Daniel A. Øien
Thursday, 2 May 2024

Successful, long-running websites part 3: Getting Organised

This article series covers the main factors that are important in a website’s creation and evolution, focusing on the client's perspective. It is written primarily with CIOs and CTOs of small to medium organisations in mind.

Building upon the design brief, you can proceed to formalise an agreement and develop the project plan with roles, deliverables and workflows. This assumes that your organisation has selected one or more agencies to engage with – the process of procurement is not within the scope of this series.


Photo: Dimitri Karastelev, Unsplash


The exact form of a development contract will depend on your organisation’s procurement policies and the contracted agency’s (or agencies’) terms. There are however a few key points that should be fully addressed in an agreement.

Project management

Both the cost and responsibility of managing the project should be clearly defined in the agreement, whether or not it is partially or wholly outsourced. The scope of management tasks is easy to underestimate, especially in a project with several participating agencies. It must be specified as part of the agreement and not assumed to be handled as a matter of course. Developing the project plan is part of this work.

Project timeline and deliverables

In addition to specifying the deliverables themselves, the agreement should include a high-level project timeline identifying the main milestones from the design brief and specifying durations and/or dates of expected completion. This helps visualise the initial scope and assumed workload of the project.

Designation of officers

The agreement should specify persons or positions with executive/financial authority and thresholds and procedures for when budget adjustments need to be sent up the chain. This is necessary to avoid uncertainty or delays when approving or requesting changes, and to ensure that any disagreements on specific deliverables can be resolved within the project team.

Project plan

The project plan provides a description of the project phases and their activities and subtasks, along with detailed specifications of deliverables and sub-deliverables. It draws heavily on the design brief and expands it with concrete definitions of what is to be produced, when, by whom, and who approves it.

Developing the plan is part of the contract and primarily carried out by the developing or coordinating agency. However, the client organisation will play an active part in shaping the plan and commit necessary resources to satisfy client deliverables, such as timely feedback and content production.

Project management

Photo: Jason Goodman, Unsplash

Project management tools and workflows

The project plan may specify software tools or project management methods to use, such as Scrum or Kanban-based boards (like Trello or Asana). This will vary according to the complexity of the project and agency/client preferences.

Regardless of tool or method, it’s important that your organisation commits to using them in a disciplined fashion. There should be at least one person or role in your organisation (and active in the project) that is responsible for following up scheduled tasks and client deliverables internally.

One of the most frequent causes of delay is slow or missing client feedback on/approval of deliverables. Another is late or missing content delivery, particularly text content that needs to be generated within your organisation. Content that your organisation itself produces from its knowledge and expertise provides the greatest value for your visitors, and digital agencies can usually only refine such content, not create it from scratch.

One caveat: if you overdo the number of deadline notifications in your management tool, participants risk getting spammed with notifications and reminders, which can lead to aversion to using the tools. Work with the digital agency to find the right balance, and follow up small tasks informally while leaving the hard deadline notifications to the main deliverables.

Allocating staff

The project plan identifies deliverables, schedules and workloads, so you need to allocate the right people, with enough time, at the right times. This can be a challenge, especially if you have a limited number of persons involved in communications. You need to ensure that the following areas are covered and that sufficient person hours are allocated:

  • Technical functionality feedback and approval (CTO, technical staff)
  • Design/user interface feedback and approval (CIO, communications staff)
  • Content planning / architecture (communications staff)
  • Text content production and review (communications staff, in-house specialists)
  • Image/media selection and/or production (communications staff)
  • Social media planning and production (communications staff)
  • Post-launch: regular, long-term content production and review (CIO, communications staff and/or specialists)
  • Post-launch: handling support and suggestions (technical and communications staff)
  • Post-launch: ongoing evaluation and evolutionary planning (communications staff)

The exact workload will vary based on the agreement, but the above areas are common activities that need to be accommodated during internal resource planning. Note that your management is always implicitly involved in all activities, but should normally avoid intervening in specific deliverables.

Next steps

After the contract is signed, the project plan is in place and you have carved out time slots for your staff, it’s finally time to dive into the practical work of developing a website together with a digital agency. There are some pitfalls, but mostly it’s a pretty good time! You’ll find out more in the next article in this series (coming soon).