Agencies and clients who spent the past century perfecting project management functions around print, broadcast and direct mail are being forced to readjust systems to the complexities and rapid-fire change of digital marketing.
Two worlds are colliding.
Digital teams view process as an essential science. The project manager is the team lead that everyone depends on for risk management, communication, client management, profitability and ultimate success.
But traditional advertising teams tend to see process in a different light. They look to their account and creative directors as the team leads. The project manager, while important, often takes on a more administrative role, ensuring resources are in place, schedules are communicated to vendors and paperwork is complete.
When I took on my first role as a manager of a project management office (PMO) for a large ad agency two years ago, the difference between these two worlds became vividly clear to me in a conversation with one of our creative directors:
Me: We need to translate the client brief into a statement of work so we have a specific record of what we'll be delivering.
Creative Director: We don't know what we'll be delivering yet.
Me: Then we should meet with the client to understand business requirements and document them for sign-off.
Creative Director: I know what the client wants, but I'm going to tell them what they need.
Me: Then how do I budget resources, document our success metrics and track the progress of the project?
Creative Director: That's your problem. We'll let you know when we get there.
It was an eye-opener, to be sure. But eventually I was able to adjust my view of what the team was trying to achieve. I set a baseline process to create a flexible methodology that would allow us to pull in elements that were appropriate, and not commit time to requirements that didn't lend a lot of value.
Some of these changes included a flexible, scalable methodology that allowed teams to pull in elements relevant to their process. This allowed them to:
Have you ever been in a situation like this? What have you done to maintain rigor in your environment when the project at hand did not readily lend itself to the traditional project management processes?
- Maintain efficiency while ensuring consistency across the agency
- Reinforce the "triangle of truth" (good, fast, cheap) in the scoping process to ensure profitability
- Implement grassroots efforts to reinforce the importance of maintaining rigor in the process through tactics like "Lunch and Learn" sessions to discuss our process and the risks inherent in not following it.