Author: Yogi Schulz
Experienced client/server project managers struggle with web projects because they bring new and unfamiliar scope. Simply passing an acceptance test focused on finding a few bugs is no longer sufficient. Successful web applications have mastered new expectations. Web applications must perform well, be visually appealing, fulfill security expectations and deliver superior customer service.
Achieve high performance
Client/server applications often delivered so-so performance. The internal staff, who used the application, did not have any alternatives so they quit complaining after a while.
External surfers are a much more demanding bunch. If surfers become impatient because your web application is delivering poor performance, they’ll simply go elsewhere. You’ll be left with poor traffic and worse sales results.
Successful web applications are architected to achieve high performance and implemented on a computing infrastructure with adequate capacity. This performance expectation creates new scope for web project managers.
Create a memorable experience
Client/server software tended to be dull to look at. The navigation options were often limited. The printed output sometimes looked plain or askew. A simple blue background was seen as superior graphic design.
The web audience, that we want our web application to attract, demands much more. Our web pages must be visually appealing. The navigation must be clear. The content must be rich, tuned to the audience viewpoint and current. Features like easy downloading of PDF’s, e-mail forwarding of pages or well-formatted printed output help to create a memorable experience.
Now web project managers must manage graphic designers and copy writers who were never part of the IT landscape before.
Implement impenetrable security
Client/server security often consisted of a userid/password combination that was scribbled on a yellow sticky and stuck prominently to the frame of the monitor.
With the world awash in hackers and script kiddies bent on infiltrating your server complex solely for the bragging rights, more robust security measures are required. Now your web application must be deployed behind a firewall and support encryption for sensitive data transmission. Creating cookies and offering registration to build user profiles are also required for many web applications.
Security features add scope to software development and effort to testing that web project managers must accommodate in their plans.
Achieve high availability
Client/server software projects did not have to concern themselves with infrastructure. Usually a reliable, highly available infrastructure was simply there. This no-worries state of affairs is not the case on web projects. By infrastructure I mean workstations, LAN/WAN network, servers and security.
On web projects, I’ve frequently encountered an existing infrastructure that had too little capacity, little or no recovery capability, not enough disk space and shaky security. web applications demand much higher up-time, lower (preferably 0) unscheduled down-time, and faster performance than client/server applications.
Designing and commissioning a high-availability infrastructure is very much in scope for web project managers to worry about.
Incompatible browser brands
Client/server software had to run on only a small number of closely related workstation operating systems.
In the world of the Web, applets and pages must execute and display flawlessly on both Internet Explorer and Netscape browsers. These are materially different browsers. web applications must be written to recognize the brand and version number of the end-user browser and then deliver corresponding applets and pages that were built and tested for that browser.
web project managers must plan to write and test their web application for both browsers.
Client/server applications tended to be point solutions for finance, order entry or material management. Where integration was required, there was some online validation and a batch transaction interface.
The speed of service expectation of the web can not be met by such a batch approach. To meet this expectation of speed, a web application must be linked into the ERP application to validate order data and the credit card number.
Integration is never easy. Online verification of credit cards is not trivial even with the assistance of the banks. These features add scope for the project manager.
Many project managers felt that the delivery of client/server software was achieved in a pressure cooker environment.
Well, hold onto your hat. The demands to rollout web applications faster are even more intense.
Project managers can best address this pressure by executing the project in many releases, reminding executives of the risks to the company reputation if an unstable web application is used by the public and moving the project team to concurrent development. All of these ideas add effort to the project.
Experienced client/server project managers can deliver successful web applications if they accept and plan to address the new characteristics that make web applications so powerful.