When The Plan Blows Up, Pivot for the Win

Can a giant website get launched in half the time scoped? It can with the right planning, right people, and right attitude.


The Client

An established, multinational (and confidential) professional services firm serving Fortune 500 companies.


The Problem

Mere weeks into a challenging website rebuild project, an urgent new business opportunity meant the client had to cut the timeline in half.


The Situation

When Solspace was told of the timeline change, design elements were still outstanding, project scope and budget were not finalized, and we were still ramping up the production team.


The Solution

Because of the drastic schedule change, the project had to be rebalanced by radically changing the other two flexible elements of the project – scope and cost.


The Win Win

By managing an expanded team to, literally, working 24 hours a day, we successfully completed the newly scoped website on time and on budget. And our client looked like a hero to her bosses.

How It Ended

We designed, developed, and launched a major website rebuild for a multinational services firm in half the time originally scoped. We proved to our client (and ourselves) that our small agency can do big work with the right planning, motivation, and teamwork. We may not want to do it again, but we’re sure proud we did it once. Keep reading to learn how it all happened.

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How It Began

This large and complex website redesign build was kicked off in mid-March, scheduled for launch at the end of July. Development, design/UX and additional team members were being sourced and onboarded. The plan was made and schedules set. A tight, but normal timeline for Solspace.

Kaboom! There Goes the Plan.

In early May, our client’s executive team had to respond urgently to a new business opportunity, and decided to move the launch date up by a full month. But the production team was still ramping up, and the budget was not yet finalized due to the remaining unknowns. A challenging project had suddenly turned into an impossible project. Or had it?

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Reinventing the Project

Losing a month from the timeline essentially torpedoed our original plan and meant we had to stop, think, and refocus. The biggest issue was the scale of the project, as completing even an MVP version was not possible within the timeframe. Fortunately, we had a client who was experienced, supportive and realistic. She worked quickly to release additional funds so budget constraints were not an issue, and with her help, we were free to make magic happen.

Breaking Up the Work

To successfully pivot everything to hit the new deadline, we broke up the entire project into smaller pieces to be worked in parallel with a focus on creating elements that could be scalable in future phases. We found creative ways to scope those project pieces so they could be successfully tackled by individual developers in about 30 hours per week. We worked with the client to make decisions about lower priority items that could be bumped into a second phase post-launch.


Regrouping the Components

We looked through all of the project deliverables and identified items that were compatible structurally. This allowed us to think about how best to group tasks and how best to delegate work among the newly expanded team. This component approach also allowed us to have multiple developers working simultaneously on parts of the biggest problems, making it possible to double the size of the team and scale the workflow.

When Problems Become Opportunities

We realized we not only had to align the team, but we had to ‘right size’ the tasks and group them optimally for execution. We had to make sure each developer had a coherent group of tasks they could execute efficiently to produce high quality deliverables. This meant we had to rethink the actual deliverables and the way the tasks were broken out. “Divide and conquer” was the opportunity.

We successfully re-deployed all 15 developers within 48 hours.

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

Once it was confirmed that the launch date had been moved up, we stopped, re-scoped, assembled our resources, ignored the ticking of the clock, and took all the time we needed to plan. Taking this time out might seem counterintuitive, but it was an essential part of our success.

Had we just reacted and begun a coding frenzy, having all of the components coming together perfectly at the end would have been unlikely. Planning combined with effective consistent oversight is the magic bullet to successfully remedy almost any complex web problem.

Keep the Path Clear

To make sure work stayed consistent with the right amount of urgency throughout the project, we provided at least 2 developers and system architects available 24/7 to answer questions and unblock issues. With only weeks to build out a massive and complex website, there wasn’t even an hour to spare. Everyone had to be fully engaged with building and unblocking. Our project managers and engaged client contact were essential to this success.

We also leaned into productivity tools like Github, Figma, Zeplin, ClickUp, Imgix, Cloudflare, Browserstack, among others. Technology used well creates great efficiency.

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Don’t Forget to Laugh

Maintaining our sense of humor in the midst of the craziest parts of the project helped us keep going. Cutting the timeline in half was ridiculous. We all knew it. The client knew it. And so we laughed about it together. This helped all of us keep a sensible perspective and remember that we are people, not robots. Keeping stress out of the way reduces friction too, both for the team members and the overall workflow.

Stay human, remember to laugh at the insanity, and you will find you are doing your best work ever.

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