web solution in mind they will be able to relax and provide you only with the information you expect from them.
Often clients don’t know how to take their business forward, step in and educate then as to the possibilities that are available. Keep them focused on the business aspect of the process and later you can spend sometime translating all the information and requirements you have collected into a suitable web solution.
Make sure that your communication is good, polite and frequent. Make sure there is no ambiguity, whether it is in an email or during a meeting. Take time to provide clients and management with a plan. Make clear your assumptions. From the start make sure everyone understands what will be included and what will not.
Never say never, but instead point out that some things will have to wait for a future stage of the project. Remind the client that they cannot have a low budget ,feature rich solution delivered in a short period of time. Often it is better to provide a phased development process, introducing new features after the initial website has been launched. Make sure you communicate to the client that this approach is in their interest and in so doing hopefully you will build a relationship based on trust. It is also vital (and this cannot be stressed enough) that the client can provide you with good quality content at an early stage in the project. This is undoubtedly the biggest contributing factor to a successful web project.
Create a process of review that allows input at the correct time during the development process. If you are unable for whatever reason to get feedback from the right people at the right time then another approach may be to employ a certain amount of flexibility in the design and/or build of the web solution. However this flexibility must be covered in the cost of the project, so build it in to your budget. If you have educated all the stakeholders properly and if the communication lines are keep open and unambiguous then there may be less need to build in this flexibility, and with constant iteration and review the process should run smoothly.