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4.3 out of 5 stars
Web Project Management: Delivering Successful Commercial Web Sites
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on October 5, 2001
I should have read this book three years ago. Web Project Management presents a solid Web project management method for building commercial web sites.
The book reads as if Ashley Friedlein, the author made many of the same mistakes I made. The wisdom encapsulated between the covers of this well written, easy-to-understand volume will serve web site project managers for years to come.
The author breaks web site construction into 4 distinct phases: Pre-production, Production, Maintenance and Evaluation. Pre-production is broken into 3 stages: Project Clarification, Solution Definition, and Project Specification. Pre-production ranks as the most important stage; it represents the time when you work out what is to be achieved and plan how you will do it.
Production consists of the following stages: Content, Design and Construction, Testing, Launch and Handover. I found the author's attention to content complications particularly interesting. In my experience, content is the area where web site designers and builders are the weakest, yet plays one of the most critical roles in the users' return.
Maintenance plays a critical role in the updating and evolution of the site, so that it can retain and grow its user base.
The final phase, Evaluation, is something of great importance to site builders and clients. Clients are demanding their web sites provide a return on investment. Sites must perform a commercial as well as a branding and marketing function to justify continued investment. If a financial benefit can be established, it is much easier to receive continued funding for existing projects or to undertake new ones.
If you are involved-however tangentially-with web site development and support, you owe it to yourself to have a well-worn copy of this book gracing your bookshelves. Friedlein writes from experience - and that experience will save you time, money and quite a few headaches.
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This book is not about project management. In fact, someone versed in the Project Management Institute's Project Management Body of Knowledge will cringe at some of the statements made in the book (more about that below). It is, however, about delivering successful commercial web sites and it provides the best approach I have ever seen.
Here are some of the things that make this not only unique, but the most authoritative book I have read on the subject:
(1) It is not an IT centric book that focuses on technical issues. The author brings to the forefront the real critical success factors in the form of four equal sets of requirements: commercial, creative, content and technical. In 2000 I was a member of a multi-million dollar dot com project team for a large international company, and from that experience I totally agree with the author's view.
(2)The author manages to balance the time-to-market pressures that permeate commercial web projects with the by-the-numbers method imposed by IT. As such, this book addresses the development life cycle from inception to production by aligning implementation to development life cycle stages. It manages to accomplish this and still cut the project's cycle time by removing any fluff. What is fluff? The tons of non-essential paperwork produced by some of the larger consulting companies. What is not missing are the essentials, as evidenced by the repeated emphasis on testing, the attention given to configuration and change management, and the realities of post-implementation support. These are extremely important and are too often overlooked.
(3) The project controls that are proposed in this book are exceptional. While the author muddles through stuff like the proper definition of critical path, he shows how to effectively control a project by managing to deliverables. Contrast this with the common mistake of managing to a schedule and you will see the real effectiveness of his methods. So, while he misses the mark on some project management fundamentals, he sure makes up for it in pragmatism. He also makes up for his "transgressions" by laying out a project roadmap that, if followed, will guarantee success. If we project management "purists" lighten up a bit while reading this stuff we might learn a trick or two.
The big surprise is the author is not an IT professional - his background is TV producer! Or, perhaps it's not a surprise at all considering the fact that there is no room for failure or missed production schedules in the TV industry, while the IT profession is notorious for massive schedule and cost overruns. What impressed me greatly is the wide range of technical issues that are addressed: browser compatibility, content formats, scripting languages, etc. For someone without an IT background the author demonstrates a solid grasp of real-life issues and gotchas.
Those of us in IT need to carefully read the parts that address creative and content management. We are used to working with technical peers from vendors - working with copywriters and artists requires a wholly different way of interacting and communicating. Moreover, content needs to be treated in an entirely different matter than data, and it also comes with an array of legal issues that we are not trained to think about.
What I discovered , despite my previous involvement with a commercial web project, is there are so many factors I had never considered prior to reading this book that most projects are flying blind. As such, this book should be read by every team member, creative, content (artists and copywriters), technical, legal and commercial (marketing)*before* undertaking such a project. This will ensure that the entire team sees the big picture and understands the complex interrelationships, and all issues and factors are addressed. Mr. Friedlein deserves the highest accolades for making what I believe to be the most significant contribution to this field. My only regret is that I am limited to 5 stars.
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on March 21, 2001
Rushing wildly to develop Web sites as fast as possible, the industry of Web development has until now avoided developing any standard work methods for itself. Now, Ashley Friedlein has filled that void with 302 pages of method, in a book titled Web Project Management. After you've bought it and studied it thoroughly you'll know how Web development should work. ArsDigita founder Philip Greenspun is correct in his back-cover declaration that "a lot of people will end up owing their jobs to this book".
Make no mistake; it's a readable textbook with a few light touches, rather than an amusing memoir. The hyper-prosaic title reflects Friedlein's style. He has focused on the essentials. In doing so, he has nailed all four of the characteristics that a book of this type needs:
* It covers Web project management from end to end. After pinpointing what makes a good project manager, it moves through project stages from preproduction all the way to post-project evaluation. The book's table of contents is itself a solid checklist of the tasks you'll need to cover in a typical Web project.
