5

I'm 6 weeks into a 15 week website/ web development project with a non-profit organisation. With this client I deal with

  • the internal IT manager
  • a key administrative assistant
  • an in-house designer
  • the CEO

The internal IT manager is the most technically skilled, reasonable and appears to have the best long term knowledge. Interactivity with the CEO has been minimal, largely on a "trust establishment" level.

The IT manager has just told me she will be away on annual leave in weeks 9,10,11. This is something I hadn't taken into account, in fact I specifically asked if anyone will be away travelling for 1+ weeks when the project scope was written.

The project is largely divided into:

  • Website upgrade (40%, ca 75% complete): we are upgrading a Joomla website including a wide range of "hacks" that we re-apply and a module that we replace with a custom written one.

  • Website re-skinning (40%, ca 5% complete): The clients in-house designer has updated the look and feel and we are producing HTML and integrating it.

  • New module development (20%, 0% complete): We build and integrate a new module

What would you think are key areas of risk management that we should establish an agreement on with the client before this annual leave? My concerns are:

  • administrative assistant is not as focused as IT manager and may take more of our time testing and need test guidance
  • administrative assistant may not know all "hacked" functionality and what original intention was (we don't know 100% either, but have reeingineered hacks with SVN diff)
  • Decisions that may cut into budget may need to be deferred as budget is always a concern with non profits

I am less worried about the reskin tasks, as the in-house designer had the lead on how it looks in any case and it is clearer to decide what is correct and what is not because it is visual

3

From what you write I would make a few assumptions (some of which you point directly, so they aren't that much of assumptions):

  • In terms of IT manager absence risk areas are website upgrade and new module development.
  • There shouldn't be many problems with re-skinning the site even if you don't have IT manager at hand.
  • At current pace you should be able to complete website upgrade before week 9 which will enable further work on re-skinning and new module.
  • It is also possible to do most of the work on new module after the IT manager is back.

Considering all that I would try to organize work in a way that most of tasks done during weeks 9, 10 and 11 are connected with site re-skinning. To do that I would focus on finishing website upgrade as soon as possible, which is already happening from what I see.

Another idea which may be useful is to define the least vague parts of the new module -- basically things which are obvious for everyone -- before the manager leaves. It will allow to push the work in this area as well, while limiting risk of building the wrong thing.

On the top of that I would:

  • ask for pointing who will be a substitution for the manager during their absence (even though it won't solve many knowledge-related issues it should help a bit with decision-making problems)
  • encourage client's team to work on exchanging knowledge on the project so there are knowledgeable people during the manager's absence
  • try to define in more detail plans for weeks 9, 10 and 11 up-front so you rule out possibly many of your doubts
  • prepare more tasks than can possibly be done during these three weeks which would build a work buffer you can use anytime you need to defer work on a specific tasks because of the manager's absence
  • ask for some kind of emergency contact, so you can catch the manager whenever you need important and quick decision from their side (note: I would try hard not to overuse this)

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