From idea to launch: digital projects with Contentful - Digital Platforms and MACH Architecture with Andrew Kumar

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Published
April 28, 2021
Category

Strategy

I’m no stranger to Contentful project delivery. It requires a fair amount of planning, communication and organization alongside the actual implementation work. After years of trial and error, I’ve learned a few things and would like to pass on to you. From the initial planning phase to the show-and-tell, here is a step-by-step guide of how to work through digital projects with Contentful.

It's normal to want to rush in when you're starting a project –– particularly with impending deadlines and sprints that disappear too quickly –– but the initial planning stages are crucial for success. Take time in the early stages of a project to ensure your team starts on the right foot. 

Illustrated graphic showing how modular business capabilities enable companies to be digital first

Step 1 - the Setup

1.1 future-ready reference architecture

You should have a clear idea of what you're building before you start. Too many projects fail because the end product is just a vague idea. You don't start building a house without a blueprint, and software should be no different. Start with capabilities and platforms needed for your organization for this and many more projects

Illustrated graphic showing what is needed to maintain platform flexibility in terms of content stability

1.2 Define success with a KPI Framework

One of the most important questions you can ask at the beginning of a project is: what do the stakeholders expect? When you know what they want, you can then define the user acceptance criteria. What is the purpose of this project? How can it be measured? What result are we seeking? If you work with your stakeholders early on to answer these questions, you're on your way to delivering a successful product. 

Illustration of a list of what is possibe with Contentful

Read about how Bang & Olufsen surpassed their KPIs with Contentful: 60% increase in ecommerce conversion rate, 13% increase in average order value and triple conversion rate from online to store search.

1.3 Assemble your digital builder team

Before choosing your team:

  1. Establish what skills are required to do the job well.

  2. When you've found the right people, identify any gaps and look where you could offer training.

  3. Don't forget that you can look beyond your organization and go with partners and our professional services team

And never be afraid to have a diverse team of junior, intermediate and senior people. Valuable mentorships can come out of situations like this one.

Illustrated graphic shows how autonomous teams can scale

Step 2: Build and sustain momentum with agile delivery

2.1 Hold a kick-off 

Gather all of your builders, along with the key stakeholders, and make introductions in a kick-off meeting. This is the perfect time to talk about the nitty-gritty of how you're going to work together. Talk about how you're going to communicate –– through meetings, Zoom calls, Slack or email. Review your requirements, work plan, schedule and identify any issues that need to be resolved. Remember that people work best when they know what is expected of them. 

Illustrated graphic depicting new ways of working at scale

If the work you are doing is a continuation of another project, the kick-off meeting can also be retrospective. You can reflect on your wins and talk about what you would like to do better this time around. 

Losing momentum after a kick-off meeting can be a problem for even the most enthusiastic team. So, how do you maintain motivation and momentum during months of hard work? 

2.2 Structure sprints - the projects within projects 

Decide how you and your team will work. For enterprise projects, I recommend a combination of Scrum and Kanban methods. Whatever you choose to do, make sure your processes help break down the larger project into a series of small projects. 

Here's what I recommend: 

  • Break the project into milestones that offer something of value and can be independently released —  such as a home page, product catalogue and product listings, cart, checkout, articles, specific website sections, or regions)

  • Segment each milestone into two-week prints. Plan your sprints carefully, have daily stand-up meetings, bi-weekly retrospectives and demos. 

  • Track tasks within each sprint on a Kanban board with development, QA and user-acceptance tasks in a central view 

2.3 Sprint Reviews Lean on the expertise of your team 

The success of the project depends almost entirely on the expertise of your builders. Take time to learn about your team and encourage open discussions, suggestions and sharing ideas. Your team members are most familiar with the solutions to challenges, risks and issues of the project. 

This step aims to give ownership of individual parts of the project to members of the team. This way, no one member is overwhelmed. 

Step 3 - Stay organized to be agile

Staying organized throughout a big project is always a challenge.  

3.1 Use software and tracking tools 

Project management software will be your friend in this process. It's impossible to track conversations, decisions, status updates, progress, story points, effort, sprints, milestones, tasks, budgets and deadlines without help. JIRA / Trello is my go to.

3.2 Structure for rapid change and minimal chaos

Anyone who has worked on a big project knows that scope can shift quickly. But scope changes can derail a team, and so it's essential to manage them correctly. 

  • Start by identifying and documenting what the change is, and determine how to refocus the team 

  • Try to minimize context switching, which isn't great for productivity 

  • Ensure that all stakeholders are on board

  • Adjust your schedule, budget and tracking accordingly  

  • Only once the full impact of the change is measured, gain approval 

  • Keep a changelog and remind everyone involved where they can find it

Step 4 - Demonstrate (and celebrate) wins 

At the end of every sprint or milestone, show-and-tell your work with the team. Celebrate wins: praise and acknowledge hard work from the builders in your team. This step will help keep your momentum and motivation going. 

Illustration depicting connected capabilities that Contentful allows for in digital experiences

4.1 Build a communications plan 

Identify the content required, the best methods for communicating, and the frequency. My recommended communication scheme looks like the following:

  • Daily: blockers, decisions and progress (Slack/JIRA comment)

  • Weekly: summaries of spending, progress, decisions and impacts (Email, Confluence Document)

  • Monthly: demos, formal status reports (Slides, Zoom)

Frequent communication can help keep the team engaged and stakeholders engaged to prevent mistakes and wasted effort. 

4.2 Show your work with demo days 

Ensure your process includes some time to let your team do a demo of the work at the end of the sprint or milestone. At Contentful, we have a Sprint Bazaar every two weeks to show off our work. Teams can get real-time feedback on their work and see what other teams are doing. This step goes a long way to engage your stakeholders, revisit priorities and ensure that your team's work aligns with the project's goals and objectives. 

After you've done the demo, do a retrospective to continuously improve the work and the relationship with stakeholders.

Summary 

There you have it: tried and tested steps that will help mitigate risks and improve your project delivery. Successful project delivery can save time and money, increase revenue, and help organizations achieve their goals.

Contact Contentful services to help you implement these and other strategies that set you and your project up for success.

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