Is project management even that important?
Creative agencies are filled with intelligent, imaginative people who can achieve almost anything a client could ask for—do you really need someone restricting that creativity and playing around in spreadsheets?
The first thing to say is sorry to all the project managers reading this for so callously misrepresenting your profession.
The second thing to say is that this is a hugely important discipline that will consistently derail your creative projects time and time again until you get it right.
With this in mind, we’ve put together 4 tips for creative agency project management that will form the foundation of successful running an agency.
Know your team
I’ve mentioned already that your creative time will be full of amazing people that are great at what they do, whether that’s Photoshopping, developing or copywriting. What it’s also important to realise is that they are all completely different.
Each member of the team will be motivated by different things, prefer working in a particular way and respond differently to criticism and praise. As a project manager, your job is to understand how to get the best out of your team, and this means knowing how to keep them engaged and productive.
It’s also crucial that you recognise the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, and avoid forcing anyone into a role they’re not comfortable in. For example, Michael might be an incredible graphic designer, but if he’s terrible when put in front of the client, don’t make him explain his design concepts to the entire board.
Have one centralised location for all project assets
As alluded to in the previous point, everyone works differently, and this extends to how people organise their work and assets. John might save all his copy in Google Drive; Ellen keeps all of her design assets on her local machine; Jess organises her time using spreadsheets that aren’t shared with anyone else.
This can cause issues in small offices, so imagine how problematic it can be when you have team members working in multiple locations, or even across time zones.
Having a single location for storing project assets, whether that’s on Google Drive or a digital asset management system such ResourceSpace or Bynder, ensures everyone knows how to find the latest designs or copy.
A single communication platform also helps to keep the creative team aligned. If some conversations are happening via email, and others on WhatsApp or text, you’re going to lose visibility over aspects of the project.
Push back against ‘scope creep’
Possibly the biggest enemy of the project manager, ‘scope creep’ leads to projects overrunning while also eating into profit margins. The best defence against this is to have a clear brief from the outset which also specifies what is ‘out of scope’.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible to change, this is somewhat inevitable, but these changes have to be within the scope of the original brief.
Scope creep won’t always come from the client, it can also originate from within the team. It’s important not to quash creativity in your team, but you need to reign anyone in getting carried away and diverging from the brief.
Define deadlines and check progress regularly
At the start of the project every stage should be given its own deadline. This should include what’s required of the client.
For example, you might have a deadline to complete a certain aspect of the project by the end of the month, but if the client isn’t aware they need to sign-off designs by the end of week 3, this could impact that overall deadline.
Everyone should be responsible for hitting their own deadlines, but it’s the project manager’s job to keep everyone on track. To do this you have to be checking on progress regularly.
This might take the form of daily or weekly stand-ups, or it can be achieved by utilising project management software such as Asana to track tasks.
Use creative management software that is designed for agencies
Pipelines in a creative agency can get fairly complex with client work going back and forth between different teams. There are lots of little details that have to be accounted for and communicated. Luckily, there are plenty of specialised tools, targeted at creative agencies, which can make the job easier.
Tracking time and allocating tasks to the right individuals within your team can be achieved through an integrated project management tool such as:
By making use of creative management software, you can improve collaboration and transparency throughout the agency. When everyone has insight into how a project is progressing, workflows will advance as colleagues tackle bottlenecks together or adjust timelines accordingly, without adding pressure on individuals.