Avoiding Website Headaches, Part 2

So, you’ve decided you need a website, and you’ve found a designer/developer to make you one from scratch or to overhaul your old one. Now what?If you followed the recommendations of our expert, Leah Murray, in the Part 1 article then things should be going well, but maybe not. Life happens, and because of that I went back to Leah with some additional questions.Me: Are there any warning signs, even after you’ve hired someone that should make you rethink?Leah: Lovely question! If you’ve used some or most of the strategies we discussed in Part 1, this should be a remote possibility, BUT anything can – and often, does – happen in our wonderfully chaotic and ever-changing world. Having said that, here are some warning signs.

Evidence of instability, unreliability, or excessive stressiness in response to you or the work they are doing for you. Never let this slip by – always find a tactful way to uncover the root of the issue. A major illness or a death in their family that impinges on your project schedule without warning that it might happen at a specific time is only acceptable once or twice. Issues like this occurring more often than suggested above indicate deeper problems, though, ones that might not be easy for you to mitigate in other areas of your business. Trust your instincts.

Unwillingness to answer a question, or outright arrogance in any of their responses to your questions. A colleague and consultant worth keeping is always happy to help you learn, and a technical support person who isn’t willing to admit that THEY are learning all the time likely isn’t learning much at all.

Work that is careless, half-checked, or that they haven’t asked YOU to check and give feedback about and which they want you to sign off on and accept. True, spelling and grammar are not the strongest suits for programmers, developers, and designers sometimes. But if they haven’t told you upfront that they are a terrible speller and want you to double check what they write, or that they don’t do any kind of programming but rely on templates completely to support their design work, or that they are a wonderful graphic artist but can’t string together the words “Hello, world” in plain English on a web page without a template and specialized editor, OR if they seem to have zero resources for finding and fixing bugs, RUN AWAY.

Any evidence of strongly self-destructive habits (substance abuse, ongoing relationship dramas, dangerous thrills in inappropriate places). A habitual speeder who tries to outrun the police patrol cars instead of pulling over and accepting the ticket, for example, or showing up for a morning or midday meeting smelling strongly of alcohol, or signs of chemical abuse. You know the kind of thing: it sounds a faint warning bell the first time it happens, and the second time, you think, “hmmm, wonder what that’s all about? But s/he’s good at this, it’ll pass”, and the third time, you think, “I’ll really have to do something about this, I’m not comfy with it.” Stop at the second point, and ask if there’s something going on for them that will affect your project. Be nosy. This is your business – because it’s YOUR BUSINESS they are working for. See my previous remarks about trusting your instincts.

Me: Okay, that’s a lot of potential problem areas. I know that if we’ve done our Part 1 homework most of this is unlikely, but what is the first step if we think something is wrong?

Leah: It’s always communications. Check back with your developer (and any other technical support people involved), and say something like, “You know, this didn’t go quite the way I expected it to. Can I cross-check my expectations with you around it, and see if we can close the gap?”Also, it’s quite reasonable for you to sympathize with an unexpected family drama or such type of event in the lives of your suppliers – but ask outright when they think things will be trending back toward normal, and hold them accountable for that. This isn’t cruel or pressuring. If they can’t assess when they’ll be able to focus on your work again, you might need to help them unload this job so they can focus on their pressing issues. Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do is to remove yourself and your work from their plate.Stuff happens despite the best laid plans of mice and men: don’t aggravate the “stuff” by ignoring it and hoping it’ll go away on its own. Leaving an elephant in the room doesn’t mean that the elephant has stopped eating and drinking. It just means that you will have to address replenishment issues more often and more expensively than you wanted to at the outset.And sometimes, the “stuff” that’s happening is really easy to mitigate simply by making the communications happen.Me: Let’s say the worst happens and we have to fire our web expert. How do we regroup? Is there a blend of starting over and lessons learned that we take to the next step?Leah: If it’s gotten to the point where you have to fire your web person, do it mercifully and quickly, and with planning and forethought.First, lay your plans: make sure you have all your passwords and accesses and that they all work before you do anything else. Next, find someone who is able to change these for you on a phone call’s notice. You will want to have these all changing WHILE you’re doing the next step, so timing is everything. Third, set a time and place for the firing, and arrange do it in person if at all possible, or in a direct phone or Skype call. Fourth, half an hour before your appointment for the firing, tell your backstop security person to start changing the passwords. Fifth, have your meeting and calmly, professionally and clearly state your position, and the fact that you have decided that it’s time to part ways for the benefit of BOTH of you.Don’t allow the emotion of the moment to over-rule your own good sense. No matter how bad you feel about having to take this step, it’s necessary for both of you in order for each to move ahead.Once that hurdle is cleared, get an independent assessment of the state of things from a technical point of view from one trusted person or two complete strangers. This may end up costing you a small amount for the hour or two necessary to assess, but it will save you dollars and time in rectifying things down the road.

