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by Joshua Smith
To a project manager for large migrations into Drupal, the time scheduled for stakeholder review of migrated content never seems to be enough. In this post, I'll talk about 10 ways Acquia Professional Services Engagement Managers have streamlined this review so it works for stakeholders without derailing the project schedule.
In a typical project schedule, the opportunity for project stakeholders to review and bless the content migration is sandwiched somewhere between the development team's first automated migration and the launch date. This step is sometimes overlooked by development teams because of critical project activities typically occurring near the same time, such as user acceptance testing, bug fixes, load testing, and launch preparation.
However, to many content administrators, product managers, and hands-on executives, this is the moment they've been waiting for: seeing what their content looks like in Drupal. Highly engaged stakeholders may want to personally click through every page, during their free time between meetings and other job responsibilities. This can take weeks. Disengaged or decentralized stakeholders can cause a more serious problem: withholding approval to proceed and yet failing to make themselves available to complete the review. This can jeopardize a launch date or alienate those who will be the judge of the project's perceived success (or failure).
Here are 10 practices a savvy project manager can use to avoid this trap:
1. Set accurate expectations for content clean-up
Nearly every migration will require some type of manual content clean-up after the automated portion of the migration is complete. Depending on the situation, this manual work can be done by the project team or by stakeholders, either before or after launch. Project managers should ensure that stakeholders are informed of the plan for this task, and as it becomes clear, how much effort the plan will require. The key is to avoid surprises at this late stage of the project.
2. Define content migration acceptance criteria in advance
A project manager should never need to establish acceptance criteria after the review period has begun. It is always preferable to negotiate and document this criteria before the frenzy and pressure of pre-launch activities. The ability to reference previously established criteria during the review period saves time and keeps heads cool.
3. Decide in advance how issues of different priorities will be addressed
Project managers should acknowledge upfront with stakeholders that not all issues will be treated equally. If meeting an aggressive launch date is important, then likely not all issues will be resolved before the site is launched. A common understanding of how issues will be evaluated and prioritized will reduce the time spent on this activity during the review period.
4. Gain active agreement on the plan for review of migrated content
Due to their inexperience with CMS migration projects, peripheral involvement in the project, or focus elsewhere, it is easy for some stakeholders to misunderstand the content review plan. The project manager should gain active agreement, in writing or in front of peers, from stakeholders well before the review period begins.
5. Form an advisory group for proxy approvals
If there are a great number of stakeholders with approval authority, project managers should create an advisory board of the few stakeholders with the largest stake in project success. In cases where individual stakeholders are unable to conduct a timely review, the advisory board may grant a proxy approval to move forward. Alternatively, members of the advisory board could even be accountable to follow-up on any stakeholder delays. For decisions that are unpopular with one stakeholder, but clearly benefit the overall project, the advisory group is the project manager's strong ally.
6. Prepare project champions to unblock you when the time comes
Despite all efforts by a project manager, at least one stakeholder will slow down the content review process. If the project champion or executive sponsor has been warned in advance that this would happen and how they should respond, this intervention will be faster and more effective.
7. Establish an environment dedicated to content review and clean-up
Establishing an environment dedicated to content clean-up avoids interruptions from the project team's ongoing testing and bug fix efforts. With a dedicated environment, stakeholders don't have to think twice about whether the environment is available to them. It also allows for more parallel project work to happen during this high-stakes period leading up to launch. Acquia Cloud Enterprise makes it easy to spin up new environments for this purpose. If content clean-up is happening in this environment while the production environment is live, the Deploy module can be used to move content from the clean-up environment to production.
8. Align content review schedule with natural calendar breaks
While this is not always possible, aligning a review period with natural breaks in the week or month makes it easier to communicate, and more likely to stick into stakeholder's memories. Remembering to plan for "the first week in April" is easier than remembering "April 3rd to April 9th." This tactic is especially helpful for project managers conducting continuous migrations that include multiple review periods. Scheduling these periods according to a pattern helps everyone remember when deadlines are.
9. Prepare a one-page instruction sheet for reviewers
Before the review period begins, project managers can create an instruction sheet to inform reviewers of logistics. Rather than fielding dozens of questions, pro-active instructions ensure that reviewers can make the best use of limited time.
10. Put content review periods on stakeholders' working calendar tool
No matter how beautiful the project schedule artifact, stakeholders do not use this artifact to guide their working day. Project managers should add special review periods as events on relevant stakeholders' calendar tool: for example Microsoft Outlook, Apple iCal, or Google Calendar. Integrating content review into stakeholders daily routine increases the amount of time they will devote to the task.
Even on the most challenging projects, following these tips will streamline your review of migrated content and keep stakeholders positively engaged.