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Newsletter, December 2006

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Contents this month

At the coal face: managing an online consultation

This is the first of a short series of articles about how we work, written by those who actually manage the process. In each article, one of our project managers will describe their own experience of a major branch of our work.

This month Erwin Juenemann describes some of the challenges and satisfactions of managing an online consultation.

A voyage of discovery, a masquerade, a juggling task… project management for online consultations.

At the beginning of a new project, it is a bit like a voyage of discovery: Entering the world of a company or organisation that is new to us, getting to know their people, their communication habits, the way they work, their requirements. While a lot of communication during the project is virtual, we need to get an idea of how our contacts at the client organisation tick in order to tailor our service delivery to their specific circumstances - which is best done in the initial face to face meetings.

When setting up the website for a consultation, elements of a masquerade come into play: In many cases, we aim to imitate our clients’ websites’ look and feel as far as possible - within the boundaries of our website templates and the requirements for accessibility. It is quite a rewarding process to turn the ‘faceless’ template into a website creature that will (hopefully) be accepted within the client website’s family.

In the next phase, we find ourselves performing a bit of acrobatic juggling. It’s a tricky phase - helping the client to finalise their consultation materials, the consultation questions, and structuring it in a way that is suitable to be presented on a website. The juggling bit is the balancing of many, sometimes conflicting needs: the client’s need to get a lot of information and comments from stakeholders may conflict with the need for simplicity and understandability on the side of the participants. The common tendency of clients to make last minute changes may conflict with our need to have sufficient time for testing and adjusting the website!

The consultation hasn’t started yet, yet my article has bumped gently into the word limit wall… I may continue another time, with thoughts about sailing, harvesting and ancient rituals.

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