As soon as you have an assessment or two, recalibrate your plans for your web site. Fixing it will take longer than you originally planned, and will likely impact other projects that you had underway around this – so you may have to recalibrate those plans too.Fixing things will take more resources than you originally planned to put into this – do you have a mitigation plan or a fund-raising plan for getting that sorted out?And don’t forget that now you know a lot more than when you started. Use your new knowledge to prevent the same kinds of things from happening again. It’s all Business 101.
Get and put things in writing.
Communicate often and clearly.
Engage with issues as they come up.
Don’t accept poor service or unprofessionalism from anyone.
And ask lots of questions, because the only really dumb question is the one you didn’t ask.
And bear this in mind, almost no technology problem is a result of the technology failing or ill-will on the part of technologists. It’s almost always the result of failing to adhere to basic good business principles and practices.You already know those – and tech isn’t designed to operate outside of them, however arcane and mysterious it may look at first blush.My interviews with Leah taught me some new strategies and reminded me to always revisit my core business knowledge. A website presence is so important to entrepreneurs. This is not an area where we can close our eyes and wish for things to go back to the way they were in the past. By using careful planning and sound communications practices, you can avoid most website headaches.

Thirteen Elements of Effective Planning

All plans are not good plans. In fact, even good plans can fail. We cannot predict the future – we can only imagine it imperfectly. In our companies and organizations, effective planning is a social activity. Deciding on a strategic planning process as a group, rather than as an individual, adds even greater complexity to an already complex task. Collaborative and effective planning techniques, then, require 13 essential elements.

1. Effective and Strategic Planning Process

First, effective planning requires a process, and that strategic planning process should include the remaining 12 elements of good planning. In collaborative team planning, that process must be structured and disciplined in order to be efficient and thorough. Without a process, your planning techniques will be awkward, inefficient and often insufficient.

2. Effective Planning Techniques: An Envisioned Future / Objective

When we envision the future, we must describe it clearly and provide specific measurements in order to judge our success. To this end, the objective of our effective planning techniques is goal we envision attaining in the future. Objectives must be clear to all involved. They must also have a scope that is commensurate with the span of control of those involved with the effective planning process. An objective that is not achievable by those tasked with developing a plan is, obviously, doomed to failure. Objectives must also be measurable. Without measurements of success, there is no means of establishing whether or not the objective was achieved, and your strategic planning process will be flawed.

3. Dynamic, Adaptable Planning

In terms of effective planning, “dynamic” means that plans are adaptable, in two ways. First, the act of effective planning considers the current and predicted environment and adapts the plan accordingly. Second, in the strategic planning process, plans must be devised in such a way so that they are not overly detailed. Effective planning ensures that your plans can adapt to changes that occur while the plan is being executed.

4. Iterative Improvements

Effective planning at your organization will also be iterative. By “iterative,” we mean that a plan will improve continuously from one iteration, or version, to another before it is executed in the strategic planning process. The iterative nature of planning supports its adaptive or dynamic nature. Iteration can be sped up by an effective planning technique known as “Red Teaming.” In Red Teaming, a group of individuals outside the planning effort are invited to criticize the plan or expose its weaknesses, acting as a form of rapid iteration and improvement.

5. Effective Planning Requires that You Learn from Experience

A complex and rapidly changing environment demands the ability to rapidly learn from the changes in that environment. Even the most well-educated and trained organization will soon become obsolescent as changes in the environment eventually overwhelm it. Good organizational planning requires sophisticated and effective planning techniques that the organization learns continually, through interaction with its environment and the execution of its plans.

6. Means to Achieve / Course of Action

The central element of all effective planning techniques is the Course of Action (COA). These are the actual tasks that must be completed, whether in parallel, in series, or a combination of both, to achieve the goal. For the most part, in a strategic planning process, the Course of Action, for simple plans, is intuitive or even obvious. However, for most organizations, plans may require great detail. Therefore, an effective planning process must be flexible enough to handle both simple and detailed plans. Effective planning processes should have the ability to repeat the planning process at successively lower levels in the organization, while supporting the objectives of the overall plan.