* It covers issues in necessary detail. The pages on budgeting, for instance, include such issues as checking for software licensing gotchas like per-processor software pricing. There's a simple, sensible example of how to implement version control on project documents. Such detail is particularly important in a field like Web project management, which is recruiting from fields as diverse as C++ software development and TV journalism.
* It's authoritative. Time and time again, Friedlein pinpoints the key issues in a specific Web project management task. His three-page table comparing the strengths and weaknesses of various site activity measures is the pithiest around. The section on that relatively little-known field called content management homes straight in in on the toughest issues - total cost of ownership, standards compliance and performance. In many places, he uses concepts (for instance, detailed technical specifications) established during the past thirty-odd years of software development.
* It's realistic. Friedlein understands how unpredictable and changeable Web projects are. Rather than decrying the fact, he outlines ways of responding to change and spotting risk areas. This realism shows through clearly in his single, highly detailed and candid case study - an account of building [a web site]. It also shows through in countless specific pieces of well-informed advice. ("Usually the most time-consuming part of creating a database-driven Web application is getting the data itself in the specified format and structure and getting it clean.")
Friedlein delivers these four essentials with a discipline which would win him respect from project managers in any industry. Yes, he makes the standard noises about Web project management's unique challenges. But he also borrows extensively from the wisdom and rigour which software project managers have developed over the past third of a century. And beyond that, he understands the unchanging project management challenge: that change breeds chaos, and that project management can tame this chaos by setting clear task agendas. It's this management mindset that should ensure the Friedlein volume supplants Jessica Burdman's 1999 volume Collaborative Web Development.
Friedlein's background suggests he was born to the task rather than trained for it: he spent time as a television producer before jumping to the Web around 1997. But his employer, the large UK new media agency pres.co (now Wheel) clearly exposed him to practices more rigorous than were in use in most late-nineties Web development shops.
Why has Web Project Management not already garnered acclaim and bestseller status? Largely because its author lives and works in Britain, denying him and his publishers the opportunity to schmooze directly and full-time with the US West Coast digerati. This book's lack of fame gives you all the more opportunity to get a jump on other Web project managers.
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on June 20, 2003
I could not be more impressed! My dog-eared, highlighted, underlined copy of this awesome roadmap to managing major web projects goes everywhere with me. The downloadable project plan from the author's website served as a good starting point for me to build a very usable project management outline. My level of experience in both project management and web development is mid level, and the book has given me the tools to manage through a fortune500 website relaunch, as well as food for thought on how to optimize all components of my site. It's not a technical book, it's a very detailed guide for project managers to manage launching a site, from planning to content development to technical specifications to launch. It's ideal for business (read marketing) sponsors who have been agitating for a redesign for years who suddenly get their budget minus the project manager to keep their heads above water. Definitely recommend for when you're tossed into that situation!
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on July 9, 2001
Excellent, excellent, excellent! If your a Project Manager who delivers web-based projects, then this book should definetly be in your collection. If your new to the world of Project Management for the internet, then this is the FIRST book you should read. Forget whatever negative comments you may read on this rating list, because those who dare to be critical have probably never delivered a web-based project. This book gives you a good base from which to start your research; giving you a good overview of the most important concepts, along with a reference section to help you along the way. If your trying to decide between this book and another...then take it from an experience PM when I tell you that you should choose this one first.
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on February 13, 2004
It has been about four years since this book's last edition came out, and it continues to top the list of Web Project Management references, and with reason for it. Its proven methodology provides a solid framework that you can relate to once and again, with confidence and permanently reminding of potential pitfalls and obstacles. In short, Friedlein's book provides the closest thing to a recipe for success with managing web projects: of course, you can always put in a little too much salt yourself, can't you? ;)
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on November 1, 2001
This is a great book. It's making my life a lot easier. It presents sound methodology if you are going to develop and build a commercial Web site. I am using it in school right now. It really defines terms in such a way that they are not just words that you toss around. By defining, describing and giving examples the terms become second nature and you actually understand in a logical fashion the integrated elements of designing and maintaining a commercial Web site.
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on June 10, 2003
Ashley Friedlein provides a very sound methodology for web development. Kelly Goto's Web Redesign is another fine book for managing web projects. However, Friedlein's book is not cute or sweet. Rather, this book is professional and solid (Goto's is professional and solid as well, it's just an easier read). The book reads similar to a college textbook (hint: dry). The content is serious and impressive.
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on June 10, 2003
Ashley Friedlein provides a very sound methodology for web development. Kelly Goto's Web Redesign is another fine book for managing web projects. However, Friedlein's book is not cute or sweet. Rather, this book is professional and solid (Goto's is professional and solid as well, it's just an easier read). The book reads similar to a college textbook (hint: dry). The content is serious and impressive.
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on January 7, 2001
This book is great, and will definitely help me do a better job as a web project manager. Friedlin's writing style is informative and easy to understand - the book is hard to put down! The examples presented are real-world. I've lived through several similar project ups & downs described in the book. This should be required reading for anyone in the field.
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