Fixing lack of dedicated QA testers and project managers in the agency
It’s not easy for smaller agencies, who are strapped for cash, to hire more people instantly. From when we started our agency business (W3Nuts
) till 2013, we were in this boat.
So we had completely ignored the fact that as your agency’s reputation grows, project size grows, and project complexity grows, your team should grow in proportion. But this exercise made it clear how much time and money we were losing because of our ignorance.
We hired three QA testers and one PM at the beginning of 2017. Then in mid-2018, we hired two more project managers.
Hiring project managers also helped with some of the other issues such as client-side delays in providing resources and unresponsive clients because the project managers would follow up with the client consistently.
They would switch from being the client’s voice at our agency to being our voice at client meetings. This took a huge load off the developers as we stopped assuming things and started asking more questions – politely.
Fixing the agency’s pursuit of perfection
In order to stop the project team from overfitting things, we set more granular milestones and deadlines for parts of the project. The project managers would follow up with the assignee if their tasks were incomplete and pull resources from other projects to get the task completed ASAP.
This meant that even if a task was delayed for a while, the main deliverables would never miss the deadline.
We also shared the issue with our partner agencies along with our investigation and findings. We told them that we all have to follow a simple motto now
- We ship. Or else.
- Or else we lose clients.
- Or else we lose time and money.
- Or else we lose goodwill and our reputation.
We told them that missing the deadlines to achieve the perfect design will need to be stopped. The problem didn’t go away completely but we were able to bring it under control.
Fixing project delays caused by communication, collaboration, and feedback issues
We were quite happy with the progress we saw just by hiring PMs and QA testers at the start of 2017.
But now we were looking at four problems that we believed were out of our control:
- Unresponsive or late-responding clients
- Lots of back-and-forth communication during revisions
- Client delay in providing required resources
- Poorly developed scope of work
We debated internally how to tackle them and finally decided that this problem required some active management with the help of a specialized tool. Asana, Slack, and other project management platforms simply weren’t cutting it.
So we started looking for a feedback tool that our clients could use.
We needed something to help us capture and store client feedback, create tasks around it, and organize the work to be done. Maybe the internal team could report bugs through it as well. Simple as that.
Thankfully, such tools already existed in the market. We bought and tried them.
But we soon realized that they were too limited. The clients could use the feedback tools to easily create annotated screenshots and they could highlight specific elements on the webpage to provide their comments.
But we would still need to get on a call with the client to
- Understand their feedback comments in-depth
- View browser-specific, OS-specific, or platform-specific errors that came up at their
end but were missing at ours
- Understand the issues related user flow or animated elements
We also found that clients still hesitated in using these feedback tools because they still required some work. They wanted something as easy as calling us and listing all the feedback points.
So we slowly slipped back to using our old standby – Skype, project management tools, and email. Our problems continued.
But by now we were too determined to give up on our quest. So we looked real hard and realized that all these issues could’ve been solved with just one very useful feature: screen recording with voice over.
Without this, every problem was just half solved. With this, we’d have an ultimate feedback tool to give to our clients. And as there was no tool that supported videos or screen recording at that time, we resorted to building one ourselves for internal use.
This is how W3Dart was created.
Lot of back and forth communication during revisions was cut down drastically because the clients could now simply record their screen and walk us through the feedback. The team members could report the bugs in the same way.
Client delay in providing resources decreased because W3Dart would automatically send reminder emails to the clients, nudging them to complete the task.
Poorly developed scope of work became a problem of the past because we documented the scope in video format and stored them in W3Dart itself. Whenever there was a complaint from either side regarding scope, we would simply revisit the video.
Clients stopped being unresponsive because the tool was so easy and intuitive to use that they actually looked forward to revision rounds. All they had to do was just click on the plugin and push a button to start recording their screen and voice.
We’ve been using this tool agency-wide since late 2017 now and it single-handedly solved the biggest problems that caused project delays for us. With remote working becoming a norm in 2020 due to the pandemic, we’ve decided to share this tool with all other agencies and freelancers out there.
Fixing the issue of too many stakeholders
To prevent project delays caused by too many stakeholders we had to be proactive. We started by trying to nip the problem in the bud by not letting the number of stakeholders increase beyond reason.
Limited the number of stakeholders and created a seniority order for stakeholders
We asked our clients to limit the project to 3 – 4 stakeholders from their side. Then we would set a seniority order between them so that the feedback would be limited.
For example, CEO would trump VP of comms. VP of comms would trump project manager. If a website section didn’t look good to the project manager but the CEO was okay with it, CEO’s choice would trump PM’s opinion.
Fixed the scope for different stakeholders
We asked our clients to assign one stakeholder to give one set of feedback. One for brand and content, one for compliance, one for design, and so on.
This meant we wouldn’t even have to wait for an internal meeting when the design was being reviewed or content was being reviewed. It sped up our process by days.
Encouraged internal discussions among stakeholders
We encouraged clients to have internal discussions among themselves first and then provide feedback to us. They would collate their feedback and deliver it all to us as one. This eliminated conflicting feedback.
Fixing delays in project A due to another, unrelated project B and delays caused by outsourcing the work
I have to be honest here – we still have no clue how to fix these two issues.
We tried several different things but none of them landed. We had a strict vetting method for outsourcing parts of projects but even the most brilliant freelancers would get stuck. As for one project delaying the other, I don’t even know how to start solving that problem.
But as overall project delays went down due to the measures we took and W3Dart, we’ve been better able to manage delays caused by these two issues. So while we’ve not been able to directly work on them, our solutions for other problems have made these two issues quite bearable.