Successful program planning, and the art of preparation

Program planning is a bit like backpacking

Planning for and building a program or project is kinda like preparing for a backpacking trip. I’m not talking about driving a Ford Expedition into a campground with a backpack in the trunk, I’m talking about legitimate hike-in-10-miles-and-setup-basecamp sorta adventures. I often daydream about where I’ll go on my next backpacking adventure, what I’ll pack, and how I’ll use the resources. It’s the same way I think about preparing for projects and programs.

Getting ready

Getting ready for a trip or a program isn’t hard (purchasing gear just requires money and time). What’s difficult about the preparation is thinking of all possible situations that you could encounter along the way, and preparing just enough resources, advice, and supplies to both meet the demands of the journey, and organize everything in a way that makes retrieving resources easy and efficient. Of course, burdening others (teammates) as little as possible while on the route and leaving things as pristine (if not better) as you found them is also important.

Last year, GoDaddy launched a program

At the end of last year, GoDaddy launched a new (beta) WordPress Plugin Partner Program that includes a vetted directory of plugins created by authors that are committed to the same high level of service that GoDaddy is. It’s a landmark program because it marks the first time that GoDaddy has formalized a developer partner program with members of the WordPress community. You can read about the program here, and see pictures of the launch dinner below. I helped lead the program planning activities as the program was created, and after reflecting on the launch, I stumbled on some meaningful takeaways.

Seek advice from other trailblazers

Every trail is unique and every program is too, however, there’s plenty to learn from experiences that others have while walking similar paths and standing up similar programs.

Before, during, and after the launch of the GoDaddy Plugin Partner Program, we spent / are spending time meeting with friends and colleagues who have stood up other programs. The key is to learn from and teach each other things that will help level-up each other’s program planning game.

Build by partnering with future program users

Last year we brought a ton of customers and partners into planning, production, and launch processes with us. It’s awesome because our customers and partners got to help shape what we built, and we were able to create a program that was tuned for success right out of the gate. Bring your users in to build your products and services with you, and immediately involve them in the program planning process.

Keep an eye on risks and contingencies

No, there’s absolutely no way to account for every contingency or possible risk in creating something new. Heck, there’s not a way to absolutely account for every contingency or risk in repeating a process. However, brainstorming and planning for the majority of risks builds a cache of thinking that is easier to adapt in the inevitable event of an anomaly along the way. A great place to start is to use a planning document like this one from Atlassian.

The path to launch will never be straightforward

If you think you’ll plan a project perfectly the first time, you’ll be disappointed. In-fact, if you think you’ll do it perfectly when you’re an expert, you’ll be wrong again. Standing up a program, successfully completing a massive project, and backpacking all have one thing in common:

Happy program planning, and let me know some of your tips and resources. I’ll update here with relevant and quality links from the comments.

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