Managing digital projects is a peculiar activity, as not only does it require analytical skills and rigorous planning, it also needs a dollop of creativity and brazenness.
This guide outlines the different steps of a digital project, as well as tips & tricks to lead your digital projects to success. But before you get started, let’s define what makes digital projects so special.
What is a digital project?
A digital project refers to projects whose deliverables are digital, as opposed to physical products. These could be such projects as building a website, an e-commerce platform or a mobile app.
They usually feature an extensive conception phase, which encompasses the technical development of the project, but also content and data management, graphic design and a variety of marketing aspects.
How different is it from traditional projects?
A digital project is often the online expansion of one or more of the activities of an organization. As such, the entire spectrum of business areas and skill sets that exist within the company is represented in a compact, synthetic form in the project team. It usually includes collaborators from the sales, marketing, communication, legal or HR departments.
This is what makes digital projects so different from most other types of projects. This means being able to coordinate and integrate different people from a wide range of backgrounds is essential. Digital project managers must be able to provide a global vision, understand the challenges encountered by all business departments and provide adequate guidance.
The different types of digital projects
As one might expect, there are numerous types of projects that pertain to the digital realm. The rapid development of the Internet and mobile have prompted companies to adapt in creative ways to new customer habits and changing needs.
However, below are 4 examples of the most common types of digital projects to help you grasp the concept.
Creating a website
Typical websites often take the form of an online display for the company to showcase their latest products, a blog to share their business expertise, a press-oriented website or a corporate media.
In any case, the website should be built with the following elements in mind:
- It should spread your brand identity and its values (logo, graphic charter, value proposition…),
- It should provide a rich and smooth User Experience (UX) across all kinds of devices (mobile, desktop, tablet) by complying with standards such as responsive design,
- It should be optimized for search engines (SEO-friendly) to bring in more organic traffic and integrate well with social networks.
⏳ Duration: about 1 week (for 20 web pages)
🛠 Tools: CMS software such as WordPress
Carrying out an e-Commerce project
An e-commerce website is an online point of sale dedicated to only one seller. These have gotten scarcer lately due to the rise of e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. However, they still bring in revenue for brands that enjoy strong recognition.
Your e-commerce business will thrive if:
- It has access to a reliable information system: inventory management, price and logistics management should all be integrated and efficient,
- It provides a great User Experience while being SEO-friendly.
⏳ Duration: about 3 months
🛠 Tools: e-commerce software and solutions such as Shopify
Building a marketplace
Online marketplaces feature many sellers and allow them to offer their products to a wider audience through a popular website. Their main characteristics are:
- A large choice of products,
- A very comprehensive and efficient inventory management system, including shipping and price tracking,
- A strong online presence thanks to the volume of traffic and SEO.
⏳ Duration: about 6 months via a SaaS tool, or years in the case of a custom solution
Creating a web app
The web is going mobile as users become more and more familiar with the possibilities offered by their smartphone and mobile networks become quicker and more reliable. 4G has allowed for the web to become truly functional on mobile devices, and 5G will open brand-new possibilities. This is why web apps have become a popular option for companies looking to expand their online presence.
Some requirements to launch such a project include:
- Offering a relevant user experience to give your clients a reason to install the app,
- Being built on an efficient technical platform, as responsiveness is paramount on mobile,
- Having a high enough brand awareness to stand out.
⏳ Duration: from 6 months to a couple of years depending on the complexity of the project
🛠 Tools: specific development platforms and tools
The 6 Steps to digital project management
Digital projects usually follow the same steps as other IT projects and software development projects.
1. Needs analysis
Though there are no physical deliverables, there are deliverables nonetheless, hence why writing down project specifications is still essential to the success of your endeavor. Also called the project charter, this document outlines the prerequisites and technical features the final release should include.
It will be used to evaluate the feasibility of the project, set quality standards and ensure the goals are clear and attainable. Be sure to use quantitative and qualitative metrics to define your objectives, and build mockups to give a visual representation of what the end product should look like.
2. Team building
The project team is the cornerstone of any project. Once the scope of the project has been agreed upon, you may set up an internal project team or hire an external agency to conduct the project. Team members should have the experience needed to evaluate the time and budget that should be allocated to the project.
A typical digital project team includes software or web developers, a UX designer, a Product Owner and/or a project manager, and work closely with all kinds of stakeholders and business departments to collect their needs.