7. Decentralized Effective Planning

Another effective planning technique is the decentralization of plans, closely related to the flexible and successively repeatable nature of the Course of Action. Effective planning teams should not plan beyond their scope or expertise. In other words, the executive team of a large corporation should not develop the details of a strategic planning process to replace a main server in their IT infrastructure. Such a task is both out of their scope and, most likely, their expertise.

8. Individual Accountability

The scope and detail of effective planning is concluded when each task within a Course of Action is assigned to a single individual, not a team, to complete. Without individual accountability to each task and each plan, there is a significant risk of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and ultimately, failure.

9. Effective Planning Techniques Support Initiative and Good Judgment

General George S. Patton said that plans “[...] should be made by those who are going to execute them.” Decentralization and accountability go far in supporting the success of effective planning techniques. However, when a strategic planning process is developed by the team responsible for accomplishing the plan’s objective, the overall quality and likelihood of creating a successful plan improves exponentially.

10. Consider Resources

Effective planning means not committing to or wasting resources unnecessarily. In a strategic planning process, planners must determine the appropriate targets or objectives and focus resources upon those objectives. Because resources are often limited, prioritizing and planning successive phases of implementation may be necessary.

11. Assess Risk: Leadership Responsibility

Resources are considered carefully at every level of effective planning. Furthermore, the assessment of objectives, threats and resources are critical steps in every strategic planning process that, when taken together, form the basic risk assessment for any plan. Without the necessary resources to either avoid or mitigate the threats to accomplishing an objective, the risks in undertaking that plan should be given due consideration by the leadership within the organization. Because risk is often necessary, the final decision to execute the plan is left to its leaders, not the planning team.

12. Participatory and Cognitively Diverse

Isolating planning in a single individual or a group of individuals without the benefit of field experience and a diversity of knowledge, skills, and abilities is a recipe for failure. The world we live in is increasingly complex. Problem-solving in our complex world requires teams of cognitively diverse individuals contributing their unique knowledge to form a combination of effective planning techniques. If planning is conducted by a single individual or by groups of people with similar knowledge, skills and abilities, the qualities necessary to solve complex problems and to create an innovative strategic planning process will be absent.

13. The Most Effective Plans are Simple

The more complex a design, the more likely it will fail. As Statistical Process Control and Six Sigma methodologies instruct, the greater the number of steps in a process, the greater the potential for a defect. That is why it is critical that the planning process remains simple. Simplicity is not just about minimizing the number of tasks, it’s about making sure that each task is clearly defined through answering some simple questions: “who will do what and when.”

There is a paradox at work in effective preparation. It is simply this: that our human tendency is to implement plans rigidly while the purpose of a plan, in light of the complexity and constant change in the world, is to define objectives and establish a point of departure to react to change. The paradox of the strategic planning process is that effective planning does not involve merely creating a list of sequenced tasks, but establishing a constantly evolving problem-solving process that adapts and thrives in the environment.

Better Planning

Better planning. It is often said if work is not ready in time. It is also seen as a solution for organizations to increase efficiency or a better service. It is all true and can thus be saved much money. If this money for the picking, why do we still not done?

Effective planning in practice is not so easy. Understanding the different types of planning is a first step. As is known in which a planning organization desired, then a road to be made to such a plan to come.

Planning is receiving attention. It has worked there since organizations. Yet planning is not an area where organizations always successful.

The constantly changing circumstances, think of changing availability of staff. The standard 40 hours for all is long past time. There are unexpected events. Suddenly there is additional demand in the market, etcetera. Despite the continuously changing circumstances is necessary for efficient operation. The competition is not that extra space (eg in the form of additional people) in an organization is to smooth out the changes.

There is still debate whether there are as many as possible should be centrally or planned. Central planning makes it much easier for all resources as efficiently as possible way. Decentralized planning produces the advantage that the local changes can easily be played, partly because the planner knows the people who planned and are thus relatively easy to bear in mind such as someone once one hours is not available.

The timeliness of planning will include illustrated by a recent article in a magazine automation, which by KPMG introducing a central planning as one of the solutions put forward for redundancies to prevent secondment providing ICT.

What little is written about the people who planned to carry. Rarely is the question whether the documents the employee as it likes to bring the project to which he is assigned. Of course there will a planner in practice into account. If this happens do not explicitly adopt or unconsciously. This may be the main reason why in practice there are many decentralized planning.

