The stakes are usually high for big communications projects such as stakeholder reports, grant applications, websites, and training manuals. These kinds of projects are often closely linked to an organization’s core mission, and they require a significant outlay of resources.
 
In an ideal world, big projects are planned far in advance, with adequate staff time and budget. In the real world, organizations are often faced with making the best of less-than-ideal conditions for getting big communications out the door. The result? Sub-par or error-riddled documents, harried staff, and dubious stakeholders.
 
Even if you find yourself in those less-than-ideal circumstances (as most of us do, maybe even most of the time), there are still ways to ensure that you end up with the best final product, created in the most efficient, sanity-saving manner possible.
 
As project managers know, creating a detailed (and realistic) project timeline is key. One of the biggest pitfalls is leaving inadequate time for writing, or trying to integrate the writing and design stages. Too often, we see organizations trying to wrap up projects where significant revision is still taking place.
 
Case in point: How often have you found yourself editing sections of a report that’s already laid out in an InDesign file? While a looming deadline may necessitate that backtracking, it’s not only inefficient, but it risks introducing new errors or design requirements if changes to text have to be subsequently inputted into the master document. This can be especially laborious for technical documents with dense text, where precision is paramount.
 
The upshot? Give your writers adequate time to write, revise, and finalize their work early in the project timeline–before moving into the design and publication phase. The more polished the text at the outset, the more smoothly the final phases of the project will go—and the more likely you’ll be to wrap on time and on budget, with your sanity intact and a stellar final product.
 
In a future post, we’ll offer some models for writing project timelines, to demonstrate what this looks like on the ground.