Azets was established as a new and independent company in December 2016, as a result of the sale of the BPO Division from Visma. For years, we have successfully delivered accounting, payroll, HR, staffing and advisory services in the Nordics. Today, Azets 2.500 dedicated employees serve more than 22.000 customers.
The website is essential in defining the Azets brand. Moreover, it serves as a business-critical function for sales, marketing and communication.
That is why it was a goal to go from nothing to solid websites in 5 countries within three months. And I am happy to say that we were able to launch in all countries March 1st!
How did we achieve this?
1 Clear goals
In December we sat goals for conversions and search engine optimization on the new websites. The goal was to have the same amount of conversions on the Azets-domains as on Visma. For each country we defined a list of 10 keywords where Azets should rank at 3 or better.
These goals helped us to focus the tasks in the project. The result when we evaluated last month was quite good and in the areas where we didn’t succeed, we have been able to do revisions.
2 Start with what we have
Previously our organisation shared domains and CMS (Episerver) with the Visma-companies. Azets was lucky to have a good cooperation with Visma. We were allowed to use their templates as a starting point and migrate our existing content.
We still needed to do adjustments to design. And migrating content is never as easy as I would like it to be. But building on what we had, made the process easier.
This was also a nice opportunity to do some housecleaning by removing old templates, make guidelines stricter, create better governance for scripts and cutting old content. Making things simpler is an effort that adds to work in the project, but this will save time later.
3 Set and tweak the scope until it is realistic
Establishing a new website generates a long wish list of features. With a strict deadline we needed to cut some corners.
When the migration was more complicated and needed more manual work than we had planned, we needed to remove tasks and features. Internal search was added two weeks after launch. And the blog was released at the start of June.
But looking at the goals and project plan I was never in doubt that it was better to launch March 1st than waiting for these tasks to be finished.
4 Choose cloud
In Azets we asks our customers to outsource accounting, payroll and HR-services to our specialists. When we were looking for a way to handle our needs for hosting the website, it felt natural to follow our own advice. Instead of building up our own expertise and hardware, we would like to put it in the cloud.
After Marketing and IT had created their requirements lists, it was easy to see that price, security and future flexibility indicated that a cloud solution would be the best solution for Azets.
Please find more information on this aspect in an interview on the Norwegian Epserver-site.
5 Transparent project management and experienced web editors
We have a team with 1 – 2 web editors in each country that needed to be coordinated through the whole process. They were responsible for preparing content for their domain. All the participants are experienced web editors that works independently. Without this team it would have been difficult to deliver a full website on time.
We had one common project plan in Smartsheet. This is a useful project management tool where it is easy to present the tasks in Gantt-diagrams. Everybody is able to share documentation, comments and questions in the same place. All managers also had access to the updated project plan. This made it easy to share the plan.
Together with regular meetings this made it easy for everybody to get a good overview of the project.
Not everything went according to plan. Having some problems with the migration of content is almost as expected, so I don’t count that as a mistake. There will be surprises, and then it is more a question about having systems in place for handling delays. That is why a system to change scope and postpone tasks are so important.
But here are three mistakes outside of what we could expect.
1 Too little focus on graphical material
It is always a danger to underestimate the necessary effort to make a site look nice. I thought we were well prepared with a ready icon library, a set of illustrations and some photos. Very quickly we ran out of good material. In the evaluation the most heard feedback from the organisation was a lack of relevant photos.
Even with my experience with this problem from previous projects, we didn’t deliver as well as I would have liked.
2 The blog as a technical risk
It was clear that we wanted to use WordPress as a blog platform and map the url to the same domain as the website for SEO-reasons. I should have known that combining this with moving hosting to the cloud could lead to problems. The developers had to create a proxy for this that delayed the launch of the blog with two months. I am not sure if we could have solved it that much quicker, but we should have researched potential problems and a solution earlier. This could have cut the delay with a couple of weeks.
3 Communication with the rest of the organisation
The organisation outside of the marketing departments have expectations to the website. The web team had information about what happened with the blog and the graphic, but for the next project I will try to find a way to communicate this to other employees. It would be sad if delays for certain parts of the websites leaves the impression that a successful project has failed.
Launching several large new websites in 3 months is an ambitious plan. Some of the circumstances that needed to be in place was existing material we built on and a well-prepared organisation. To succeed it was important that we sat clear goals, had flexibility in launch features, selected an easy-to-use platform and project management methodology was choices we did from the start that helped us delivering on time. And for the future I will spend more time on graphical design, assess technical risks and communicate to the whole organisation.