How We Manage Projects Across Timezones

One of the biggest problems inside of WP Dude is managing projects and people across multiple time zones. In this post I was to tell you about the systems we have put in place and how we manage projects across timezones.

The Issue

We have clients from every continent except Antarctica, but the majority of our work comes from the US.

I’m based in the UK and I have developers in the UK and the Philippines.

Often there is only a small online overlap between me, my clients.

My developers in south east Asia are clocking off just as I come online in the morning.

As a result there can be prolonged periods of quiet time when emails are not answered or answers to questions cannot be obtained.

Too Many Dropped Balls

As we have become busier, more and more projects were being juggled and we began to metaphorically drop the balls.

Projects schedules were missed.

Quotes were not sent out.

Clients were not updated on progress of the projects.

This will only get worse as our business grows even more so we needed a solution.

The System

We have a system for managing all our projects across timezones and making sure you the end client knows exactly where we are with your project.

1. The Request

The first stage of a project is the request.  A client requests one of our $99 jobs and a ticket is raised in our Groove helpdesk.  At that point an automated email is sent out saying:

Thanks for contacting us about your WordPress issue, as you no doubt realise this is an automated email to let you know your request has been received.

We aim to get back to you within 24 hours.  Our office hours are 8-am – 6pm Monday to Friday, if you contact us outside of those hours it may take a little time to get back to you, and we ask that you are patient with us.

We look forward to working with you.

We are setting expectation here and letting potential clients know we will get back to them within a day.  My first task of the day is to pickup and requests that have come in overnight.

2. Do We Want The Job?

At heart I’m a people pleaser and I try to say yes to everything, but that has to change as WP Dude grows.  We now have a rejection system.

We don’t accept sites that are the three Ps  Porn, Pharmaceuticals or Pyramid schemes.

We only take on small jobs now, so no custom theme development, no custom plugin development and no graphical design.

We work via email so the many requests that come in simply saying “Call me (999) 999-99999” (yes some people are that rude) are rejected.

Going with my gut is also something I’m going more now.  I can read between the lines on some requests and I know that project is not a great fit for us and I’ll politely decline.

We reject projects with a polite canned response email. Saying no is hard but I want us to deliver with excellence to the people we say yes to.

3. Getting More Information

Sometime the request is a little too vague and we need more information, so step three is sending a canned response asking for more details.  This job is then marked pending and we have a process to check back in on these projects and follow up if we don’t get the info we need to start work.

4. The Quote

Even though we have fixed price jobs I still send out a quote.  This contains our terms and conditions, accepting the quote then accepts our T & Cs.

Like step 3, jobs are marked as pending until the quote is accepted.

When you the end client accepts the quote we get a notification in Groove which marks your job as live.  This is an integration in Zapier between Freshbooks and Groove.

5. Login Details & Invoicing.

Once you have accepted our quote we transfer that to an invoice and send it for online payment.

At that point we also send out a canned response asking for login details.

I need the following login information so I can begin work.

admin level WordPress user ID and passwordI recommend that you change the password for the duration of this assignment, to do this visit the dashboard of your blog and click on users->authors & users -> click on edit for the appropriate user and at the bottom of the page is a change password option.

FTP login ID, password and URL

This information should come from your hosting provider, this will enable me to upload and download files should I need to .

I may not need all of the passwords but I find if I have all of them to hand it speeds up the process.

I will begin work once I have this information.

The project is live at this stage so it remains open while we wait for the login details.  We are notified when login details are received.
I’m at a cross road with points 4 & 5 I could automate these even more by taking payment when the request is sent, please leave feeback in the comments below about whether you feel better about a less automated payment process?

6. Scheduling

At this point we drop your project into our team diary and schedule the work.  We use a series of Google Calendars to schedule everything across the team.

We send out a small  canned response saying when your work will be done. This may sound like a small item, but for some reason I completely missed this out of the project flow and many clients were left wondering when their actual project would be worked on.

7. Starting Work

We send out a courtesy note when we start work to ask our clients not to do anything on their site until we have completed our work.

My name is %{agent_firstname} and I’m one of the Developers at WP Dude.

This is a quick courtesy email to let you know I will be working on your project and that I am starting now.

To avoid any conflicts can I ask you to please not add any new content or make changes to your site until the work is complete.

I’ll be back in touch soon with a progress update

Depending upon who is working on your project you may have a new team member working with you so a quick introduction is on order.  It is also a confirmation that the work is getting done.

7. Service Delivery

I’ll write up another post about actually doing the work at a later date, but this is where the work gets done.

8. Quality Assurance

Once we have done the work, we send it back to you the client for approval or updates. We will never close a project until you are 100% happy.

This is complex part of our system  we send out another canned response saying it’s ready for review and it may be some time before the clients response.

If there are additional QA tasks to perform we loop back to service delivery mode.  We need to build slack into our scheduling at point 6 to allows for QA work and not have it impact new jobs.  This is still something I’m struggling with and I’m looking at now. The need to quickly work on new projects but still attend to QA work is hard.

9. Close project

Once everything is done to your satisfaction we internally close the project down, delete any password we have.  Everyone puts their feet up and has a nice cup of tea 🙂 I wish.

10. Follow Up

We have a timed rule that after 72 hours your closed job is dropped into our follow up queue, we reach out and ask if everything is still okay.  It’s not uncommon for something to be missed in the QA or something else comes to light after a few days of use.

We send a canned reponse checking in we also use this touchpoint to offer a 60 day free trial of our maintenance service as a thankyou and as a upsell.

It’s been a couple of days since we completed your WordPress project, this is a courtesy check in to make sure everything is working as expected.

This is an automated message, but if you reply to this email it will re-open your project and we will fix any issues you are having.

As a thank you for selecting WP Dude as your WordPress support and development team, we would like to offer you a 60 day free trial of our WordPress maintenance service WP Insure.  For full details please visit https://ibraininc.com/wp-insure.

Wrap Up

Systematising and automating our process has saved my sanity I’m sure.

Creating a repeatable process is key to expanding the team, it’s not in my head any-more.

If you would like to see the system in action go to this page and leave a stage 1 request.

Next up in the series about telling you how we work, I’ll show you how we attempting to deliver our service with the same quality over and over via a repeatable process.



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