To clarify how an organization can better pick up the schedule, we first distinguish the following planning concepts.

-Agenda Planning

-Planning Tasks


-Planning Agenda

-As the name implies, is planning agenda only to establish a planning agenda of the different resources to come. This could mean hourly, half day or a fixed time each day in the calendar is planned. This situation occurs frequently in field personnel or resources for an organization that posting a few days or weeks makes available to its customers. Also in the planning in a call center is often referred to agenda planning. See also the article: Scheduling Optimization for Call Center

Planning Tasks

In planning tasks are tasks in the various resources planned. A task is an activity that after a certain date should start before a certain date and should be ready. The task is how long it must be taken to implement this. Accounting firms and advertising agencies work with many planning tasks. The professional knows that in a given week 5 to 6 hours per job tasks spend, but he himself can fill in what order the tasks it handles. The worker will not be told where exactly where he needs to work. As it is known when it is off than he himself would appreciate the week to complete.


Is often thought to project when discussing planning. When planning a project involves the planning of several interdependent tasks. Construction projects are a good example. In one building, the foundation can be ready before the start of the masonry walls. The development of software is a good example of a project that requires project.

When planning a focus in the organization, it is prudent to first determine what type of planning is involved. Is there planning calendar, task and project planning. Sometimes, there are several species in a planning organization. It is advisable to first look into the planning issues, which are predominant in the organization.

Existing planning rules

Any exceptions must be made on what the planning rules is created. This has two advantages. It is clear that the planning rules and those rules need to be evaluated and which were probably useful in the past but not now, or how certain rules otherwise be filled. It is through critical to the planning rules used to look and not too quick to accept that a rule is still relevant today, may be more flexibility in the creation of the plan are achieved. This increased flexibility often leads to cost savings. In a service environment, eg the rule that in 95% of reports within 3 hours after the reported failure of the service technician must be present. If this rule is replaced by 95% of reports in the interference within 8 hours after the notification must be resolved, give the organization more flexibility and gives the customer that what is really important to her.

Central or decentralized planning

It should also be given to whether centrally or will be scheduled. If manual is planned, there is often much to be said for a decentralized planning to make. In a little volume it is not central to overlook. If automation can be planned it is easier to central planning. However it is important that the various departments can exert influence on how the schedule is created.


The peculiarities should properly be identified.

The desired capacity is every first Monday of the month 30% higher on January 1 and 60 resources are needed. The details of the various resources must be known. The one the other works 36 hours every 2nd Friday of the month only in the morning until 11 hours et cetera.

Employees hold in general if not on them when they decided to have no effect. Furthermore, it also possible that a section on special circumstances at issue. This should be factored in or planning.


What are the unforeseen circumstances that may arise? What is the priority when it comes to? Who decides this? How can we determine whether, based on the experience gained in the past, take account of unforeseen circumstances in the future? Ad hoc solutions have always possible, but just a good inventory of the expected “unexpected situations”, the number of ad hoc solutions are limited. This is an important aspect, because practice shows that many developed planning systems failed, precisely because of unexpected circumstances often ad hoc solutions are chosen so that it seems more the rule than the exception.


Around the planning process there is often a culture. By force of habit is already planning a certain way. The way the plans are made is often a process of evaluation of years. It requires courage of the people here to open fully candid and critical look at. Therefore it is important that this happens in a constructive and open atmosphere.

If all the above aspects are examined, can be examined whether and how the planning process can be automated support. Often there may soon be offered to help the planner. This could for example the use of Excel or a comprehensive planning package. The proposed plan will always be judged by the planner and still be adjusted before the final planning.

The rules for the different schedules used, strongly determine the final schedule. This in turn determines to a large extent the costs are made in the organization and the quality of the services provided. Consider this in all circumstances or based on minimal cost should be scheduled as long as the minimum quality requirements or that there are strategic projects to naming, where even at maximum quality must be planned. Although planning in the final form a strong operational process, regular involvement of management is still required, because the planning rules used to continuous change.

Planning is important in organizations, but is often a difficult process. A process that is time consuming, not always with conclusive results. By identifying what type of planning situations exist, create better understanding of the possibilities. By then the clear and critical process inventory, creates a picture of what the organization. Precisely by existing rules into question could possibly be playing much. If the rules are known which will be scheduled, look how the process can be automated can be supported. This can save time for the planner and lead in complex situations to ensure better planning, because in a short time, the various alternatives can be calculated.