Co-written with Asher Jacobson.
Project management is essential for success in the agency world. Although they may seem chaotic from the outside, good marketing agencies run like well-oiled machines because they use solid project management strategies to plan, execute and deliver client work.
Project management matters because it transforms a seemingly insurmountable task – like any client brief – and breaks it down into manageable, doable and, crucially, billable bits.
In order to get a project off the ground, you have to look at it as a whole, and then break it into four main stages – these are more commonly known as the project life cycle.
These four stages are:
Here’s how they work.
The initiation phase is the stage where it has been decided that there is a need to develop an idea or proposal for a client. The agency staff get together and go through the following steps:
- Break down the project and get the client to agree on the specific project deliverables.
- Start compiling the basic requirements in a document and detail these deliverables.
- Provide a ballpark quote, if the client requests it. It is important to have the client agree to the estimate and be aware that the quote may change slightly when scope is defined.
- Schedule the planning phase with traffic.
Once the initiation phase is complete, the project enters the next phase: planning. This is the most important phase for ensuring project success; if you pay little attention or don’t complete it efficiently, there will be gaps resulting in big problems during the implementation phase. The length of this stage will vary depending on the scope, budget and complexity of the project.
The planning phase entails the following steps:
- Collect all assets from the client. This will include things like base copy, existing creative, corporate identity, logos, stock images and so on.
- Arrange and chair a kick-off meeting with the production team. In this meeting, the team will review the base requirements document and ask any questions if required.
- Update the requirements document with milestones, risks, assumptions and exclusions.
- Complete the final quote based on the requirements document, detailed work plan, and other factors that have become apparent. Once the quote is completed, client will need to sign off on all documents and give the go-ahead for implementation to start.
- Complete the timeline and schedule the team’s availability.
Remember that you need to plan for a successful project, so do it right. Never be afraid to ask questions.
This is where the actual production begins. There’s no set blueprint for how you run this part of the project, so you will need to try various techniques and find out which one works best in your environment.
Next steps for the project:
- Set up internal reviews and catch-up meetings with the team as per the timeline. Regular catch-up meetings are crucial for projects with tight deadlines.
- Monitor the timeline and progress of each task.
- Book client meetings in advance and explain to the client that feedback as per the timeline is vital in order to meet the deadline.
- Update the status sheet (which outlines how the project is doing) and risk log at every step. This will help keep everyone in the loop if they are not able to attend meetings and help you plan for any potential issues.
- Prepare for your quality control process. This phase is where the project will undergo strict testing and user labs. Teams will be able to review the project and report any problems on a feedback sheet. This feedback sheet will be sent to the project team to implement changes.
Once production has been completed internally, the project should be signed off by the team leaders and sent to client for testing and approval.
Your project has been given the green light internally and by client. The end is in sight and you can hear the slow clap has started. This is the part of the project that will be the most valuable for the future. A good project manager will use this opportunity to review the entire process, identify the successes and failures and determine what can be done better next time. It is important to remember that no project is perfect; you need to learn from previous mistakes and not let them happen again.