Avoiding the ‘Forever’ Web Project

Ever have a project that seems to go on forever, maybe it’s been months since you started the project despite the fact that the original schedule was only measured in weeks?

None of Us Are Above It

Believe me, I’m not here on my ‘high horse’ to lecture anyone else on how they should respect schedules, put realistic timelines together and keep jobs within scope. Though all these are all good points and practices, we all know the ‘forever project. Whether you are on the client side or the development side, these are frustrating projects that are so far beyond their original schedules that it is pointless to even discuss that schedule at this point.

How Do Web ‘Forever Projects’ Get Created

It’s my experience that forever projects are not created from simply missed deadlines or poorly constructed schedules, to begin with. Forever projects are created by one of the following things, though I’m sure I am missing some:

  • Underestimating the level of effort to complete any part of the project by the Web team
  • Lack of understanding of the client’s needs and goals by the development team
  • The lack of well-defined project scope (please see my blog post on defining a Web project scope)
  • A client’s lack of understanding/vision of what they truly want (i.e constantly changing specs)
  • Slow or unresponsive clients during review periods
  • An overbooked development team

Whatever the reason, these forever projects can be festering wounds for any Web developer or Web team. Popping up when least expected, sprints of development followed by long gaps that require re-acquaintance with the application again and again, and of course a budget and planning nightmare for both the client and developers.

I wish I had a single formula for how to avoid these circumstances, though I don’t. I do know there are things that can be done on both the Web team’s and the client’s side to help ensure this kind of projects are kept at a minimum, some of these are:

  • A thorough evaluation/discovery phase before starting any project
  • A well-defined project scope
  • An agreement that includes schedules and an explanation for how missed milestones will be dealt with
  • A clear designation of responsibilities including those of the client (see my blog post on client responsibilities for web projects)