Tips for better agency project management

 |  In: Project management

Whether you’re new to agency project management or you’ve been in the job for years, brush up on your project planning with this excellent webinar from Synergist onboarding partner, Agency Works.

8 top tips for better agency project management

Following on from this excellent project planning webinar from our friends at the Agency Works, here are eight expert-approved tips to help you get every project over the finish line on time and on budget.

1. Do nothing until the scope of work signed off

First, make sure the scope of the work to be completed is clearly defined and thoroughly documented. Include descriptions of project deliverables; project milestones or checkpoints; realistic timelines and sign-off dates; project budget; processes for handling changes and amends; roles and responsibilities; acceptance criteria; and your communication plan.

Share your scope document with key stakeholders, schedule meetings to review it, and get formal sign off to confirm their understanding of, and agreement with, the project scope. This stage is key to managing client expectations and preventing misunderstandings later down the line. It keeps everyone on the same page and allows better communication and collaboration.

2. Check for upcoming holidays (beware the O-O-O)

It’s easily forgotten, but one of the reasons projects can overrun on time is not factoring in people’s annual leave. This is true for both internal resource planning – looking at when your creative and account teams have time off scheduled – and for those in the client team responsible for giving feedback, signing work off and keeping things moving. There’s nothing more demoralising than working all week to make a deadline only to be met with an out-of-office email informing you of the client’s two-week Caribbean cruise.

Of course, not all time off is scheduled. For that reason, good agency project planning always includes contingency plans or allows a little extra time.

3. Schedule client reviews at key stages

Communication is vital to good creative project management, so you’ll want to schedule regular client reviews to gather feedback and make sure the work is aligned with their expectations. It makes sense to time these reviews to coincide with key milestones, such as the completion of a significant deliverable or project phase. As above, don’t forget to check stakeholders are available.

4. Estimate accurately (ie realistically)

This a big topic in agency project management and can be tricky to get right. For an overview, see our guide, How to improve your agency estimating and job costing.

Most of us will underestimate the complexity of a project and the time needed to complete it, at least in the beginning. This is often due to optimism bias – a tendency to overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes, and underestimate the likelihood of negative ones. While this sounds like a good trait to have, it’s rarely realistic and can lead to broken promises later down the line.

Instead, a better approach is to cultivate a healthy degree of pessimism, factoring in complexity, risk, your track record with that client, and the number of stakeholders. Learn from past projects and talk to creatives to get their input. You should also add in contingency in case of unforeseen issues or changes to project scope.

5. Define amends vs changes

These two tricky words can cause a lot of problems in creative project management. An amend may involve minor adjustments, but a change can affect thought process, timelines and budget. Tweaking a line of copy is an amend. Deciding you want a 20-page brochure instead of an 8-pager is clearly a change and a big departure from the original brief.

In your scope document, be really clear about the difference between a change and an amend, and establish and document a process for dealing with both.

6. Break it down into clear milestones

Break your project into phases with clear milestones, and obtaining sign off at the completion of each phase before you move on. This is a sensible way to stay on track, manage risks and keep everyone working to a common goal.

7. Allow extra time

Not just from a costing point of view, but also to ensure your timelines are realistic and achievable. Again, take into account complexity, availability of resources and potential challenges, plus contingency to allow for delays or issues. The worst that could happen is you end up delivering the project early.

8. Keep communication channels open

Establish consistent communication, with both internal teams and clients, to help everyone stay informed and engaged. As well as scheduled status meetings or progress reports, encourage team members and clients to communicate openly with ad hoc updates, feedback and concerns. This way, you’ll be able to identify potential issues sooner and, hopefully, resolve them swiftly.

One final tip…

Don’t make agency project management any harder than it needs to be. If you haven’t already, look into specialist creative project management software to help streamline processes and enhance team collaboration. The right tool can provide valuable business insight and give your agency a serious competitive advantage.

To learn more about Synergist’s all-in-one creative agency management software, book a demo today.