Establishing a Project Web Site
I am a big fan of project Web sites. Especially for larger projects, project Web sites can be very useful.
Advantages of Project Web Sites
Advantages of project Web sites include the following:
Stakeholders can view and access project information at any time, from any location. This is particularly important if the contractor is offshore or a significant distance from the stakeholders.
The project team can use the Web site to stay informed of project status while away from the office.
The Web site can be used as an easy mechanism for the exchange of files, particularly large files that may not be able to be sent through e-mail.
Some artifacts, such as user interface prototypes (if the project is Web-based), can be accessed through the client's Web browser. This allows the user to examine the user interface at his own pace, enabling him to provide better-quality feedback.
Suggestions for Content of Project Web Sites
All standard document deliverables should be included on the project Web site, such as the following:
With the advent of Web-based project tools, such as those from IBM Rational, the project Web site can actually be much more than a simple repository of static files and information. Users can actually access project repositories directly over the Internet. Here are some examples:
Access to change requests. Set up the Web interface to IBM Rational ClearQuest, and make the databases accessible to the users of the Web site. This enables stakeholders to view enhancement requests, defects, risks, and anything being tracked in ClearQuest.
Access to requirements. IBM Rational's RequisitePro product has a Web interface. This would let users view all the requirements, attributes, and traceability matrices.
IBM Rational's ProjectConsole tool can be configured to automatically create charts, graphs, and trends and to update them automatically every night. This opens a world of possibilities for useful information to provide to the customer. I have developers update an attribute for each requirement successfully implemented and tested in RequisitePro. ProjectConsole can then be configured to show the trend of requirements as they are completed. This gives the stakeholders a visual indication that progress is being achieved on the project.
If the project is using a design tool such as Rose or XDE, the models can be "published" to a Web-compatible file that can placed on the Web site. This enables the users to view the actual UML diagrams for the project.
Other Best Practices for Project Web Sites
Other best practices for project Web sites include the following:
Depending on the nature of the project, it may be desirable to require a user ID and password for the Web site. The Web site may have information that may be of value to competitors, or it may contain business-sensitive information that is valuable to your client. Requiring a user ID and password shows that you value and respect the client's sensitive information.
For similar reasons, it may be desirable to establish secure connections using Secure Socket Layer (HTTPS) communications. This encrypts the information sent between the Web client and the Web server, keeping it from being intercepted by third parties.
Keep the Web site up to date. If the Web site is seldom updated and contains stale content, users will quickly lose interest.
Keep an automated log indicating who is logging into the Web site. This will provide you with an indication of the Web site's usefulness to your client.
Despite the value of a project Web site, it is not a substitute for the more conventional means of project communication. Think of it as a supplement, not a replacement, for meetings and conversations.