The planning process is one of the most important parts of the project life cycle. By using tools such as the WBS method, you should be able to divide the project into smaller tasks, therefore making it easier to estimate the time and resources needed to complete your missions.
In the case of a digital project, these tasks usually fall into the following categories:
- Web development (back end & front end),
- Technical tasks (hosting, security, backups),
- Design, including graphic design and UX design,
- Content management,
- Marketing (landing pages, user tracking & analytics).
Based on the list of tasks, resources and project specifications, the team can come up with a project plan to guide them through the roadmap. The latter will be built differently depending on the project management method chosen.
In software development, the method of choice is often an agile methodology, which is organized in short development cycles called sprints. The requirements are translated into user stories and planned using a backlog and a ticketing system.
4. Design & development
The development phase is when the team must work together to deliver the website, app or marketplace. This corresponds to the operational execution of the project and includes activities such as:
- Choosing the domain and the hosting provider,
- Building the website or application using programming languages or no-code tools like a CMS,
- Writing and integrating content, creating visuals,
- Configuring web marketing and tracking tools such as Google Analytics,
- Integrating marketing strategies (newsletter, landing pages…).
5. Review & testing
Quality is checked regularly by testers and the Product Owner. The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is built as quickly as possible, and each release adds features at the end of each sprint. Steps 4 & 5 are repeated throughout an iterative and incremental process to make the product better while staying agile and open to quick changes.
6. Release & launch
Once quality standards are met and features ready, the website, app or marketplace can be launched. However, that doesn’t mean the project is finished: now is time to acquire an audience and monetize the traffic.
There are many good options to explore, including:
- Setting up e-marketing or e-reputation strategies,
- Leveraging the power of social media (LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook…),
- Guest-blogging on relevant topics,
- Launching content marketing campaigns and email campaigns,
- Launching paid marketing (SEA) campaigns (using AdWords or similar services).
5 tips for successful digital projects
Now that the theoretical part of digital projects is covered, you can make the most out of our operational tips to help you throughout the development of your web project.
1. Devise a global strategy
Since the project is often the next step to expanding your existing activities, isolating the project from your business as a whole is doomed to fail. The objectives of your mobile app, website or marketplace should align with the global strategy of your business.
Customers are used to navigating both the online and offline worlds, thus you should be able to provide a coherent customer experience across all kinds of platforms: the most successful companies have adopted phygital strategies to provide a unique ecosystem of convenient services.
2. Do less but do it better
Projects can sometimes derive into cumbersome, time-consuming endeavors that may or may not end up delivering useless results. Be sure to keep in control of where your project is headed to avoid ending up with something too big for its own good.
|Developing ambitious features that may offer poor ROI||Creating an MVP, testing it after each iteration and building the desired product progressively|
|Writing lots of uninspired, generic content||Writing a few pieces of inspiring content to showcase your expertise, ordering them into relevant categories|
|Copying/Pasting the terms and policies of other websites||Entrusting compliance to a skilled lawyer|
|Incorporating CTAs all over your website||Placing a few relevant CTAs following UX guidelines|
3. Adopt an effective project management methodology
There are different project management methodologies. The agile methodology is the one used most often in digital project management, as it suits development cycles and the changing environment of software development.
However, there are other methods you can use, such as:
- Traditional project management methodologies (Waterfall, V-cycle…),
- Different agile frameworks (Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming…).
4. Observe rather than guess
Collecting data and relevant metrics is easier than ever before, as is analyzing these KPIs using a dashboard. Taking data-driven decisions is essential, as numbers reflect facts rather than mere feelings or impressions.
Use the analytics features provided by the best project management tools to keep track of your project, and analyze customer behavior using Google Analytics once your website is up and running to gain valuable insight.
5. Try and try again!
Projects involve risks, and while it is important to anticipate threats, the incremental nature of software development and marketing should encourage you to be creative and think out of the box.
Don’t waste your time trying to reinvent UX principles of web marketing strategies, only huge corporations with lots of resources can afford such eccentricities. On the other hand, make sure to use methods such as A/B testing to improve ROI and tweak some details on your website.
Combining analytics with marketing automation tools can help you grow your revenue and take the best path to success!
Improving your digital project management skills
Managing digital projects is very interesting and challenging, as it requires advanced project management skills to coordinate teams from different backgrounds and with various skill sets.
The Product Owner and their team need to strike a balance between creativity and efficiency, hence why methods such as agile and scrum were born to cater specifically to this type of project.
With this knowledge and our tips, you may very well end up creating a revolutionary web app!