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Strategy

A Lesson from Year 1: Scheduling

by Sean Treacy | Apr 11, 2016 | [[ readEstimate ]] min read

In co-founding Grafton Studio, I went from managing projects on a larger team to managing projects in a tight knit team of three. Although there was nothing majorly new to learn in terms of process, what was new was the enormous effect on enjoyment levels if we didn’t schedule effectively, and strictly.

When working at a larger agency, project deadlines get pushed for a variety of reasons; sometimes a client takes longer to give feedback than anticipated, or review meetings are rescheduled to accommodate busy calendars. It didn’t really bother me as long as my team wasn’t the source of the delay, or the project wasn’t too far behind schedule.

The repercussions of an extended schedule have a bigger impact on a smaller team, and if you’re thinking of setting up a web agency of your own, you should be cognizant of the effects of:

  • Projects overlapping
  • Postponing start dates of new projects
  • Opportunity costs of new billable hours
  • Team burnout

At Grafton Studio we certainly haven’t mastered the art of keeping every project on schedule, but here are a few lessons that have helped us allot our time better:

Take your time with the estimate

When a prospect seems likely to close, it’s tough not to get excited and draft the paperwork. However, taking time to fully spec out the project without making major assumptions and getting express confirmation from each team member on their respective timelines is worth curbing your enthusiasm for in the long run.

Clearly define features

Setting client expectations before a project is started, by clearly identifying the features that are within scope and those that are not, ensures a project isn’t going to be slowed down by feature requests later on in the process. Equally important is keeping the product team vigilant for feature creep, by ensuring each team member reviews everything before it is sent to a client. This ensures, for example, a developer isn’t handed designs for a completely different product to the one they quoted for at the start of the project.

Collaborate

No matter how well a project is spec'd out, there will always be problems to solve along the way. Regular check-ins ensure these problems are being solved continuously, and are not left until the end of the project when features are coded and deadlines are rapidly approaching.

Everyone’s goal going into a project is to stick to the schedule, unfortunately we can be guilty of only really paying attention to the schedule when deadlines are imminent. A couple of proactive steps and committing to the schedule early can go a long way!