Project management in marketing is not the same as project management elsewhere. Unlike, say, manufacturing, marketing is not a repetitive or “assembly line” process. Marketing involves many unforeseen occurrences and uncertain activities, as any experienced marketing professional knows all too well. Therefore, the purpose of marketing project management isn’t to try and determine the indeterminable; rather, it’s to significantly increase the chance of success by predicting some things and managing the uncertainty of the rest.
For example, marketing professionals using the “seat of the pants” approach often find it’s a headache to keep up with assigning tasks, deadlines, and responsibilities. Their team’s priorities may seem to be a bit mixed up, with bottlenecks appearing in one or two places. Their projects simply don’t “flow” smoothly. The solution to all this is effective project management.
What Can Project Management Do For Your Marketing?
Consider the example of “agile marketing” instant market research communities. Being able to quickly test marketing ideas before deployment is, needless to say, a desirable capability. Yet being able to create an “instant community” from a target market, set them up on a suitable channel, spark a discussion, and then generate usable data from that discussion requires considerable project management skill. This is particularly true for the “instant” model, where all this must be done without taking so much time or expense that what was meant to be a quick check does not intrude onto the larger project.
Therefore, project management in marketing must accomplish two goals:
– It must be adaptable, on an ongoing basis, to circumstances as they change; and,
– It must be predictable, organised, and structured.
In essence, project management acts as an effective glue to hold the project together. A good project manager spends a great deal of time ensuring everyone in the team knows when things are due and what their responsibilities are. If things are going better than anticipated, or if something goes wrong, they step in to adapt the schedule in light of the progress (or delay) and avoid bottlenecks elsewhere.
Project schedules are therefore living documents. They are not generated once and then pinned to the wall; they’re maintained and updated throughout the project.
Metrics and Marketing Project Management
Key to effective and agile project management are metrics, which enable us to produce usable information about the project quickly. Metrics allow everyone to see where a project is and where it is going, and identify potential problems while there’s still time to fix them. This quantification aspect is often considered the most important part of effective project management, and so it’s vital to identify metrics for both overall progress and individual processes.
Project management is not simply limited to metrics, though. It covers all aspects of project planning: how will resources and activities be coordinated? What is the baseline level from which everyone is operating — what is the reference point?
Based on the metrics, activities, and resources involved in the project, the team can then create a schedule that translates the overall project plan to particular tasks, with milestones, flow, resources, durations, responsibilities, start and completion times, and more.
As a rule of thumb, project planning should take about 5% of the anticipated project time. Spending much longer than this usually means there is waste in the planning process, whereas spending less tends to result in oversights and missed opportunities. For a project that’s estimated to take 200 hours to complete, 10 hours of planning almost always saves far more than 10 hours worth of “fire fighting” and other non-productive activities.
On the other hand, planning is a business process like any other. In this sense, it’s often logical to spend 5% of the planning time improving the planning process, and looking for ways to eliminate the waste which accumulates over time. Once the waste is gone, many companies find they enjoy the planning process — the decision-making and collaboration which defines planning is rewarding for the whole team.
After optimising the project planning process, managing new projects becomes intuitive and very easy. The standard work plan becomes ingrained in everyone’s habits, productivity soars, and embarking on new projects stops feeling like an uphill battle.
Lastly, it’s important to note that no process or plan is a substitute for good teamwork and communication. Project management is a tool to help everyone work together and understand what must be done when. As many people have learned, it’s not simply enough for the project manager to understand the final goal — the whole team must understand it too.